Thursday, June 4, 2009


Untitled, San Francisco, June 2009.

This man prostrates himself regularly for alms in the city's finance district, a Starbucks paper cup lifted like a chalice above his bowed head against a space that resembles a cathedral. I've put many a coin in this man's cup before, but have restrained myself time and again from taking his picture. Until now.

Two years ago, writer and photographer idyllopus wrote about a picture I took of a man reading the newspaper in a downtown park (right). The picture reminded her of Saint Paul's miraculous release from jail as told in the Acts of the Apostles, a story whose pre-Christian origins she traced to Euripedes' The Bacchae.

Idyllopus' biblical analogy resurfaced from memory when again I saw the man with the paper cup; at that instance, I thought of the story of Job and his unremitting anguish, and took two quick shots with my Leica. A co-worker dismissed all this as performance, a theater of mendicancy. Maybe so; yet I cannot deny that something unpleasant stirred in my soul that morning and I can still taste its bile.


  1. Purely theatrical? Well, religion, too, is theatrical with its ritualized signals, its codes of call and response, and all empty vessels until--by what virtue--an antique spark is ignited and old bones are vivified, stir to life, take flesh again if even for a brief moment, even outside the established neighborhood of clerics, the naturally sacred revealed in the profane. A remark I offer as a non-religious individual.

    It's a beautiful photo....the receptive cradle of the man's hands echoed in the cup, strengthened further by a similar receptive cup formed by what I guess is the softly illuminated metalwork of a bird in the window with its uplifted wings...and then further over on the right the plea for coins is restated in the parking meter which however is an absolutely confident demand with no supplicating human hand.

  2. idyllopus, your talent to deconstruct an image is remarkable. thanks for pointing out connections that did not even occur to me.