Sunday, July 12, 2009

At the end of the day

Group Center, San Francisco, April 2008.

I'm an end-of-the-day photographer. On my way home I take pictures of people on their way home. Five o'clock light is a harsh and blinding spotlight that makes huddled pedestrians look like bas relief. Backlit, the same light portrays them as the urban warriors they truly are, the shadows as long as the day that is about to end. An hour later, the light softens to cast a golden glow on everything -- magic hour it is called -- magic to the photographer and magic to everyone else because it conjures the promise of rest.

But before rest comes the commute; I photograph that too. Light pierces the descent underground and transforms a man's head into a ghostly apparition. The same head is multiplied three times in reflections and shadow, a hydra retreating to its cave.

The train ride home brings close encounters in closed quarters. If the morning commute is lively with chatter and the rustle of newspapers, the late afternoon commute is marked by pensiveness and hunched shoulders. For those who are seated, it is a time to recharge. For those who stand body-to-body on the aisle, the commute is long and the temper is short; let no man be a jackass and let this train keep running or else. Taking pictures inside the train is a stealth operation (I will not be that jackass). I am careful even though everyone is too exhausted to care. Most of the time I don't even bother to take out my Leica. I just want to get home, say hello to my wife in the garden, make coffee, have my second cigarette of the day, and read The Huffington Post online.

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