Turn on the news these days, and the story is the same. It seems the only “news” worth reporting is the latest despicable thing one of the candidates for President did or said, or a Kardashian being robbed, cheated on or divorced. Watch or read the headlines for a few days in a row, and it almost starts to feel normal.
It isn’t. Turn the TV off or put the newspaper down. Walk outside. Walk through a crowded city. Take in the surroundings and dare to interact. It will change you. It never fails to change me, if even for a moment.
Sunday afternoon I strolled through Prague with my camera as I often do. No agenda. No quota on the number of photos I would take. I just walked and looked. While passing through Wenceslas Square in Prague, thousands of tourists were taking in the last days of the season as autumn rolled in. As the shoppers and sightseers hurried past me, I looked over and saw this gentleman sitting by one of the sidewalk’s many retail stores.
I wasn’t surprised when we made eye contact. I think I was the only person among the thousands who had acknowledged his existence. Whenever I meet someone I want to photograph, I start with English and switch to Russian if that fails. Occasionally, as with him, we shared no common verbal language. I raised my camera in what I suppose to be the international language for, “Do you mind if I take your photograph?” The man shrugged his shoulders and smiled. What happened next is why the moment, in retrospect, has moved me so.
This man, whose name I never learned, and whose only English word was “homeless,” sat patiently as I photographed him. He removed his hat and smoothed his hair for the camera. He shifted his position, obviously believing it would be better for a photograph – it was. He was not hoping to gain more followers on his Twitter account or garner a more lucrative contract. It was obvious he did these things because I’d simply shown interest in taking his photograph. People frequently walked along the sidewalk between us, forcing me to wait for the next frame. I made multiple adjustments between shots to ensure a proper exposure. And he waited. After I had the shot above, I thanked him. We shook hands. His grip and eyes communicated to me he had enjoyed our brief connection. I’m certain it meant even more to me.
The word genuine is defined as truly what something is supposed to be; authentic. His act was simple. But when compared to those who frequently appear in our news and on our debate stage, his seemed infinitely more sincere, incredibly more genuine, and absolutely a reflection of who he really is. It was refreshing to spend time with someone real.