Maintaining anonymity can be a kindness
OK - a little bit of background on this shot...
This was from last August when Ben was in town and we spent a lot of nights shooting Kabukicho after midnight. We had been talking about ethics and photography and shooting subjects with sympathy and understanding. Not sympathy as in "pity," but an understanding of feeling. The conversation had been more about photographs of the homeless, but as we talked and walked, we eventually turned a corner and came across this gentleman, happily passed out, probably after too many beers on a hot summer night with coworkers.
Ben and I stopped and looked at the scene. After all of our talk of dignity and ethics, I was tempted to walk away with no picture, but here he was, laid out so beautifully on the ground, with the most peaceful expression on his face.
"So how do we shoot this, Ben, without being exploitive and cheap?"
First we focus on composition, since his spread-eagle pose was what drew us to the scene. After all, he hadn't been here long and wouldn't stay long either, as that street gets too much car traffic, so we only had a few moments.
As wonderful an expression as he had, it really wasn't mine to take,
not this close, not with him unconscious. Legalities aside, I would
lose respect for myself if I took a shot that was purely a cheap shot
when someone is down. By getting in low from the feet, I could remove
the face from the scene yet still, the viewer can get a sense of who
the man is.
I paused here as I noticed the cruciform element emerge, formed by the white of his shirt and the line of the street.
I just scanned this yesterday for the first time. A few weeks ago I printed it in the darkroom in postcard size and I have it with my other cards in a leather folder notebook I carry. When I stop for my morning coffee at Volcan (a café near my apartment) I look through my cards, studying them, editing them and eventually writing a note on the back and mailing them to friends. Because of this process, I eventually returned to the darkroom to print this large and now it's one of ten photos in a small exhibition I am doing.