A face in a window! I skipped a beat, or maybe it did a double beat. Not sure. There’s nothing unusual in a photographer grabbing their camera and heading out to witness the world beyond the confines of our environmentally controlled abodes. Although I gravitate naturally to the less trampled path of a hiking trail or portage, I live in Toronto and don’t break free of the traffic gridlock as often as I’d like. So, rather than lament what I can’t do, I head out for the busy sidewalks and laneways that offer up no shortage of unexpected surprises, regardless of the time of year or hour of the day.
I was sitting in front of my computer screen, keywording some images that were now a few years old, but hadn’t gotten around to processing, when I pulled up this image. I was in a streetscape sort of mood that day and found a storefront that caught my eye, but there was something missing. I positioned myself across the street and waited for someone to walk past. I was fortunate that smack in the middle of the reflective window, was some signage that would be perfect for disguising my own reflection, and exposed several frames, of passersby.
I picked this one as the best in the bunch, and although I didn’t know if it would ever see the light of day I straightened it out a bit, converted it to black and white and made some contrast and exposure adjustments. I zoomed in to check focus, when suddenly it hit me. Maybe it was Temper Trap playing over my speakers or maybe it was the mood set by the late February funk, but what ever it was, the image took on a whole new meaning.
I had been completely unaware that there was a smiling face behind the glass. Who was she, what was she thinking, did she think I had pointed the camera at her, or that I might even be aware of her? I’ll never know, but the discovery of that smiling face in the window, reminded me of how powerful a photograph can be, even after all this time.
With the heightened concerns regarding privacy, I know that many photographers have become, shall we say, hesitant to photograph the street life that humanizes the city. Up until a few years ago, I too counted myself amongst those timid photographers, but no more. I may not be able to sell the images, but the pure satisfaction I derive from documenting our communal struggles is satisfaction enough. Finding that mysterious face in the coffee shop window has only reinforced my craving to bear witness to the human spirit.