The first two hours after lunch found me excited, on the prowl. Alive with possibility. Scanning the wonderfully crowded street corners of Chinatown like a Ninja. I was careful to slow down enough to stop and take in my surroundings. I smiled a lot.. not the smile of a lunatic.. but just a warm confident smile. The problem seemed to be everyone seemed just so...well...run of the mill. No one leaped out at me. and the few who did told me ‘no’ faster than all of my ex girlfriends combined! I’d honestly not imagined I could hear this word so many times in one year, let alone one day. And I say this with zero exaggeration. Three hours in and it was beginning to feel as if I was completely disconnected to a world I take great pride in generally feeling extraordinarily connected to on multiple levels. The no’s seemed to flow like the noodles on Mott Street! I was concerned for my assistant, who after each no, managed to keep it light and was unwavering in his dedication to the hunt. He wasn't fooling me though....It was weighing upon us both and we were doing our best to grin and bear it.
I heard the words of Steve Jobs rattle through my mind as I stood on yet another corner...hopeful that the person I was destined to photograph would be more easily spotted from the increased variety that the busy street corners provided. “...the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. …..So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” I'd have to have options in order to settle Steve!
I thought of the great artists muse, Julia Cameron (Savior to so many creatives that you cannot go a day without seeing the work of at least one of her disciples) as she would say, “The creative process is a process of surrender, not control” And no truer words were ever spoken.
I had told Brian several times throughout the day, that for some reason I’d imagined the subject as smoking a cigarette. I’m not sure why.. but I pictured someone who smokes, ...but I wasn't ignoring anyone simply based on the fact that they weren't smoking, or even if they didn’t look like a smoker. But I began to wonder with Julias quote resonating in my head, if I was controlling anything... or attempting to.
I asked Brian to stop. I expressed to him that I was completely aware of how daunting this was becoming...and how even though it may seem that based on the history of the day it didn't look good, that...images aren't made in the past.. nor in the future.. they are made in the present moment. And I am taking this moment to declare that it’s my intention to let go of any expectations... cigarette, or no cigarette....any and all expectations or hopes I may have... I am married to no preconceptions. I’m married to one notion and one notion only. Brian was smiling.. and listening intently. I’m married to the notion that this is a lesson in accepting whatever comes to you , and making the best of it..and I am absolutely resoundingly ready to meet with that moment whenever it so desires to be met.
It's worth noting that while I may at that moment have appeared bat-shit crazy....Brian took this all as resoundingly normal, and there is a lot to be said about that... both good...and comical.
I kid you not when I tell you that we stood there on that corner like we had countless other corners, but this time it was with a tremendous sense of it all just being perfectly ok. Comical if anything, and we were newly excited in having reminded ourselves that we could achieve anything if we kept our spirits up, and keep our thoughts focused on all of the good things there were to enjoy about the day.
I mean after-all...we were in one of the most bustling and vibrant places one could be. You could easily allow yourself to imagine you were in another country. No boarding pass required. "Let's go this way!" I said to my incredibly faithful assistant. "Not sure why.. but just...let’s."And off we went, down another portal into who knows what.....
We got maybe half way down the block when I saw him! Propped against the building long and lean, hair tousled a tad, dressed in all white and looking like he could easily be the star of a Kung-fu movie. And the moment I saw him I stopped.. and smiled. “Hey there’..he offered in a friendly warm and literally bursting with energy tone that immediately gave off a sense of being in his own element.. on his own turf, but making you feel every bit his guest. (And we were just on the sidewalk!) “What are you guys up to?” he inquired... He was smoking a cigarette. I smiled from ear to ear and I chimed in.. “Well you know its funny you should ask!” “Maybe you can help us actually?” My eyes were wide.. and my smile wider!
I explained that we were out to make a portrait of someone.. and had been on the hunt all day, and that I’d been looking for someone with just a certain panache..and that I’d be absolutely honored if maybe he’d BE that someone for us!? “Sure!“ he chimed …”whaddya need me to do!?” Finally our moment had arrived! His name is Peter Lam, and it turns out he's the owner and stylist at the salon he’s perched up against. It's called ‘Tease” (and I can’t help but think how fitting that is for a name not only for a salon, but as a metaphor for what Chinatown's been to me all day long...a teasing me!!) He asked me how long I’d need, to which I replied my standard reply...”How long can you give me!?” “Ah, I actually have to head back in I have a client in the chair...maybe two minutes?” Hmmm I thought for a second. “Are you going to take another break for another smoke anytime soon?”...the hope just dripping off my words. “Yeah in an hour! I will be! You wanna come back?” “Oh wow Pete, yeah I’d absolutely love that...and tell ya what I’ll have it all set for ya I’ll make it super easy.. quick and painless!” “No worries! See you in an hour!” he quipped with the familiarity of old chums.
We were on! Brian and I took a stroll around and enjoyed the feeling of a mission soon to be accomplished. We both lamented about how interesting the timing of it all was, and how wonderfully illustrative it was of what can happen when you decide you're ready to drop the dead weight of FEAR!
Now we knew what the days purpose would be, and frankly my anticipation was off the charts! I was so excited to have been blessed with this discovery. I couldn't wait to make an image of Peter that hopefully would have the same presence that I’d experienced when we first saw him some moments ago.
We'd been at it for seven hours and would you imagine.....
Hunt Time: 7 Hours....Actual Shoot Time: 00:1:55 Seconds!
Come back next week for the final installment and find out how the entire shoot went down in 1:55 seconds!
Well...the post is longer than that, but the shoot only took 1:55!