2. Scouting

The Photographer is out looking to score with his callipers and cameras. All around, he feels the pulse of the city; in the grumble of traffic, the constant near contact with other pedestrians on the pavement. He is edgy, taut. Controlled precision and a certain detachment are evident in his posture. He has chosen that uncertain hour between daylight and dusk when the puddles in the gutter start to reflect darkness and the stark outlines of cornices, aerials, and fire escapes. Today, however, the Photographer is not particularly interested in puddles - although once upon a time he took pictures of them, as well as street scenes, barrow markets, smiling children, obscure buildings.

Back then the urban landscape had inspired him with its complexity awed him with the continual juxtaposition of the unexpected. He would go to Liverpool Street Station to attune himself to the city's rhythms, wheels within wheels, natives interacting with one another like cogs turning, clockwork and unvarying measures; contrapuntal movement. Nine to fivers in from the suburbs every day; the swarms of black suits fleeing the city at five fifteen; soaring buildings, park sized atriums, giant tropical plants belying their sterility and dwarfing the scurrying workers below; skyscrapers suspended from great steel arches, glistening pyramids of glass, all invited the Photographer's lens, demanded interpretation.

But now in the gathering dusk he ignores these and other possibilities: he is conducting a dialogue of one, with himself and his camera, the method and the goal, the Cartesian dichotomy. He believes in dualism.

"In the beginning was the word: and the word was with God. Who can we believe? The priests and the philosophers, these lovers of wisdom? Should have been a camera there. Black and white. Never lies."

"Seven planets, God and the Devil, and man travelling a known path one way or the other. Someone is up there with their CCTV, filming inside the mind, no lies. Camera never lies."

The Photographer doesn't own a television: he had a black and white one once, but the dull eye watching him from across the room unnerved him. God and his eye piercing his very soul, pinning him insect-like under the solar microscope, caught in the panopticon. No escape. Sometimes he thinks he is Lucifer he too carries his hell inside him.

And so he is outside as the dusk falls, while the sun is too engaged in its struggle with the moon to keep an eye on him. Eyes scan the faces of passer-by for the one whose head fits his specifications: he has it down to a fine art now. The callipers just a prop, part of the mythos. These days the only genre that interests him is portraiture, and he has no time for clouds, solar eclipses, or the bottom of the ocean. Motion photography he flirted with briefly, in his youth, but lately he's been after the freeze frame, the moment of truth.

Camera and callipers; callipers and camera. The others on the pavement give him a wide berth: his gaze is discomfiting - measuring them from head to foot as they near him. He has chosen a busy time and the roads are at capacity. The city's dwellers are displaying a refinement of evolution: the ability to condense population past the point where another species would choose to selectively cull their own kind. Evolution has a part to play in this narrative. The Photographer has more respect for it than for the scurrying pedestrians in his path. Still they serve their purpose.

Chapter 3 »