Steve and Fred Hopkins fix shoes, leather shoes. They fix bags, leather clothes, and items made from the skins of dead animals. Working in a little shop in Winooski, VT, they provide a service soon to become extinct. They will be missed as much as polar bears and telephone booths, whose disappearance will come for different reasons, and there is nothing we can do to preserve either.
Time was when a community couldn’t function without a cobbler. People wore leather shoes, carried leather bags, controlled horses with leather reins. Now, who wears leather shoes? Old people. Who rides horses to work? Synthetic totes are more weather resistant and lighter weight. How about women wearing heals? Not so prevalent anymore. And worn is the norm.
Six cobbler shops remain in VT. Hard to find apprentices. Pay is low. Takes a while to learn. Have to stand up all day. Air isn’t all that healthy. Cannot find help. Cannot find customers.
But, to a person who loves their shoes, people who have a pair of work shoes or cap toes or penny loafers, to have heels that protect the step and soles that protect the soul, not to forget the bottom of the foot, price doesn’t matter. The fit the foot and look good. A brain doesn’t work as well if the feet don’t feel comfortable. Good shoes can make the outfit. These leather doctors can make a person feel and look as good as a dentist or hair cutter.
Everyday I walk into my building, I pass this grate. Yellow tungsten light plays with the grate from the outside; bluer fluorescents on inside walls divide the inside. Empty space partitioned by shadows with no particular message.
I shot this without thinking about the shot, except to shoot it. Then when I converted it to black and white, I saw what I didn’t see. Just the magic of photography.
I don’t shoot a lot of kids. Don’t have any and don’t have friends who do. That’s how you get the business, I suppose, unless you happen to be good at it. But I can shoot kids. I talk with them, even if they don’t know what I am saying. I don’t make noises, raise or lower my voice or contort my face. They look at me. I shoot.
This kid I found at a wedding rehearsal dinner. His mother, the groom’s mother’s sister, Julie, held the reflector. People hooted at him in the background, yelling smile and cheese and other stupid shit. I didn’t need any help. He’s a beauty.
In their faces are the beginnings of what they will look like. Even at early stages, they look like older versions of themselves. Their skin, so smooth and blemish free. Their consciences clear of scars left by battles for self-esteem. Their mother’s love them, too, hopefully forever.
Everyday, I come in contact with a number of people. None of them pay me. I pay them.
I go to the dentist, the food store, the gas station, all sorts of places where I buy goods or get services. Some of the people know me and call me by name. Others call me, “sir,” a surname I despise, because it makes me feel old. I don’t deserve the respect of being called sir and I don’t have a title. I know the names of those I see regularly for personal services and always call them by name. They are professionals, maybe not the lords of their domains, but independent, trained craftspeople.
I usually don’t talk with the people I meet in food stores, restaurants or gas stations unless they have a drill in their hand, a pair of scissors or are selling lottery tickets. How can I not? The relationship is so personal. They talk and you talk. They ask if they are hurting you, which they could. They make you more attractive or more appealing. They touch you personally, your hair, your car, your teeth, things which if not maintained can make me look shitty, not be able to eat or be an unsafe driver. And, a winning lottery ticket could change my life.
It’s different than a food store where they ask paper or plastic, credit or debit, do you want the receipt.
They look at me; I look at them. My camera always at my side, I feel compelled to shoot them. Not as they work, because I cannot have my gums cleaned or my beard trimmed and hold the camera, but posed in their place of doing business. Some let me. But, it’s a challenge. They are working. They have to clean their stations. Prepare for the next person. Relax. Smoke a cigarette. Text. I get a moment. I have to find the light, a comfortable setting the shows the environment and let the do the camera its thing.
So, my girl is the best date anyone could ever have. Looks. Sense of humor. Stories. Cool. And, honest. She dresses. She talks. Pays for dinner. And I carry my camera. Sometimes, she gives me one or two shots. I usually miss. I beg for another. Sometimes, I get real portraits. She’s looking at me and I don’t what what she’s thinking. Always hoping she feels the same way I do.
What could be bad? Tequila. Pinball. Hamburger. And a beautiful date. Then she drives home.
And then there are the people working at the bar. I shoot working people. They stay in their environment, happy I order drinks and dinner. Many have asked them to pose. They make faces. Not real, but close enough. Got a shot. Preston, the bartender, he’s not giving much. Server has a toothy grin, pretty. But, it’s a problematic pose. Don’t know what he’s saying or what she’s doing, but he knows he’s being shot and so does she. Every photographer takes what he’s given and hopes to come back for more realism, if that’s possible.
Photographers have something to say, sometimes. I have to ask myself sometimes, especially when I am looking at something I see all the time, like people walking up the Battery, across the street from my condo, what do I have to say about this. It’s a scene only I see from this height and perspective, a rather selfish view since my neighbors can see the same set, albeit from a different angle. They’d see it, too, the scene, two people walking. Me. I’d see the light. I’d shoot it. And, then I’d wonder, whether the image which I captured on my rectangular sensor would look the same when it went up on a screen or on a piece of ink jet paper. It’s like seeing a beautiful woman and asking her out. Then you take her somewhere and when you look at her in a different light, does she still shine as brightly.
So, how did these bikes get here? Why didn’t the owners retrieve them. Did they forget about them? How do they get around now?
So, did you ever want to make popcorn and sell tickets at a movie theatre? How exciting! You get to see the human condition and watch movies on a big screen. Oh, the indecision at the door when no decision has been made which flick to see. The problems deciding on the size of the popcorn or whether to add salt or that liquid they call butter. And what about Googers or M&M’s? After the movies, you pick up the empty cups and who knows what from the floor and sweep out the bathrooms? You can see the movies for free. And people assume you are a critic, asking for opinions on the story and acting. The down side is that you go home at night smelling like popcorn.
I don’t do winter, well. Don’t ski. Don’t snowshoe. Don’t skate or play hockey. And I sure as hell don’t ice fish. I tried it once or twice when I lived in Salsibury, VT. My friends took me to their well appointed shack on Lake Dunmore. We drank beer, ate deer bourguignon, cooked to perfection on the site and laughed and told stories. Good friendship. But, every once in a while, we had to go check the lines. I held the flash light. Across the Lake, drivers did wheelies on the ice. We caught a few fish, little ones. The guys cleaned, cooked and ate them. Couldn’t wait to leave, though I admit I did have a good time hanging out.