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Recent lunch in Oakland

December 28th, 2001

With A Camera
I came home early today and I've been futzing around, first with the computer and now with the apartment, and now, what with my ambition flagging as the day and the year come sliding to an end, I've been thinking maybe I should have a shot of this here malt whiskey that Rien Post likes so well and start the weekend in a traditional vein. Except, except. A disadvantage of getting older is you remember the last time a shot of whiskey in the afternoon seemed like a good idea, a way to push it up to another level, you remember it was an idea with a sometimes problematic outcome, and then you remember you remember too much. So I'll start over.

Henri Cartier-Bresson ? showed up today, a video I ordered from, a documentary "Featuring World-Renowned Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson". Art, Life and Photography, in other words, with a capital "A", a capital "L" and a capital "P". Evidently Cartier-Bresson is a difficult old duck to interview, but he's been around as long as photography has been around and I've got a bunch of his books up on the shelf, so I have to take my cap off and pay attention. What does he say? What does he think about this snapshot shooting business? That Leica he used? Any reason to suspect I might need one?

Well, photography isn't about equipment, any more than painting is about brushes. He seems to say the right things - the right things being the things I agree with, of course, too many opinions I don't like and he's undoubtedly overrated. One must stay on one's toes, you understand.

"Do you have the feeling you're a thief, sometimes?" she asks.

"A pickpocket, for sure", he replies, talking about his street photography and the images he snatches from his unsuspecting subjects. This gets my attention.

It is a short documentary. "I'm not looking for any expression, but a silence." That by itself is worth the purchase. The silences, as in music, as in pictures. What a way to put it. I have no idea what I might do with that thought, whether it has any useful application, and there's good reason to suspect the old codger is putting us on, after all, the sly glint in the eye grin as he says it, the old Zen zinger, which, of course, makes it seem all the more profound to us kids in the audience.

It's dark and it's raining outside, and I have this undeniable urge to go forth with a camera.

The banner photograph was taken near Lake Merritt.