How about this: the world is divided into two groups. Photographers who like to include people in their compositions and photographers like me who wish that everyone would stay at home. Just staying out of the frame isn’t good enough; I see best when no one is around. When I’m trying to think, the presence of other people is cripplingly distracting.
Which certainly makes New York City an exciting place for taking pictures!
This picture would have been pretty good (allowing for its many technical imperfections, notably a slight blur due to palsy), if only the fourth finger of my left hand hadn’t been doing its thing, hovering over the lens (not shown). Here’s “what I saw”:
So, knowing how I could crop the shot, the obtrusion didn’t really matter. But if I’d wanted to use the whole image, I’d have been in for a long wait, because the emptiness proved to be totally momentary. Head bobbed up from below; worse, bodies coming in from the left blocked the view. It isn’t that I wanted to take a picture of a “deserted” subway station entrance. It’s just that the entrance interested me because, deserted, it was visible.
After Public Enemies, which Kathleen, LXIV, and I saw at the Union Square Thetre, and a nice long lunch at the Knickerbocker, I headed up to Union Square by myself, to take some snaps for next week’s Daily Offices. It was an assignment that I was prepared not to enjoy. There were a lot of people in the park, and they all looked alike: young. Given the location, what did I expect? People my age still regard Union Square as the ideal place in which to catch a disease, possibly death. It seems quite safe now, but the presence too many young people is as off-putting as that of too many old people. En masse, demographic groups always look their worst. All one can think of (vis-à-vis crowds of young people) is the flood of rude health and easy beauty, thrown away on minds that are either callow or naive. Young people of both types think that they know a thing or two about the world, and they’re right, but they don’t know very much about themselves. Such as, for example, the remorseless dispatch with which time is going to steal the unearned benefits of being twenty-one.
The upshot is that a park full of young people is almost as depressing as a mausoleum.
Almost but not quite. When my quiver of images was tolerably full, I contentely blocked that view with my very own self and was soon speeding homeward.