Grumpy old men

I followed the gentleman in the photograph for a while.  I liked his suit and bald head and didn’t quite understand the bag, but then again I didn’t really need to.  I found him interesting and I thought he will make an interesting subject in what I hoped would become interesting image.  I named him “bag man” and bag man forever shall he be.    

The issue was that now that I had found bag man, right at the entry in the asian pacific area (and right after I had made the image of Mr. Hokey Pokey who will forever be known as Mr. Hokey Pokey), there was sadly nothing in the immediate vicinity worthy of framing him.  There were tons of hand woven things, rugs, statues with long heads and other beautifully crafted items but nothing that I could find that was equal in character to my bag man.  Because that’s the dogma for these images, humans experiencing art.  If I only have a human, I only have half an image.

So I initiate stalker protocol.  I follow bag man at a distance keeping one eye on him and one eye on the art.  Tangentially, I don’t care for stalker protocol.  You don’t get to enjoy the spontaneity of happening upon and photographing a scene while at the same time you don’t get to fully enjoy the environment you’re currently stalking in.  It’s lose/lose for me.  Some street photographers “enjoy a good chase” but I’m not them and I want to find someplace nice to endless pursuit of bagginess. 

But bag man has other ideas.  Bag man goes here, the bag man goes there.  Bag man’s in a box, bag man’s with a fox.  Bag man goes up the stairs, stops mid way, picks a wedgie and gazes back over his shoulder to see who saw the wedgie removal.  Bag man enjoys a Matisse (which would have been the image if two women hadn’t walked up obstructing my view), then a Miró (which I shot another grumpy old man at), next a Lichtenstein (which, I’m sorry, I’ve shot so many times) and then meanders his way over the piece in the picture (which I don’t think I had ever noticed before).  

For a second I stop tailing bag man and look at the painting.  It’s massive and contrasty and completely unknown to me.  I’ve walked this gallery a hundred times and never noticed it.  But I need to stay focused, and bag man is my focus.  I turn my attention back to bag man just in time to see him get his face so close to the art that I can’t possibly imagine what his next move will be.  His chin is jetting out and his face is creeping closer and closer, millimeter by millimeter.  I can’t see his lips but I imagine him licking them, as if… wait, what the fuck is he going to do?  Is bag man going to lick the painting?   That’s when I take up my camera and make this image.  

I’m not the only one noticing how close bag man is getting.  A guard swoops in from behind me and screeches at him to “step away from the art” adding a calmer “please” in a more reassuring voice.  Bag man takes a step back, turns to the guard and says, 

“You should leave grumpy old men alone.”

Shot on a Mamiya 6MF with a 50mm lens on Kodak Tri-X 400 pushed to 800 by the Icon.   The painting is Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic 100

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