No woman no cry

No Woman No Cry

It was early 2009, I had just gotten comfortable with my camera and decided to do street photography. Being my first year in Marketing at the University of Guelph, I was in Guelph everyday- I quickly noticed its beauty. I took my camera in my backpack, and put on my cheapest lens; a 50mm Sigma lens that is probably older than I am.

To you, and everyone else, a photograph is a snapshot of a moment. To me, however, it is an experience, an encounter. When doing street photography, the photographer walks around, attentively observing the world around him/her, waiting for the opportune moment to reveal itself. As you can probably guess, said moment is usually a visually compelling situation that suddenly appears to the photographer in the form of a picture framed on a wall- this one wasn’t like that. I never saw this “frame” before taking the picture, I heard it first. As I was walking in eagerness, waiting for something interesting to happen, I heard this man sing “No Woman No Cry” by Bob Marley. I turned around as my eyes quickly fall on the man pictured below, and he -in no time- was able to spot the camera in my hands and discern my intent. This is the moment, this is the experience. It is a moment of raw human interaction, where the photographer looks at another human being, and either decides to take the photograph, honoring the interaction, or stand down and walk away.

Being the intimidated inexperienced street photographer I was, I couldn’t pick a collection of words that described my intent- so I simply pointed and my camera and back at him. He then stopped singing, looking back at me and saying “do you have change?”, I didn’t. I told him I wasn’t carrying change but will find him another day and give him some, he then replied:

“Don’t make no promises”

I took that sentence as a challenge, I challenged his view on trust. Whatever this man’s life is like, it led him to quickly discredit my promise. He looked away, showing me that I am of no interest to him, but also letting me know that I can take the pictures and leave him in peace. I then snapped a few photographs, carefully framing the picture and walked away. And that’s how one of my favourite photographs came to be- and yes, I did find him later that week and give him change.

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