When Robert “Bob” Kidd, salesman at Foto Care in New York City, approached us about his “Across the Counter” project, we just couldn’t let the opportunity pass to write about this. “Across the Counter” is a series of photographs of Bob standing behind his counter at Foto Care, as seen by his customers. As a salesman, Bob gives advice to customers each and every day, and frequently hands them cameras and lenses to try out. In many cases, his customers will take a quick snap of him across the counter, to see how the equipment handles and performs. “Across the Counter” collects these images and displays them in a series over at Tumblr.
We talked to Bob about this unique project.
All photographs featured in this article are used with permission.
The Phoblographer: How did you get the idea for starting the “Across the Counter” project?
Bob: A customer came in to check out a used Contax G2 with a lens and flash. Before he bought the camera, he wanted to make sure it worked properly. So he bought a roll of film, stood at the counter and shot through it. The whole time I’m standing there talking to him, waiting on customers and answering the phone. He finished the roll, handed me the camera and I kind of forgot about it. The next day he comes in, buys the camera from my coworker and just as he is about to walk out the door, he hands me an envelope and says, “this is for you.” Inside were all the prints and negatives. Of 36 exposures, about 30 were of me standing behind the counter in a black collared shirt.
A week later Brandon Remler of Fujifilm comes by the store and hands me a stack of photos from a pre-production Fuji X-series camera. They were all of me standing behind the counter. Still in a black polo shirt. Then I realized there were all of these photos of me stored on the display cameras. People want to try out a new lens and almost every time the first thing they photograph is the person helping them.
The Phoblographer: Is there a picture in the series that you are especially fond of?
Bob: Fine art photographer Aaron Van Dorn shot a really great image of me on a Minolta Autocord. Also, the Zeiss Otus is more than just hype.
The Phoblographer: As a salesman, what are the most memorable moments with the many clients you meet each day?
Bob: I’ve met some famous musicians, photographers you learn about on the first day of History of Photography. But the most memorable interactions are those with the people that end up telling you more about their life than what they want to take pictures of.
The Phoblographer: What are your long-term plans for the “Across the Counter” project?
Bob: In the next few weeks I’ll be editing down the images and meeting with printers to do a photo book. Hopefully a small show can happen along with the book. If I could get someone to test out some 8×10 Polaroid at the camera counter that would be a major check mark on the to-do list. [Editor’s note: you heard the man!]
Stop by the store and shoot a picture, you might even find a new favorite camera. Also keep an eye out for more announcements about the book. I’m sure everyone wants a hardbound volume, filled with my face.
Thanks for your time, Bob!
You can see all of the “Across the Counter” series over at the dedicated Tumblr page of the project. Also, if you happen to be in NYC, why not stop by at Foto Care on 41 West 22nd Street and help Bob collect even more images for the project!