Dear Person I’ve Photographed, But Never Talked To

julius motal the phoblographer dear person

Dear little old lady getting off the bus,

I didn’t expect to see you getting off the bus as a wave of people walked along the street. It seemed like everybody had disembarked. Yet, you emerged, and I couldn’t have been happier. In the moment, I don’t have a list of reasons as to why I press the shutter. It’s usually that I noticed some sort of dynamism, an interesting gesture, a poignant sign, or a whole manner of other things.

With you, I noticed differences. There was the speed you were walking and the speed everyone else walking. There was the bus behind you, too, which is a huge symbol of mobility. It’s the motion, really, that got me, the paths throughout the frame, and everything seemed to radiate out from where you were.

Of course, I couldn’t talk to you because we most likely don’t speak the same language. I’m an American living in Istanbul, and my Turkish is very bare bones. Moreover, it would’ve complicated things to try and explain through any number of translators why I took the picture, and there’s the chance, too, that you didn’t see me, as I was gone shortly after making the photo.

All of this is to say thank you for being where you were.

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Dear man in a state of despair in the bank,

I was turning up the corner to head to the bus when I saw you in the bank. You held your head in your hand, and I had no idea why. All I knew was that the photograph was there, and I had to press the shutter before you came to as you were like that for what seemed like a minute or so.

It was dark out, which made the interior lighting perfect, and I don’t usually go for top-down when I’m photographing. I don’t know what was going through your mind – it doesn’t seem like it was very good – but your expression set against the repetition of the ATMs was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better alignment of photographic elements.

Perhaps there’s something here about the devastation money can cause, though what’s on your mind might have nothing to do with money at all. I don’t know, but I can say that I felt like I arrived photographically. It was a moment of recognition of some kind of visual style, and you played a huge role in that.

So, thank you for being in that Chase very late at night. I hope everything worked out for you.

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Dear man biting his finger on a bench,

You looked nervous when we crossed paths, at least that’s what the finger biting might suggest, though you might have just been biting it for the sake of biting it. Yet, there was something there. The nervousness, or at least the appearance of it, worked so well with the tree near you and the woman behind you.

Perhaps there was a woman on your mind. Maybe it was the one behind you. There’s no way for me to know so many months removed from making this image. I tentatively called this “nerves” because the tree surging up through the frame looks like a bundle of nerves. There’s a tension there, and the woman in the background looks like a faint sketching of a thought.

There’s something slightly existential here about a man sitting alone at night outside, and with this combination of visual elements, there’s a photograph. You made for a photograph that I count among my better ones. Thank you for biting your finger  as that woman just passed the tree behind you. It was late, and you didn’t have to be there, but you were.

I hope you were able to get some sleep.