Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mr. Johnson

Mr. Rudolph "Rudy" Johnson

Today, I had to go to the bank and I decided to walk because it's a beautiful day, I need the exercise, and, aside from my jaunt to Williamsburg and Jamestown last week, I haven't taken my camera out and shot any new photos in about a month. (Well, maybe not that long, but pretty darn close.) As part of my 100 Strangers series, I was fortunate to run into the gentleman above, Mr. Rudolph Johnson. I met him while I was photographing a tribute to someone gone, but not forgotten.

Impromptu memorial to a homeless woman--gone, but not forgotten.
Note Mr. Johnson in the background.

On my way to Takoma Park, I walked past this little park at the intersection of Cedar, Blair, and 5th Streets NW. An impromptu memorial had gone up beneath a cherry tree and I decided to take a picture. Mr. Johnson called out to me and told me it was meant to remember a homeless woman who had also hung out in the park over the years (I didn't catch her name.)

Hands that have labored

We started talking and eventually I asked Mr. Johnson if I could take his picture. He seemed happy to let me. I then remarked about his hands and the work they must have seen over the years. He asked, "You wanna take a picture of 'em?" And I did. Seems he worked in construction and landscaping for 30 years. Not long after that bit of information, I went on my way.

Mr. Johnson checks out my card

Photo copyright: D.C. Confidential, 02/09


Maya said...

What an amazing post. I love this story and the shots of Mr. Johnson. I especially love the shot of his hands. Life is in the details!

marley said...

Just shows you what a walk can bring into your life.

Babooshka said...

Lifts the heart to know you can still run across someone who is happy to be photographed as they are. Excellent socio docu shots. Turn them into b&w too for that timeless feel.

D.C. Confidential said...

Maya: Thanks! I wish I'd been able to stay and talk to Mr. Johnson longer. Perhaps another day, eh?

Marley: Hear, hear!

Babooshka: Mr. Johnson was completely unpretentious and happy to have someone show an interest in him. I love meeting people like this!

Bob Crowe said...

How very beautiful. I'm glad you struck up a conversation: you and your viewers gained something of real value. His hands are worrisome. Some of the finger joints are notably enlarged. He probably has significant arthritis.

Virginia said...

Oh my goodness. I love this guy and you got his HANDS! I think the hands say it all. Good work here for sure. I'm so proud of your strangers and the work you have done. Bravo.

Ron Bloomquist said...

Well done on photographing a situation I always shy away from, unfortunately.

Thanks for the encouragement to try harder and trust more.

D.C. Confidential said...

Bob: His hands looked aged and arthritic. I tried to be gentle when I shook his hand as I was taking my leave.

VJ: I was totally thinking of you when I photographed his hands. I kept thinking, "If Virginia can do this, so can I?" What I found surprising was how incredibly intimate it felt, in terms of connecting with another human being. I wasn't expecting that.

Ron: It's taken me a while to feel this comfortable. I keep Virginia as my inspiration!

-K- said...

Very nice.

Originally, I thought my blog would be made up exclusivity of people like this. But its not as easy as it looks.

Plus, I love the shot of the hands.

D.C. Confidential said...

Kevin: Thank you!

I hear you about original blog concepts and the reality of the same. Shooting photos of complete strangers is equal parts challenging and exhilarating. In the end, though, I want to capture their humanity with dignity and not simply for the sake of being able to tally another number in my quest to shoot 100 strangers. Does that make sense?

So, what changed for you and what makes doing this not as easy as it looked or seemed initially?