All Human Life in a Frame

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mbfitzmahan. 2016. New York. All Human Life in a Frame.

A solitary man.

The cuffs of his pants were frayed. His coat torn.  His shoes were worn.

I was walking through Central Park in New York, when I took this photograph.  I sat across from this spot for about ten minutes.  Waiting for the right light, the right composition.  I wanted to take this picture without obviously being noticed.

Here in this photo are four groups of people, spending the day together.  What stories are they telling?  Why are they in New York?  Resting in the autumn light after a day of touring, working, being family.  They are smiling, talking, relaxing together.

A solitary man.

Taking the photo of the man in the front was challenging.  The others in the photo were busy with their friends.  They didn’t show much interest in the photographer.  The man, on the other hand, looked at me uneasily.  Was he afraid I would make fun of him?  Did he feel unwelcomed? Did he fear that he would be suspected of some criminal act?  I was concerned that my solitary man would run away.  This beautiful man was essential to my composition.  In fact, he was the most important figure in the picture.

One critic said of my photo, “There’s so much going on there, reminds me of those magnificent Bruegel paintings where we see all human life in a frame.”

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Pieter Bruegel, the Elder (1525-69). Netherlandish Proverbs: 1959. Oil on oak panel. Gemäldegalerie’s Collection, Berlin.  

This was what I was looking for.  All human life in a frame.  Asian, African, Muslim, White.

As a photographer, my goal is to look for ways to use my photos to voice compassion.

How powerful we photographers are!  We can be loud or soft spoken.

From experience, I have found that if I talk to a stranger, a homeless man, a white woman from Alabama,  I usually stop seeing an ‘outsider.’  Instead I have met someone to have a conversation with.  I will learn about their family, their stories.  I have found that everyone totes along some smudges and some beauty.

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4 thoughts on “All Human Life in a Frame

  1. I love photos that make me wonder. Sometimes its the wonder of “How did the photographer do that?” Sometimes its wondering about the beauty of nature. But, the best “wonders,” the ones that pull me into a rabbit’s warren of questions and mysteries and stories, are photos like this one. A plethora of characters, caught in a myriad of moments with others, yet each person wrapped up in their own personal worlds within those group moments. Who are these people? How did they get to this time and space? What is the woman holding the cup drinking, and why did she choose that drink? What is she thinking about? Why is the texting woman frowning? Why is the man with the scarf in a motor-cart and why does he have crutches and who gave him the scarf? Is the blonde woman connected to the Asian child? How is each person connected to the others in his/her group? How many degrees of separation are there between the different groups? Where are they all going after they leave the park? And there sits the solitary man…. so many more questions.

  2. Wow! Thank you so much. This is exactly how I feel, too. Yes, why is the texting woman frowning? Time and space. Hmmmmm.

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