The Modern Gentleman

The Gentleman

Ah, to be a gentleman. There are not many words in the English language that are mere doors into a larger context than the word “gentleman.” Not that the term holds as much connotation in the modern world as it did a century ago, but rather than its mere use gives rise to all sorts of controversial interpretations of its meaning. For some it is merely descriptive, or at the very least, representative of an era when well-dressed men with impeccable manners and taste, roamed the earth. For others, its mere use is the functional equivalent of a war song, a remnant of an era when men with all sorts of predatory faults dominated the earth at the expense of just about everyone else. The word just seems to flatter some while insulting others. Such are the times in which we live.

Are we to conclude, then, that the whole notion of a “gentleman” is being rendered irrelevant in a world consumed with informality and industrial-size social conflict? My first reaction is to say no, but I’m afraid that my opinion may be wrong, or at the very least, outdated. As a nostalgic compromise, then, I would like to say that while the concept may not be totally dead, it may have been pushed underground, so to speak (I guess wearing a jacket while carrying a dog residue bag isn’t helping matters much either). Whatever the case, the word is quite controversial in modern times, and it may have to do to a large extent in our ability to achieve a commonly-accepted notion of what a gentleman is, or should be. But even if we strived for a common definition, I’m not sure that the attempt would find much agreement amongst folks out there. In some sense, we all kind have an image in our heads of what a gentleman is, or how should he act (a milder version of James Bond perhaps?), but these thoughts may be heavily infused with heavy doses of nostalgia, movie characters, or some self-created misconceptions. So, what are we to conclude about a gentleman today? I’m not sure, and will have to admit that I rarely see anything approximating such a species. The closest I’ve ever gotten was this person who I recently photographed in Georgetown, but that bag he’s holding may just put him slightly short of the threshold. Or does it? I hate to admit it, but these days I’m not sure where that threshold is.

 

A Quiet Moment

Business people need their quiet moments too, and the Jaleo bar downtown DC sounds like the perfect spot.
Business people need their quiet moments too, and the Jaleo bar downtown DC sounds like the perfect spot.

I know, how can you ever find the perfect quiet moment when photographers sitting next to you can’t resist the temptation of pointing their cameras at you?  I get it, but to put it mildly, I couldn’t resist.  And if you’ve ever heard of the almost-silent shutter of a Leica M (Type 240), this photograph is living proof of Leica’s well-deserved reputation.  With only two empty sits between us, the subject of this photo never heard the shutter.  In fact,  I was so surprised at the lack of reaction that I ended up taking about 8 shots of the scene.  Quiet, inconspicuous, and excellent in low light, the Leica M is definitely the best Leica camera ever.  And just in case you’re wondering, the impecably-dressed gentleman turned out to be a distinguished President of a university.  The grungy guy was behind the camera.