It’s All In The Attitude

The Container

Is it possible to find happiness inside a commercial shipping container? Obviously, the answer to this question depends on a whole slew of factors. But be that as it may, my interest remains on those who would actually answer “yes” to this sort of question. This is specially the case in big cities like Washington, DC where long, sour faces have become the modern Venetian masks of the average worker. Ever ride the metro during the rush morning or afternoon hours? You would be forgiven for thinking that smiling has been officially banned in the city. More than that, you could also be forgiven for thinking that you have become invisible, or transparent at the very least. No eye contact, no acknowledgement of your presence, and definitely no smiling. Strangers doing their best to ignore each other while sharing the same space, the same direction, and the same universe.

But then, when you least expect it and are about to give up on humanity, something different happens. Right there in the middle of grumpy city, and inside a hot metal shipping container, the very meaning of happiness and friendliness. No suits, no high-paying job, no ideal working conditions, and no high-flying college diploma on the wall. Just the mere presence of a photographer looking into the container was enough to do away with invisibility. As if being transported into another Second World galaxy, I was suddenly blinded by the toothy smile of an alien DC character and his incredible good attitude. An unsolicited display of friendship immediately followed, ending in a gladiators’ duel of who could express the most effusive “great talking to you” goodby. Walking away with my camera, I couldn’t help but think of the words uttered by the late Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh: “There is a brief moment when all there is in a man’s mind and soul and spirit is reflected through his eyes, his hands, his attitude. This is the moment to record.” A chance encounter, a lifted spirit, and a much needed shot of faith in humanity. Away I went with a little more bounce on my steps and a much needed reminder of the power of good attitude.


Old Is New Again

Who could have imagined that sewing machines would make their appearance in one of the trendiest shops in Georgetown. Leica M9, Summicron-M 28mm f/2.

First it was farmers’ markets, then retro camera, and now sewing machines.  No matter where you look, old has become new again.  Is it mere nostalgia, or is there something deeper going on around us?  For starters, enough time has passed since the popularity of these trends to justify the current generation’s fascination with the old technology and the way people used to buy their goods.  I can understand that.  But today, and like archeological sleuths, trendy city dwellers today seem quite fascinated with “the ways of the old” as if we were talking hundreds of years ago.  Retro has become the new buzz word, and anyone who can produce anything with their hands these days (besides typing, of course), is generally hailed as a master craftsperson who can command some good prices for whatever it happens to be that they are producing.  Of course, this may have to do with the fact that most of us in the service economy make a living moving data and information from here to there, so anyone that can actually make something is worthy of some level of admiration.  I guess times have changed, but I have to admit that seeing technology that was crucial to our lives while growing up being displayed as curious antiques of a bygone era is a little disturbing.  When store clerks approach me after they catch me staring at these old items, I immediately try to masquerade my nostalgia by asking: “Hey, what is that?”  Now I can only wonder if anyone is buying my line.