Squat man in tweed photographs tree in throes of spring explosion. Berlin, circa 2004
April 11, 2024

Squat man in tweed photographs tree in throes of spring explosion. Berlin, circa 2004

Settling late one early spring morning into the pale golden hues of a weissbier on Oranienstrasse, I spied a squat old man sporting ill-fitting tweed shuffling in a trance-like state towards a tree. His subject was bursting at the seams with graduated blossoms trapped suggestively on the spectrum between fuscia and White.

On arrival at the root of the spectacle, the man paused for a while and then dipped unexpectedly, gracefully swinging a mid-length zoom attached to a camera from his shoulder into his two primed palms.

After a period of scrutiny, a decision was made, and he slowly raised his elbows, lifted the apparatus, and trained his zoom on a flower, thus demonstrating again, and beyond refutation, the garment's completely conflictual relationship to its owner.

I engaged my knowledge of light and physics and, given what I thought to be the focal length of the zoom and the distance from the last element to the tree, figured he'd filled the fame with a single blossom, pistil front and centre.

The man shifted in delicate increments around the semi-shaded section of the tree for an hour without modulating his ultra-focus. And then he turned and shuffled away, vanishing down the cool alley from which he'd emerged, leaving on the square a masterclass in seeing.

Whenever I spot a redundant zoom waiting with deluded confidence on a trestle table for a buyer, I think of the old man's cameo and the profound lesson in the power of the amateur photographer's ability to truly pay attention.

Second only to Roger Moore watching the lazer in Goldfinger.

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