Thursday, January 03, 2008

Black and White #1 or #2 or #3 or #4

"1920 Barber"
City Barber Shop
Odessa, Texas

"1947 Cash Register"
City Barber Shop
Odessa, Texas

Today is two firsts. First, you have Four choices. (See another pair below.) And second, this is the first pictures shot fresh for the Have Camera Will Shoot experiment, taken just six hours ago.

I was out on a photo safari this afternoon, having a glorious time trying to find some shots to fulfill your suggestions, when I drive by this old timey barber shop. I can see the barber sitting in his chair, afternoon sun shining on him. He's staring at the traffic out his door. I turn my truck around, impulsively deciding I would love to take that picture even if I have to get my nerve up to ask.

I walk in and make a joke about maybe I needed a haircut. (I'm a girl, so that's a bit funny.) The place is empty except the barber in the barber chair and a guy in the waiting chairs, reading a newspaper, who looks like he's a fixture there. The barber can see my camera in my hands and eyes me suspiciously. I jump right in, "Sir, I'd like to take your picture. May I?"

"No." Then the pause and a few seconds later, "Why?"

I explain that there are not many old fashioned barber shops like his around any more. Soon they will all be gone. I'd like to take a picture to preserve it.

"Well, I don't want no publicity. I don't want to be famous." I assure him that my photo will not make him famous. I explain that I like pictures for their sake, for the Art of them, and think him sitting in his barber chair with the sinks, mirrors, and scissors behind him would make a wonderful photo.

"Oh, you can't take a picture of all this mess. But let me think about it a minute."

I tell him it won't look messy in the picture, but if he'd prefer I not take a picture of it, I won't. I swing around and suggest a different angle. I recount to him virtues of the other side of the room. I put my hand up to frame the shot like some movie director. I tell him that the waiting chairs, TV, and calendars would make a nice shot behind him. He begins straightening up a little. He removes his coat.

"Can't take a proper picture with my coat on."

He tells me he came to Odessa in 1943. He was 23 years old and was Odessa's youngest barber. Now he'll be 88 in May. But he's not the oldest barber in town still in business. He's the second oldest and he tells me where the other one is and that the oldest barber was just recently in the newspaper. I ask him how does it look for the other barber. Does he think he'll be the oldest soon? He laughs and tells me he's pretty sure he'll outlive the other one, so yes, he'd be the oldest barber then. He's definitely warming up to me.

We talk about some old history I know about. I ask about the famous (infamous) sheriff we had here for a while, Slim Gabriel. Oh sure, he cut Slim's and all the deputies' hair back in the day. I notice his cash register and he tells me that it is the original 1947 register used when the first "City Barber Shop" opened. I ask him if it still works. He assures me it does and opens it. There is only silver change in it.

"Not had much business today?" I ask him. He tells me no. Not one customer. But of course, he says, he didn't open shop until 2 today. It's now 4. And there are no customers now either. The guy reading the newspaper is his friend who keeps him company since he's become a widower. The other guy nods and asks me my name. That's all he ever says.

The barber and I chat about his life. I like listening to old stories. He tells me he's old enough now that he's lived a long time in a lot of places. We laugh about that.

So as you can see, he agreed to let me take his picture. You all must promise, though, not to rush over there and ask him for a haircut. He has a few regulars and that's all he wants. And, like he said before, he sure doesn't want to be famous. As it turns out, he did get one customer afterall, a regular, who needed a haircut and by the looks of the customer's age and his missing shirt button, he is likely a widower too. When he came in -- a real, regular customer -- I took my leave and told Mr. S. I would be back. (I call him Mr. S. here because I don't want to make him famous.)

Today's subject, "Black and White" is courtesy of Rima, of MaraZine Galleries. Rima and I go way back. Way back in blogger years, that is. We go back to I think it was March of last year. She has seen all my pictures and remembered (in detail!) some I did in black and white, and wanted me to do some more. Rima is an artist -- although she can be modest about it -- and she is a huge encourager to other artists. I don't think I'd be here blogging to you like this if I hadn't met Rima. (And her sister Neda and her husband Fawzan. No links for them right now. Today's post is for Rima.)

"1926 My Brother and Me"
City Barber Shop
Odessa, Texas

"1938 Big Lake High School annual, The Owls"
City Barber Shop
Odessa, Texas

Photo info --
I didn't do any cropping. But, as normal, I used Photoshop 5.5 to reduce their size for the blog, and did one 50% sharpen on the reduced images. They were lovely pictures as is, but something made me think of Rima's request (they could have easily been Bev's request for Interesting People), and converted one to Grayscale. When I saw it, I decided I loved it so much I'd do the same with the others. For each I did some curve adjustments. Not a lot, but they were a bit flat without. I like the top two best. The bottom two I added, not for their photographic virtues, but for the story they tell. I think the bottom left one looks...newspaper-y? Still, I liked the man. I liked the history. I liked the pictures. I liked the afternoon in a barber shop. Another first!


Rima said...

thank you and i love you.
i knew this was my very special present the minute i clicked on - thank you, thank you, thank you

i need to savour all of them for a while longer before picking an absolute favourite

Lisa Sarsfield said...

Debbbbbeeeeeeiiiii!! (That's me shreeching with joy and delight and OMG Pride!) I am so coming back to digest this fantasticaly wonderful and may I say professional post! Oh I wish I hadn't come here while cooking are super talented Ms Debi!
Back soon!

Bobbie said...

#1, #1, #1 ! I love this series of shots and think you did a super job. Especially in getting permission to take this old barber's photo. He is a treasure and I'm glad you got up your nerve to ask!

nelda said...

You certainly selected the perfect subject for b&w photos! All the pictures are great as is your narrative. I think the first picture is my favorite, but it's a tough choice to make.

John (Copyright JMM 2007-2008) said...

I will take One, great capture of the man, his hands and the room. He has amazing hands - like something from the 1930s Farm Administration photographs done by Walker Evans, et al.

Both portraits have been of older men, interesting. You must feel more comfoprtable with them. They also make great subjects. Both said no, then yes.

You are a "people person" so I know you can do effective portraits - good you got the courage - I am guessing your "fear" must have more to do with tech skills than people skills. You have great tch skills - sooooo you will do more portraits I am sure.

Maybe go back and see this guy, no?

The shirt being so thin that you can see pocket's contents is also intriguing.

The other photo here is also very good - full frame was important to me when I photographed a lot with good equipment - it shows pre-conception ala Weston or Adams.

I am thinking of donating a dollar to charity for every typo I put in a comment going forward - 3 dollar max per comment (to allow me to still buy music). They must be pointed out to me, though since I have my head in the sand box, always.

-K- said...

I vote for the Cash Register but I certainly enjoyed what you wrote about him as well.

Hala said...

hey you, sorry but, YOU"VE BEEN TAGGED!!!
go to my blog for details.

Lisa Sarsfield said...

OK, Dinner, kids to bed, important phonecall, fold the washing an somehow it ended up to late to come back on here last night!
So, as I was saying yesterday this is a wonderful post and a wonderful experience for you to have. I am so proud of you having the courage to ask this old fellow if you could take his photo. I loved the story you retold to go with it too. I imagine that they would be good photo's even in colour but the b&w really adds something really special to them. There are some really strong contrasts here and nothing wishy-washy. I've had a hard time deciding on a favorite. Ultimately though it's number 1.He has this delightful amused look on his face, his eye's give away his growing like of this stranger who's come in here to ask for his photo. I bet he will remember you for some time! It's a great photo too. I like the way it's not straight on. He's leaning back in his chair a bit as if this is some sort of journey and it invites us to lean in. I love the fact the room is at an angle too. No hard flat wall behind.
You've done a fanastic job with all these photos. Equally good technically and you've given us a good variety to choose from. In the end it's the eyes that have it!
Lisa :)

Ps: Did you get my email re freelance stuff? Emailed you before Xmas...

PPS: He might not want to be famous but you sure have what it takes!

Hannah's Mom said...

Oh Debi... The photos of the barber, oh my!!! Beautiful work Debi!!! I am so glad you shook things up a bit, amazing.

dianeclancy said...

Hi Debi,

I figure I get 2 favs cause there are 4 photos! Right?

Anyway my choices have changed all over the map as i keep looking and looking ...

I am going for ... #1 and #3. If I have to choose .... then #1. Ok, I can let my breath out.

~ Diane Clancy

Andi said...

I choose #1. He looks so genuine, so authentic, so beautiful.

bintria said...

Debi, this visit with the gentleman barber, and done in b&w, was the stuff of great little stories, hidden in the folds of a small Texas town. Your pictures reveal so much, and your journal telling about the visit gives the experience depth and meaning for those of us looking on. I hope you will walk into the homes and businesses of other people who inhabit your world there and bring us their stories, too.. that he doesn't want to be famous or have too many customers! That is so rich!

Fawzan Barrage said...

This is one of the best posts I have read in a long time. This is more than a post. I would love to see this post in a nice magazine somewhere with these excellent photos attached.

If my dear wife inspired this post, then I am very jealous. I can't pick any of them alone. The photos tell the story so well with the words.

Excellent work!