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Always Stop!

I was driving down Sheriff Street and noticed that a building I had always intended to photograph had been completely demolished. I have driven past that building for several years now and each and every time I passed I visualized the photo I would take. I have the building so firmly fixed in my mind that I am fairly sure I could draw it from memory right now. It had been painted orange many years ago, but the paint had faded and peeled. But the distressed look was unique, it did not appear that the paint had peeled but rather looked like someone had taken a brillo pad to the surface. It was very scuffed.

After seeing the shadow from this fence many times, I finally stopped. Glad I did as the building is now changed.

It was a typical older concrete building, all sharp edges and variations on squares and rectangles, there were some boarded up windows in the front and what appeared to be a tunnel from front to back (at one point they even had the inevitable Guyanese red curtains in side windows). There was often a battered old blue Landrover in front of the building.

The problem is, the best light to capture it would have been late afternoon when the soft, diffuse evening light would cause the colours to deeply saturate and brought some melancholy to the decrepit building. But, inevitably, at this time I am driving past with the children in the vehicle and could not stop. And once past the building, I’d completely forget. A symptom of the stress I feel at having to drive in that afternoon/evening traffic.

This is not the only strong regret I’ve had at not stopping. Just last year I was coming out in the morning and there was a heavy mist in Diamond. At the same time the sun was brilliantly shining through the clouds causing the mist to glow with this indescribably golden colour. A beautiful looking morning, but that isn’t all. As I pulled up to the corner of 3rd Street and the Diamond main road, I noticed on the Eastern direction there was a break in the mist, forming a wall perpendicular to the road. Imagine an amorphous golden wall. Silhouetted against the wall, to the right of the road was a street sign and as vehicles broke through the wall heading West, the mist wall would swirl around the vehicles. It felt like a primal scene.

This was taken shortly after yet another occasion of being taught, yet again, the lesson of stopping for the shot.

I didn’t stop, but I turned and drove West, away from the scene. I kept an eye in the rear view mirror, beating myself up mentally every inch of the way for not stopping. Once again, I had my son in the vehicle and it would have been difficult to either jump out and leave him, or take him with me. I should have stopped and figured it out then.

One more example? Driving again (noticing a trend here?) I was headed home driving up the East Bank, just entering Little Diamond. The cane fields are on fire, a huge billowing fire fanned by a strong breeze from the North-East. Smoke is pouring across the drain and road with the still burning ash glowing like meth addicted fireflies. As vehicles pass through the smoke it swirled around them and followed in the wake. On that extremely busy East Bank road the place felt lonely and foreboding. You could see only the single vehicle closest to you. This was about 4 years ago. Didn’t stop, never got the chance again.

I could go on about this for a while, but I think you get the point. I don’t remember every lost opportunity, but some really hurt. And it’s really my own damned fault.

I’m not suggesting that I would have gotten a great photo, but I’ll never know. Like so many other things, a crappy job of it would have hurt a lot less than the regrets.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Michael Lam says: June 20, 2011

    I think most photographers have experienced this before, I know I have!  I agree with you, we should make the most of the opportunities that present themselves to us.  Great post.

  2. Wallace says: June 23, 2011

    There are many places I go past and wish I had taken an image before they changed.  One old house that was demolished really stands out for me and I have to drive past the dirt pile every day on my way to work.


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