Working, The Series-Taxi Driver

By: pbcmedia

Aug 26 2009

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Category: PORTRAITS, THE SERIES, Working


Focal Length:50mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:Canon EOS 5D

His name is out of central casting, Jehan-Max Faustin, and he drove us from the Green Market last Saturday at 14th street in NYC back to 82nd street.  Our bags were too heavy with nature’s bounty to haul it up and down the subway.

It is Wednesday now and I’ve returned home to Massachusetts and this is post-a-human photo day for me and high altitude trash talker, Dave.

I am trying to photograph humans who are working and often invisible to us.  I am also trying to get over my discomfort with asking strangers if I may photograph them.

In previous posts in this series, I had one image of two humans from behind them, and  two images of car wash attendants, One and Two with permission, and one without, seen through suds and water.

But, really, who fits the description of “invisible” worker more than a taxi driver?  Most of the time you see only the back of their head and in most taxis now there is a Plexiglas safety cage around them further cloaking them and reminding us of the danger they face on a daily basis.

Jehan was a cheery, deep voiced man with a french accent and powerful arms and graceful hands.

I wish razzbuffnik was around so I could tell him I took his advice and asked people if I could take their picture directly.  I told them they looked fabulous just as he suggested he did with one stranger.

My cousin Mary nearly fell over when I asked the first man who had been on the subway with us and helped us find our way.  He had also helped another woman who had dropped something.

I tapped him on the shoulder when we got to street level and thanked him for his kindness, called him a good Samaritan and then asked him if  I could take his picture because besides being a good Samaritan, he also was fabulous looking.

This is when cousin Mary started to wobble.

He smiled, agreed to let me photograph him.  I just took one picture with my little camera (my second “good” camera, ahem) and was sort of dithery because I should have taken several.  I asked him if he’d like a copy of it and he gave me his address. (Razz suggested that, too)

Cousin Mare is now looking as green as some of the avocados that were on sale behind us.

He gave me his address and said goodbye, “Have a blessed day,” and was on his way.  I looked at his name and address, and called after his disappearing form, “Goodbye, Ray, thank you!”

Mary didn’t say anything because she could see I was quite pleased that I had done this.

But, when we got in the cab for our trip home and I began the process of engaging, observing fabulosity (I wasn’t lying in either instance) and exchange of  address,  she was very quiet.  At the end of the ride, I was all but blowing kisses,  ” Au Revoir, Jehan!”

We walked to the apartment and Cousin Mary was very very serious, “You know…you are very friendly and people seemed to like it, but they might think you are a weirdo or something.  Plus, now you have to print these photographs and send them to these people!”

Translation:  What if one of these people you think fabulous is the weird one?

Did I say she was shaking her head whilst she said this?

True enough.  Point taken.  I’ve never done this before and I should think it out.  I was very lucky in my choices on this day.

I showed Jehan-Max one of the images and his eyes sparked, “Ahh!!!” with..well, with visibility, as if he’s never seen himself before either.

There is an emotional center to this project for me, photographing the Invisibles (as there is with most of my series) and when he saw himself in the viewfinder, I knew it wasn’t just me.  (I didn’t tell him I have a whole series called “Driving Behind the Wheel” and this image shall fit into that as well.)

So, weirdo I may be and may in the future encounter, but I don’t think it was this steamy, rainy day in New York.  I took photographs of some kind and ebullient humans on the dangerous yet often astounding streets of New York City AFTER asking their permission and this is a breakthrough.

Thank you Razz for writing what steps you might take if you wanted to take a stranger’s photograph, steps that I’m sure you are using as you and Engogirl travel throughout Europe for the next three months.

But, I don’t think Cousin Mary is going to travel with me anymore until this series is over.

Eh-bien, tant pis.

Stay safe, Ray and Je-han.

Fabulous men of New York City need to take good care of themselves, too.

©Pat Coakley 2009


**Just a reminder for those looking for my flower and plant photographs (that sounds boring but they are not!), they are now all posted at my new photoblog, “Singular Sensation” along with a photo tip for each one.  I am up to 12 rules that some creative person can totally break on their way to creating their own singular sensations!

21 comments on “Working, The Series-Taxi Driver”

  1. Lots of nice details in this shot that add to the story line — the traffic, glimpse of the face in the mirror, meter, and left hand up as though he’s gesturing while talking. While your cousin Mary is right that one needs to use judgment in getting addresses and the like, too much safety leads to a very dull life. So hurray for you!!

    • Don, how nice you took the time to mention those details as this photo is actually three for just those reasons. This is why I’d be broke if I shot film. I take multiple shots of the same image with different focuses! Thanks for the “hurray” too. I was proud of myself!!!

  2. Here’s what I feel, looking through your lens.
    The frenetic pile up of cars, cabs, buses, messengers on bikes, jaywalkers, impatient pedestrians, erupting chaos at any minute, and yet, still, Je-han has the temperament and inner calm to have only one hand on the wheel, while the other one silently perched on the open window, could be counting the beats of a song that only he hears.
    A driver with experience.
    And the good fortune to have picked up a newly fearless muffintop from MA with a deadly sharp eye.

    My mother always made me aware of ” the little guys “, the invisible ones as you refer to them.
    The busboys ( does anyone ever thank THEM at the table for refilling the water glass or the coffee cup, or do the kudos go only to the waiter), the floor sweepers in the supermarket, the orderly in the hospital, the bus driver, and yes, thanks to you, the cab driver.
    Mom would have approved of this post.
    I sure do.

  3. Brilliant. Like Studs Terkel with a camera. (Have you read his book “Working”? All interviews with the invisible working people of America. I follow his model, use a tape recorder instead of a camera, but I like what you’re doin and I’m gonna keep tabs on the series. Kudos.

    • Yes. Sarah! I did read “Working” years and years ago (I’m 64) and so I totally appreciate your comment and am grateful he came to your mind! Welcome, indeed, and I hope you do come back. I’ll go and visit your site soon,

  4. Good for you. I’m glad you picked up on the whole contact high thing that people get when you photograph them. It almost falls into the “senseless act of kindness”category that people feel up lifted by.

    I’m looking forward to next lot lot of images. Be brave and may the force be with you!

    By the way, who cares if people think you’re weird. When I was in Singapore, I got knocked back a few times when I requested to take photos. I didn’t feel bad about it as I knew, it wasn’t really my problem.

    • Oh, Razz, I’m so glad you saw this!!! I was proud like a peacock and tomorrow I’m going to post one from the Museum of Modern Art that I think you’ll love BUT. I didn’t ask his permission and am sorry I didn’t go up to him afterwards cuz honestly, I think he’d like to have a copy. I’m learning, though, and that’s the important thing! It was indeed a “high” for them as well as for me. Good travels and I’m so looking forward to your posts!

  5. I think your cousin’s advice should be taken, but not so literally. I think the friendliness and care you show to these “invisible” people are fantastic. The above photograph of the taxi driver is wonderful. I don’t live in New York City. In fact, I really don’t want to see it because I am a mountain girl. My skyscrapers are mountains and snowy peaks. My smog is morning fog after a good evenings rain. My city noise is the sound of a pack of coyotes singing to the full moon and when the occasion comes for me to go to work Monday through Friday, the city noise in our small town are the Harleys who roar their engines drowning out every conversation. We have sidewalk cafe’s, great restaurants, and hiking and hunting just minutes from the house. Keep up the good work! Just don’t give out your home address. That should keep the wierdos away.

    • Hello, Nikki! I love your description of your mountain girl surroundings. So poetic and detailed. You are right, too, about the home address! I’m going to send the photo cards tomorrow! I’ll over to visit your site and bit of paradise in next few days. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Now that’s an interesting post.
    I like your way with the people you photograph. It’s annoying most of the time but the way you did it, surely anyone on the street would want to be shot. :P
    And I like the clarity of that photograph. I dunno much about photographing but that pic sure looks like being shot by a real good professional. :)

    • Thank you, Salman. I appreciate your taking the time to comment. Hopefully, I’ll have more courage in the coming days to ask more people if I can photograph them.

  7. Photographing people can be tricky. This method of asking people is great. I’ve often used the ‘guerrilla’ method; I see someone amazing and immediately snap them before thinking too much about it. They’re either disgruntled or don’t seem to notice, but either way I just walk away briskly. I don’t get to meet many people this way. Great topic.

    Related “”>On Lives post: On Strangers

    • onlives, I, too, know that guerilla approach and I was simply never comfortable doing it. I always felt like I was stealing something. So, if I can buck up and have courage, perhaps I’ll come to enjoy this experience! Thanks for commenting and I’ll be over to visit in the coming days.

  8. Thank you! Happy Photographing! I’ve saved you to my favorites.

  9. Man it is so great that in this crazy society of today we have good people to help people out. You’re whole adventure was written very well and captivated me into the scene. Sending the pictures to the people is a great idea and I’m guessing that you’re starting into photography? May I ask what camera you use because that photo of the taxi man is a great photo and I’m guessing it’s not a big bulky camera at all….again nicely written post.
    my wordpress

    • Thanks for the comment, Ernest. I agree…it was so refreshing to meet these good people. I do use one of those big bulky cameras, however!! Although, I lost it temporarily the next day, in fact! It’s a Canon D5. And, although I have been doing photography a long time, I am always trying to learn something new…this time it’s photographing people.

  10. Your writing is fabulous! Fabulous, really! I am blown away by your photo-journalism. Lots of people are good at photography, lots are good at writing, but not many are proficient at both.

    You packed so much into this piece, so gracefully. Personality, humanity, humor, sociology, compassion.

    The photograph is wonderful, but I have this one observation: The series is about “invisible people,” and even with the photo, the cab driver remains invisible. We can’t see his face. Perhaps to really reveal an invisible person, you’d need several photos. BTW, I’ve had the same discomfort about photographing people, so your experience will be a help to me. That is another dimension in your piece, the personal issue of stretching beyond one’s comfort zone. — Thanks, John Hayden

  11. Thank you, John, for your kind and encouragin’ words! I agree with you, too…I wish I’d taken a few other photos of Jehan when we got out at the apartment. My learning curve shall stretch a distance, I’m afraid. Thanks, again, for taking the time to comment and hope you’ll come back again.

  12. I’ve waited all day to post a reply to this photo. It’s really good. You are a worthy adversary. I’m going to have to step my game up for next week. I don’t think you have much to worry about when it comes to talking to strangers. Just make sure you are in a well lit public place.

  13. […] man, photographed in NYC while I’m whizzing by him in Mr. Cab Fabulosity, is my pas de […]

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