The Downtown men by Bruce Wrighton

The Downtown men by Bruce Wrighton

I use an 8x10” camera exclusively for my own work. It is a substantially different way of operating. It is a far more cumbersome way. It almost becomes a ritual to take a picture. Lately I’ve been working more with portraiture…street portraiture. Portraiture of those kinds of people who are I don’t want to say are on the edge or fringe of society, but I want to give the sense that they are somehow alienated from the mainstream either by their own view of themselves or by society’s view of them. I think that it speaks to the immense power of the spirit and the incredible drive of the spirit to fulfill itself, to fulfill a commitment to the soul, that these people will put up with this in order to live out their particular calling. It can be very frightening to realize that you have no support, that the answers must come from within. I think that some people choose that consciously and those are the people for who, if we do respect people of this sort, are the ones we respect. And it can be done unconsciously, and those are the people for whom life may seem more of a struggle, may seem more of a defiant act, they may seem more downtrodden because they’ve never accepted the fact that they are different. There is a schism in them and at times it is a painful schism. So nowadays I’ve been working with those people, not the latter group who consciously accepted their lot, but the people for whom there is that struggle, for whom there is that tension between the spirit and the social norms. Yesterday I saw a parking attendant who just had the right look in his eyes. I didn’t even introduce myself, I said, ‘Can I take your picture?’ And either because I was so open, or there was something in my sincerity he said ‘Sure”.He was a fairly young kid. Weeping eyes. Eyes that really spoke of the pain of having to struggle versus really wanting to find a home. I chatted with him as I was taking the picture—setting up the 8 by 10 is not like the snap-snap of an SLR. It takes 15 minutes to get the whole thing together. It’s a commitment and it’s building a relationship.I find it’s important because I need to develop some kind of rapport with these people. So during the rapport building session, he mentioned he was going in the army. I said to myself, ‘Gee, that’s just so fitting’. To me when a young kid tells me they’re going in the army and they’re working in some parking lot or something like that ; I don’t know for certain but I say: ‘ This kid’s looking for direction’. But in his eyes I got the sense that the direction had to come from within him.