Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Ukrainian Gentleman in MacArthur Park
My preconceived notion of this man, as I tried to surreptitiously take his picture, was that he was an Old World equivalent of a grump. Unable to sneak a picture, I reluctantly tried the forthright approach, "Could I take your picture?" With this he instantly transformed into a courteous gentleman, still of the Old World, and not only willing to accommodate me but also extremely eager to talk. He spoke no English although when I showed him his picture, he quickly pulled out photos of his wife in a hospital bed and started to cry. Clasping her picture, putting both his hands over his heart and then showing me more pictures, I couldn't understand if she was dying or dead.
In the space of half a minute I went from "Hey, he'd make a cool picture for my blog" to under-trained and overwhelmed grief counselor to 'This guy is not unlike my own father; totally bottled up but with so much emotion just under the surface.' It didn't matter I didn't speak a word of Russian, he simply had to acknowledge his loss in the presence of another human being. Still out of my depth, I offered him the bottle of water I was saving for a homeless photo subject. He took the water with one hand and reached into his pocket to pay me with the other. I quickly made him understand that this was just my attempt to do something for him. He smiled and let me take another picture.