SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 21: “We’re All In This Life Together”

Hit the local shopping mall tonight. Never again! Takes me 30 minutes to walk there. And the place is filled with conservative shoppers. Not to say I’m bagging on conservatism, or that they would not be interesting to photograph. It’s just nothing is grabbing me at the gut.

But, I’m here. It’s a new experience in discomfort, and 9pm is rapidly approaching. I admit, late evening shoots are starting to wear on me a bit. There is a general rule beginning to emerge for me, “most often, work to get a shot in-the-can no later than nine.” Leaves enough time to write an entry before the bewitching hour of twelve o’clock.

Plus, with an hour and a half of mall time already committed, I am determined to meet a new 365 friend. Here! Now!

Yet even with my stubborn commitment to shopping center pain, I’ve reach my breaking point. I need to get out of here! One more lap around level two and I’m going to jump over the railing! Anything to break the monotony and plea for excitement. I’m telling you, never again to a mall for 365.

This place is a maze. Ah! Exit in site; route fixed for the freedom of the empty streets. I don’t care if I have to shoot at 11pm tonight, just let me out of this place!

Almost to the door and I come across a different type of mall goer. A group of edgy late banger looking dudes, chilling, standing in a circle. At first I question approaching them. But as I walk past I can’t ignore overhearing their conversation as they show their tats. Their words are aggressive and loud. Quite the contrast to the overall shopping center vibe of canned music. My intuition is nagging at me, telling me to find out more. And after 90 minutes of conservative shoppers, this group does stand out.

I stop and talk with them. We spend about ten minutes getting comfortable with each other. Not all of them are interested in being photographed, but all are willing to hang for the ride. We walk the mall and find an open spot to take photographs. Three of them volunteer and step up to be photographed.

Readers, shake hands with Jose, Franke and Jonathan. Needing no direction, and enjoying the curious looks of the girls passing by (who are these guys being photographed?), they independently pose for the camera.

Only 4 frames in, mall cop comes out of nowhere and shuts us down. Torques us all. We’re not a commercial shoot, just a couple of people taking a few harmless snap shots. Still, he is adamant; time to wrap. We sort of comply. It’s not worth turning into a big deal. I already feel I have a frame.

Notice I say, “sort of comply.” My gang friends can’t hold back, giving him a few choice words of wisdom as he departs. I don’t buy into the exchange, but they tell me they’ve got my back. I appreciate that.

Accepting that our interview has been cut short, we share departing hand shakes. I’m accused of having a weak one and get schooled in the proper three-part handshake, correct grips, pressure and all. I’m instructed: not too tight or loose, gentle, like you care.

No worries in regards to mall cop’s total annihilation of our shoot and breaking us up; nothing can stop us from becoming new in-the-moment friends.

My walk away? “Don’t let first impression overly affect you.” Even though these kids carry a tough facade, I find them warm, welcoming and genuine personalities.

I’m sure they have their impressions of me too.

365 Day Conclusion: “We’re all in this life together!”