Monday, November 11, 2013

Willie Williams

Willie Williams by Andrew Brosig Photography
Willie Williams, a photo by Andrew Brosig Photography on Flickr.

As I've said before, and will probably say again in a few minutes, I love to play with photography. It's my job, as a photojournalist, but it's also my passion.

Meet Mr. Willie Williams. Mr. Willie is shown playing a 6-string guitar with 4 busted strings outside his vendor booth at the Millard's Crossing Flea Market on Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013. I paid a visit to the flea market, as I do just about every month, just to wander around and see what I could see.

Another purpose for the sojourn was to test out my new(ish) camera: A FED 3B, manufactured around the 1960s in the former Soviet Union. I picked it up off of a popular online auction site (I won't say their name, by you know who I'm talking about) for a song from a seller in Estonia. Sunday was my first real go-out-and-shoot-to-test-the-camera day, shooting with a real purpose in mind.

I love to play with photography (see, told ya' I'd say it again) and meeting interesting people. Typically, I'll just wander up to someone, talk to them a bit, then ask if I can make a photo of them. Only one person Sunday declined, a pretty good day for me. 

 I didn't get this guy's name, but I just loved the way he was sitting in his booth, surrounded by baby clothes waiting for folks to come and buy. The light is coming in from a large opening in the booth at camera right, making a nice pool of illumination he just happened to be right in the middle of. 

The FED-3 is a rangefinder camera, meaning it uses a comparative focus system with two lenses placed a few inches apart on the camera. When you turn the lens to focus, it basically rotates a mirror and prism system and, when the two images line up inside the viewfinder, the camera is in focus. 

The cameras have a somewhat dark history. They were built, beginning in 1932, in a former labor commune named for Felix Edmundovitch Djerzinski, founder of the Soviet secret police. (Information from the website

The commune was started in 1927 as a "school" near Kharkhow in Ukraine. It started out as a production facility for a variety of items, including furniture and electric drills. But, as photography became more popular, it turned to camera production and started churning out copies of the German-made Leica, arguably (or not) one of the best cameras ever made.

Enough with the history lesson. As I've said, getting to know a bit about people and capturing their image is a big part of my job as a photojournalist. And carrying around an antique camera is a great way to break the ice. A number of people Sunday started conversations by asking about the FED-3 hanging over my shoulder. 

That, by the way, is how I picked up my latest acquisition - a 1950s-era Polaroid Land Camera in pretty decent condition, from a lady who decided I liked old cameras and told me she had one, stashed on a shelf out of sight in another booth.

And that's how I met Ms. Dorothy Brewer (below).

I'd just photographed Mr. Willie and his guitar and resumed my wandering around when a little voice said, "Why didn't you take my picture?"

I looked around and there was Ms. Dorothy. I told her it was because I hadn't gotten to her, yet. I asked her to pose where she was standing and pulled my hand-held meter from my pocket (the FED-3 doesn't have a light meter). After taking a reading, Ms. Dorothy asked if I'd gotten her photo that quickly. I explained I was just reading the light, at which she smiled at me and posed.

"I'm going to just grin," she said as I made the photo. "I'm a grinner."

It always amazes me that people are willing to share even a small part of their lives with a stranger with a camera. Some cultures believe photography has the power to capture a piece of the subject's soul. I don't know about that, but I do know photography is (or can be) a very intimate interaction.

People usually open up to me when I'm making their photos. There are moments, particularly in my work images, when people really don't want their photo made. As I told another lady at the flea market (the one who turned me down Sunday) I often don't have a choice. I've got to make an image of them to illustrate a particular story for the newspaper. 

Those images are rarely my best work, despite all my efforts to capture a good photograph. But it's the people who willingly allow me to photograph them, who participate in the process, who often turn out to be among my favorite subjects. There's something about the give-and-take of that kind of photography, sharing a bit of each other even if only for a moment, that results in simple yet fundamentally fun images like those above.

I'll leave you with one more image, which illustrates the idea, you never know what you'll find at a flea market. And that's part of the attraction of the events, at least for me. I've seen some awfully strange things at flea markets around the country. But this one really takes the cake, ranking very high on the "creepy" meter. I think it's a cookie jar, which could be good, because it's so strange it might help if you're on a diet and trying to avoid sweets.

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