S. Heiner fine art photography
                    "A Briefcase". 2001.
                Inkjet print, approx 8"x10".

Photographs often surprise me, e.g., this shot of a businessman in Budapest gazing through the window of a frame shop. He is looking at a poster of a graduating class of college students. The man, balding, conservatively dressed in a gray suit and holding a briefcase behind him, is fixed on the rows of faces lit by the setting sun through the glass. Theirs is a future lit with untold possibilities. The man, on the other hand, is living his future, as gray and undistinguished as the sidewalk on which he stands. The sewer grate at his feet heightens the contrast between his world and the promise, so we’re told when we’re young, of a world which awaits after graduation. What’s particularly remarkable about the picture is that the poster of the students is in an old, time-worn shop, i.e., the very notion that our futures are lit with possibilities is antiquarian. It’s an inspiring story, which, no doubt, the businessman had heard many times in his youth. Indeed, the sunlight is setting on the poster, the faces of the students in the bottom rows are already darkened. The Schopenhaurian truth of the matter is that the world is the unfeeling, unsympathetic outside world of the gray sidewalk and the sewer grate.

These cohering elements of the photograph were a happy surprise to me when I first saw the 4x6 print. In fact, I’d forgotten that I’d taken the shot when I picked up the roll at the film place. The unhappy surprise came when the developer showed me the 8x10 enlargement. It was out of focus. Not much, but enough to be distracting. What was clear was that the photograph fell short of the ideal. The picture as a whole now lacked the clarity of the narrative.

With the photograph in hand, I left the shop, slumped around the block for a while, bought some coffee, and sat on an outside bench across from one of the out-of-both-work-and-luck guys who regularly milled about downtown. “Here’s one for you,” I said as an introduction to the story of the picture in the envelope. He hadn’t said a word yet, nor did he as I told him about the photograph and about why, but for a split second shake of the camera, I now would be holding something exhibitable. “It’s true, man. Take a look for yourself,” I said as I pulled the picture out of the envelope and handed it to him. He studied it for a few minutes and then waved his hand across the paper as a final gesture of sizing it up. “This is a truly fine photograph,” he said. “The man’s a little out of focus because for a moment, as he reflects on how his life was once open with possibilities, his identity is blurred.”  He looked at the picture once more before handing it back to me. “I really like this," he said. "Makes you think, doesn’t it?”