Monday, August 02, 2010

Eyes Without a Face

Even though I can't see Sean Browning's lips, his latest self-portrait speaks to me. Maybe that's because it encompasses all that I loathe and adore about our lowly craft. The coiled adrenaline, the assured discomfort, the press-pass that grants admission to the next twenty misadventures. It's the very same verve that caught my eye so long ago, when I looked up from a ballgame I hated to see a version of my future I'd one day learn to love. He was a newspaper photographer slumming his way through another assignment. I was a boy thunderstruck by the notion that you didn't have to join some stupid club just to belong. Not when you could arm yourself with lenses and push your way past the pack. I knew then that photojournalism was for me; I just wasn't sure the discipline. Years later, I conned my way into a job that offered far more than shitty pay and unreasonable hours. It afforded me unending access to pabulum, gasbags and tragedy. It promised me years of indelible images seared into my frontal lobe - all for the price of a little lower back pain. It gave me a backstage pass to more passion plays and crash scenes than I could ever to learn to stomach. Most of all, it taught me no heavily-edited retrospect could replace the sensation of being there, boots on the ground, lens in thick of it. Thus, when I run across a shot like the one above, I don't need a lot of background to know that behind that mask, our heavily weathered subject is grinning, if only a little.

Just don't ask him why. Some things are hard to explain...