Nobody ever said that making good photographs is easy—in fact it is the opposite. I can remember very few occasions where golden opportunities just happened. Of course there were many times when I stumbled into situations that were ripe for good picture-taking, but I still had to work at it. I mean I still had to work at finding the right situations to stumble into.
A few days ago, I decided to do some shooting on a project that I had been working on for a few years, on American small towns. I decided to visit some towns in upstate New York and eventually my travels brought me to Port Henry. It is a charming place, on a hill, overlooking Lake Champlain. It is not really a tourist spot like some of the towns further north on this lake. It is in fact a real town—a working class town, and that is what I was looking for. I walked around, and walked around and walked around and shot a few so so shots but there really was not much going on. “Perhaps I should drive up to Ticonderoga,” I thought. The problem with this town was that there was nobody on the street—the place was deserted. I thought this might be consistent with most small towns these days. With the car and box stores, most of the action was always on the edge of town. In any case as Winston Churchill was fond of saying, I thought I would just “bugger on” and so I kept looking. After another half hour, there was still nothing happening and it occurred to me that I was only walking up and down main streets and nowhere else so I decided to try some side streets. The first few did not pan out but then I turned down one street and saw this wonderful old diner—straight out of the twenties. It was in immaculate condition—almost brand new and the sign on top said “Miss Port Henry Diner”. I thought for a moment that it was deserted, but I walked around it and took a shot or two and then noticed a sign on the window that said “OPEN”. Since there wasn’t much happening on the street , I thought it might be time for a burger and coke so in I went.
There were 4 people in the place besides the owner and waitress and the man closest to me as I walked in said “come on in. best place in town.” That was my opening because I immediately started talking to him and he soon introduced me to the owner. I ordered my burger and asked if he minded me shoot some pictures in the place, and he said go ahead and I did. After a few minutes, everybody lost interest in what i was doing and went back to having their lunch. That’s when I took this shot of the woman sitting in the corner.
This has happened to me many times over the years. Its all about hanging in, being receptive, and never being discouraged. It difficult but nothing some determination and focus can overcome.