The things we do for love. I have no interest in art or photography, but my girlfriend loves it, so I agree to go with her to an exhibit of this photographer. The whole time we are getting ready she goes on and on about this artist and how they could be the next Dorothea Lange, whoever that is. Beyond the fact I had no idea who Dorothea Lange was there is the fact that, to me, taking a picture just isn’t art. I mean I do it all the time and you don’t see me trying to sell my pictures for millions of dollars.
We walk in and Aisha runs into a few of her friends. See Aisha comes from money and I work in a garage. Her friends look down on me because I have grease and dirt under my fingernails, and I drink beer in a can. I don’t really like them either, the stuck-up assholes live off trust funds and throw money at some charities so they can say they help the less fortunate.
Anyway, Aisha and her friends get talking, ignoring me so I quickly duck out and went looking for something to drink. I find a waiter holding a tray of champagne and quickly grab two; it was something, but I would have just about killed for a beer. Aisha and her friends aren’t where I had left them, so I sucked it up and went hunting.
As I wandered around looking for Aisha, I checked out the pictures. I have to say most were just sad, depressing and misery filled images of human suffering. But what really got me was the people, the downright stupid things they were saying. I mean what can you actually say about a picture of a mother cradling a dead baby in her arms? These people were discussing the lighting, the composition and a lot of other bullshit like that picture didn’t show human misery beyond anything these people would ever know.
I was looking at another picture, this one of children playing in a river with a dead body floating nearby when a woman stepped up beside me.
“What do you think of it?”
“It is downright disturbing. If I saw something like this, I would have dropped my camera and got those kids out of there.”
“I took this in a war-torn country, there was no place for those kids to go.”
I turned and saw an old grey-haired woman that could have been my grandmother. “So, you decided to take their picture and make money off them.”
“A portion of every sale goes to rebuilding their country.”
“A portion, damn I thought you were in it for the money, but since a portion of each sale goes to some damn charity that makes this all right.”
“I’m also telling their stories to the world. I’m bringing attention to the atrocities that happened there.”
“And making a tidy little profit to boot. Hell, you are as bad as the ones doing the atrocities because you are using the suffering to line your own pockets.”
A hand fell onto my shoulder and a man behind me said, “I think it is time you leave, you are upsetting the other guests.”
I turned around and saw I had attracted a crowd with my rants. I smiled and downed the two glasses of champagne. “I’m going.”
I was almost to the door when the woman caught up and grabbed my arm. “I want to show you something.”
I was a tad confused when someone tears me a new one; I don’t offer to let them do it again, but I hadn’t found Aisha, so I had time to kill. “Lead the way.”
She led me to the back of the place into the area reserved for the employees. There were more pictures back there, I guess ones that didn’t make the show. They were more of the same, pictures of misery and suffering. I really wondered who would hang something like this on their living room wall.
She dug through a stack. “I started off photographing landscapes, not the kind of thing that will make you famous or anything, but I really enjoyed it. I even got lucky and sold a few, no big sales or exhibits. Somebody suggested I get an agent, so I did, I don’t know if it was the best or worse decision I have ever made. He was the one who suggested a new subject matter for my pictures. I was young and stupid, I thought I would make a name for myself and then go back to what I really enjoyed. I can’t go back now, they won’t let me.”
“Who won’t, your agent?”
“Him, maybe a little, but it is the fans. They want those pictures and the stories that go with them. I guess mainly myself, I sold out and until you, I never even thought about what I was really doing. I have just been going through the motions for years, and yes making a profit off the misery I have photographed.” She pulled a picture from the stack. “It probably won’t make up for all the things I could have done, all the suffering I might have lessened when I was over there, but I will give all the money I make from those pictures to a relief fund for that country.”
“It is something and I’m sorry about jumping all over you, it is just my girlfriend wandered off with her rich asshole friends. I was in a bad mood so I kind of snapped at you.”
“You were honest if a little rude and that is why I wanted you to see this.”
She turned the painting size photo towards me. Like I said before, I’m not really into art or photography. I know nothing about lighting, composite or any of that bullshit, but this picture I liked. It wasn’t dogs playing poker, but it was good. The legs of somebody standing as if looking out over what appears to be a desert. It was simple and yet I could see that maybe, just maybe there was a story behind it. I had to wonder was it staged or taken in the spur of the moment.
“I know it probably isn’t for sale and even if it is, I could never afford it but how much?”
“You really like it?”
“I do, I really do.”
“Then it is yours.”