I recently picked up a book by an Icelandic photographer, Ari Sigvaldason, and at the back of the book was a description of the process his partner sees when Ari shoots. It totally engaged me because this is exactly what happens to me. My partner Sue gets impatient with me and often asks me to sit facing a wall when in a restaurant or cafe to avoid this situation from happening. Being a good partner, I reluctantly oblige. Here is the text:
“We are sitting face to face in a coffee shop. Ari, with his back facing the wall, because he always wants to have a clear outlook over things. We’re discussing a mutual matter close to our hearts; Audur, our daughter
I’m trying to convince Ari that Audur needs a healthier diet. Ari agrees, but adds that we do not necessarily have to make too big a deal out if it…
I begin proposing a vague plan concerning a changed diet, when suddenly Ari’s eyes start to sway and he starts humming jaja to everything I’m saying.
…I sense what’s happening.
I know these circumstances.
Ari feels for his camera, resting carelessly on his side of the table (his camera is always within reach if it is not hanging around his neck). He’s completely gone now and is unable to hear a word I am saying; he get’s in position.
If I had just gotten to know him, I would, instinctively, turn my head quickly to see what is stealing his attention. But I understand what’s going on. I have so many times been with Ari during those moments, when he sees his “prey”.
Ari is a hunter aiming his weapon, and if I turned my head I could easily scare the animal away. So I keep babbling away…
cod liver oil in the mornings, no candy…I try to imagine what he’s seeing and the first thing that comes to mind is an older lady doing something strange. Life, perceived by an old lady has fascinated Ari as far as I can remember.
Then it happens, the camera moves up over his eye – I hold my breath and “klonjk” – he snaps the picture, quickly puts the camera back down on the table and continues our discussion like nothing really happened.
I, having lost the thread of our conversation, just hope that the person didn’t notice us, because I feel like I am an accessory to a crime – stealing a moment from the life of a stranger.
Ari does not care at all. This is his art – this is his need.
Now I have to wait for a moment before I can start to find out what was so interesting.
I carelessly turn my head, but I don’t see anything. The moment is gone but it is preserved on film. And Audor Aradottir’s diet will most likely remain the same.