No, It’s Not That Way, It’s This Way

There’s always a possibility of getting a good shot when someone points in one direction but the person with them insists on looking elsewhere. It’s a scenario that seems very typical, revealing the reluctance of human beings to consider suggestions unless they already agree with them.

The featured image (above) shows just such an incident. The girl is pointing back towards the station, but the guy, phone in hand, is intent on ploughing ahead. I suspect their destination is somewhere midway between two stops on the Skytrain, so it’s probably just as quick to walk.

The trouble with taking this sort of picture is there’s precious little time to get the shot. They stop, she points, you point the camera: and click, it’s all over. There’s no time to compose the shot or get a decent angle. You have to take what comes.

In this instance, I’ve been quite lucky. It’s not a perfect composition by any means, but at least we can see the tip of the woman’s pointing finger. If it had been obscured by her nose (for example) the shot would have been ruined. As you can see, there’s only a fraction of a millimetre separating face from finger, but there’s clear blue poster between them.

No, It’s Not This Way, It’s That Way
Much the same is true of the picture below. Thank heavens the man in the white shirt didn’t move an inch further forward. He would have obscured the woman’s pointing finger.

As it is, his presence is actually welcome because he stops the eye wandering off the picture to the left. Then there’s the claw-like gesture he’s making with his left hand, which seems to add something mysterious to the image, as though we can’t quite grasp what it’s all about.

woman points to the right but she and her partner look left

There’s certainly one difference between this photo and the first, because here, both the woman and her partner are looking in the wrong direction. How extraordinary! She follows his gaze, rather than reinforcing her own gesture by looking in the direction of her pointing finger.

I think maybe both images show a certain tendency in men to ignore directional advice from their female friends. In fact, the more I examine the images, the more similar they seem to be — especially in the excitable gestures of the women and the cool refusal of the men to take any notice.

Can Street Photography Reveal Social Behaviour?
Perhaps you think street photography can teach us a few things about human behaviour after looking at these shots, but I reckon that would be going too far. They are just a couple of stills from the moving picture of reality and I don’t think they can tell us what people are thinking. You would need to know the unknowable: the sort of information provided by a writer of fiction rather than a photographer of real life.

What these images do is merely to suggest possible meanings; it’s up to the onlooker to interpret them. My work is done once I’ve taken the shots and placed them together on the same page.

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