Camden, Maine © Steven Willard

I can remember my dad sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper as he finished his morning coffee. He was a serious coffee drinker; cream, no sugar. It was a recipe for the occasional disaster. Every now and then his face would screw up as he discovered the cream had spoiled, but he wouldn’t drink it black. It was enough of a lesson that when I started drinking coffee I learned to drink it black. No spoiled cream for me.

I don’t know if it was his time in the Army during WWII, the effects of the Great Depression, or maybe my imagination, but it seems to me that he and other folks of that era drank coffee in a more serious, thoughtful manner. Almost like the devout drinkers one sees in neighborhood bars before lunch. I’d be interested to know what his reaction would be to Starbuck’s and other trendy coffee bars where one can spend more on a cup of coffee than he once earned in a day.

As I got older I would sometimes join him for lunch at a local diner where he would sit for a second or third refill as he made friends with whoever happened to be sitting nearby. One day he would talk with a farmer about pork bellies and the next time he would talk at length with someone about Kirkegaard, though if pressed he would probably confess that he didn’t know much about pork bellies. He was happy to talk with anyone about anything, and I think they were happy to talk with him because they could sense he really was interested.

Chris and I had stopped for the night in Camden, Maine, and I was out for my morning walk when I happened upon this image. I had initially been drawn to a stairway at the building next door when I saw this gentleman out of the corner of my eye. I kept working the stairway, but I kept my eye on the man. He glanced up once or twice to see what I was up to, then returned to his paper. He reminded me of my dad; not his looks, but his manner. He would set his cup down, arrange the paper just so, then carefully go back for the cup; almost like a priest offering the sacraments. He was very methodical.

When the time was right all I had to do was rotate my body to make the exposure. I didn’t even have to shift my feet. All I had to do was pivot. I was able to do this about four times before I felt I was pushing my luck. I don’t think he ever realized he was being photographed.

I really like the complex arrangement of the reflections, and the light over the man’s head. They remind me of the light bulb over the guy’s head in comic strips when an idea presents itself. I wonder how long that symbol has been in use. Does it predate light bulbs? Was it first oil lamps or candles?

The whole experience of this image is a good example of why I enjoy photography. In the search for one photograph I was offered another, different image. That image reminded me of fond memories of my father; and hoping to be taken down those paths keeps me looking for more photographs. It’s a circular kind of thing; like a lens that brings into focus not only what is in front of me , but what’s behind as well. Pretty cool, huh?

Pentax K10D with kit zoom. Processed in Photoshop CS4  and Nik Silver Efex Pro2.


6 comments on “Reflections

  1. It is such a rich experience to visit your blog. As time goes on, I am getting to know your wonderful father even better. Your image of him is so well drawn. And your own image of the man reading his paper and savoring his coffee ritual is complex and masterful. And your “back story” about how the photo was made is extremely helpful to your fellow photographers. Thank you again, as always.


  2. Thanks Susan, for continuing to visit and comment. Feedback, good or bad, is always helpful and appreciated.


  3. Marc Isolda says:

    Now you’ve gone to far Willard, this is just over the top a great image with a great dialogue!!!!!!


  4. Mike Crape says:

    Excellent shot Steven, matched with such a well written piece. I always look forward to your posts for both the images and thoughts you share, thank you.


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