Sunday, June 09, 2024

Toby of TP

As I’ve expressed many times one of my great joys is a chance encounter with a stranger, a random meeting in which I forge a connection. The most memorable are when I learn a life story in few short minutes I have a new friend. My life has been enriched. Pursuing those miraculous moments could be my life’s work, especially if I became more bold and better prepared.

Saturday morning, I went to the Taos Farmers Market for a bit of street photography. The street photography part was middling. But ten minutes into my wanting effort a leathery dude walking his mountain bike stopped next to me. He looked down at my pocket sized mirrorless camera. He commented, “That’s a nifty piece of kit. What is it?”

I answered that, “It’s a super camera for street photography. It’s little, stealthy and has tremendous range for such a small unit. It’s a 24-200 mm f2.8 so I can go from wide angle to a moderate telephoto with a camera that fits in my front pocket.”

He bent over to see the make and model. As he studied the camera, I told him that it was a Sony RX100 model 7.

I asked his name. He said, “I’m Toby” and we shook hands. “I’m Steve.”

I  asked where he lived. He said,” I live in Tres Piedras.”

“It was either TP or Three Peaks” I thought to myself. Tres Piedras and Three Peaks are scruffy bastions of hippy homesteads known for affordability and loose attention to the law. If they flew flags they would feature a certain leafy green plant.

Toby was the poster boy for an off-the-grid community. Lean almost gaunt with a long greying beard. He could have been 48 or 70. He was also a sweetheart with an expansive knowledge of photography. He said that he was from Pennsylvania and had studied photography at the infamous Art Institute of Pittsburg, part of a shady for-profit chain of art schools that went bankrupt a few years back. Toby wondered if any of the beleaguered schools had survived and I told him that I didn’t think so.

Toby expressed appreciation for a handful of photographers that I didn’t know. And somehow the work of famed street photographers who have left our midst came up. I asked, “Do you know Vivian Maier?

He replied “Of yeah. She had some story didn’t she? Working as the nanny for a bunch of rich people in New York and wasn't recognized for her street photography till she was dead. Didn’t they find her negatives in cardboard boxes in the garage of her last employer?”

I replied that was the case and that the discovery of her bounty was made by two of her charges in Chicago after they were adults. They had been close to Maier who had raised them and assumed stewardship of her archives.

I told him, “We were  in Bologna in October and while we were strolling down the city’s retail corridor we saw a sign for a Vivian Maier exhibition nearby. It was 7:45pm on a Sunday and the gallery was closing at 8. We literally ran the six blocks to get there in time. They let us in and told us to “Take your time.” We spent a forty- five minutes alone with 100 of her images. So we had to travel to Italy to see a Vivian Maier show." 

Toby said he’d better catch up with his girlfriend. “We always go back to TP with bags full of fresh produce, Buy local, bro.”

1 comment:

Blacks Crossing said...

As usual, your "close encounter" rendered great results. Toby has quite the face, and I would say presence, which you caught on the fly at the Taos Farmers' Market. Your street photography is always a welcome sight. Thanks for hitting the pavement and sharing the encounters with us!