Saturday, August 25, 2012

The "Back of the Head" Image Series

Sometime in the late-1970s, my younger brother and I borrowed my father’s cheesy camera with the 110 film and embarked on a monumental photographic undertaking. We endeavored to snap photos of a cross-section of our neighbors—the ones we deemed memorable characters and, too, whom we deduced wouldn’t be around forever. We were remarkably prescient on this last count.

And thus began our not quite award-winning “Back of the Head” image series. We weren't the gutsiest of photographers. Getting caught in the act of taking pictures of individuals we really didn’t know concerned us. After all, our prey might have actually questioned why we were doing what we were doing. Some people are camera shy, too. Almost invariably, a case could have been made that something wasn’t quite kosher with our behavior.

Looking back all these years later, it would have been best to just tell them the unvarnished truth. You know, that we were in the process of compiling a neighborhood yearbook—a picture book to remember one and all by. Who wouldn’t have wanted to be part of that?

But the yearbook per se never materialized, and so I am left with a hodgepodge of back of the head images of an eclectic cast of characters, including Howie G and his mother, who went for a walk each and every evening at the exact same time. Without fail, they ran their daily errands while chewing over the day’s events. Mother and son were always in intimate conversation, which was kind of special. Oh, I did manage to snap an occasional profile picture and even a few aerial shots from a second floor window. These photographs will have to suffice in remembering Howie G and company from that very colorful snapshot in time—when city neighborhoods had both character and characters…lots of them in fact.

(Photos from the personal collection of Nicholas Nigro)

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