Board time

Aug 30, 2018

It was a half-hour before twilight, late on a Saturday afternoon, as I made my way up Tres de Noviembre. I never trudge but I’ll tell you, the soles of my feet knew the irregular surface of every cobbled paver they had treaded that afternoon.

Xavier, Santiago, Esteban, Rolando and myself had been spending our day making photographs in El Centro and its peripheries in Cuenca, Ecuador. Sometimes it seems like everything in my beloved Ecuador is uphill; well, this was one of those times. My camera was attached to a quick access strap system and swung heavily by my right side, where it had been for about seven hours.

I’m not much on looking at the little LCD screen on the back of my cameras to see whether or not I have made any “good pictures.” I reserve my editing/assessment processes for a computer screen. So, I’m in the game all day long. I shoot like I’m certain that there aren’t any good captures for the day resting as RAW files on one of my inboard memory cards. Then, I am always surprised when I see something I like on the big screen. Since that is a part of my modus operandi, I was compelled to pick up the pace of my tired and barking dogs as I heard a familiar sound emanating from the clay tile surface I was approaching.

I was coming up to a flat area on the other side of the Tomebamba River from where Avenida Solano t-bones into it from the south. I could hear that incessant snick-click, snick-click as those composition skateboard wheels cut a track across the worn grout-joints of the pale red and grey tile in the small plaza area. Three young fellows were slicing up the tile with their worn, wheeled boards. My buddies took up positions on the edge of the tiles. They quickly and deftly made camera adjustments for the extreme low light conditions; perhaps their “MO’s” were like mine and they weren’t chancing finishing the days work without a “keeper” file or two. I indulged in a big smile. I was in the company of practiced photographers, a place I feel very at home and natural with.

I had made my own equipment adjustments. Mine were for a different style of capture. I was not interested in the faces of the boarders and elected to utilize only their frantic actions in manipulating their boards as my subject matter. One boarder was somewhat more practiced than the other two. I selected him.

He ran along fast and threw his board down on the tile. Then, he leapt on it with the veracity of a tiger as if he were mounting a living thing. They became one, no longer just a man and his machine but the basics of wheels and wood melded into the feet and frame of a fourteen year old boy. I ran too! And where I ran was right beside him holding my camera next to my knee as I fired shutter bursts into his whirling dervish of a figure. My friends laughed loudly at my antics. However, I know them and I knew they were dying to see what I might have in mind. Little did they know that I too was unsure of the outcome of my encounter with the boarder! Considering the entire scene, I snickered to myself as the boarder and I made one last pass in the fading light. It seemed that the hypnotic clicking of the skate wheels matched the cadence of clicks coming from my rapidly firing camera. I had placed myself inside the scene.

Some time passed and then, one rainy afternoon, I retrieved those files and studied them. I use a lot of geometries in my work. The way I had created the photographs informed me of their best method of presentation. I selected a triptych to express the interactions of the boarder, board and environment as I wanted them to be seen. The way the diagonal tile lines were able to work together gave the series an odd feeling of somehow being connected to each other; as if it was one photograph I had snipped into three pieces. I used artistic license and moved the individual captures into position creating what I wanted until the final photograph emerged. I wanted to be sure I heard  “snick-click” when I viewed it. You know the sound, don’t you?

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