Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Name Rings A Bell

V Is For Vendor



In December, I broke journey in Singapore for about a day and a half and spent most of that time on foot, exploring every nook and cranny and trying to take as many photographs of the former British colony whose shores I have been familiar with since I was just eleven years old.

I was walking down Mosque Street, shooting as I walked, I was about to turn around when, in the distance, I noticed this man. Normally I would not have given him a second glance, but there were a few things that attracted my curiosity.

First, he was pushing a large cart. Second, he had a distinctive gait because of a very pronounced limp. Third, he was pushing the cart on the street, not on the pavement. He was a long way away, but for some reason I waited and watched. I saw him stop occasionally and ring a bell above his head.

Obviously, it was some sort of signal to local residents that he was doing his rounds. Then he would begin his journey again. I was intrigued. The thing about photographing people is that it can sometimes be construed as extremely intrusive. When you do so in a foreign land, where you do not speak the local language, this can become a real problem.

I walked towards the little old man and I began to realise just how short he was (check out his height, in relation to the parked cars beside him) and just how easily he was pushing the large, cumbersome cart. I had my Pentax around my neck and caught his eye, pointing to the camera. To my relief, he nodded solemnly, and I quickly took a couple of frames because I didn’t want to delay him.

I thanked him and he continued down the street. I remember thinking how expressionless his face was and I wondered what sort of day he was going through. Again he stopped and rang his bell - and I realised I simply had to run after him and take some more shots of this combined ritual of determination and commerce and the way in which he earned a living, despite his disability.

Let me tell you, catching up with him was not as easy as it sounded. When I did, I used sign language once more to ask if I could photograph him and yet again, he graciously nodded. This time he took out his bell and rang it, just as he had done before, above his head. And then, for the first time, his expression changed. It lightened and the beginning of a smile began to light up his face.

Then his brown eyes began to sparkle. His face took on an impish expression. I didn’t have time to change the camera settings, so you’ll notice that the speed was not quite right and that the motion of his hand has caused a slight blur.

But I managed to capture the capricious expression on his face. Then I saluted him, thanked him once more and off he went. So small when viewed in the totality of his environment, but such a big man when it came to pausing for some stranger with a camera.


For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

33 comments:

San said...

David, you captured his metamorphosis into showman. Beautifully. Great meshing of words and imagery.

Daryl said...

Love how he looked right at you .. you've got a whole story happening here and the words arent even needed

:-Daryl

Akelamalu said...

What a great story David and didn't he have a gracious smile!

Betsy said...

What a cute story...and a cute little man. What was he selling to eat?

quilly said...

I came here and found a wonderful story illustrated with photographs and became myself part of the Singapore street scene. Thank you, David. It was a charming and memorable trip. (Gotta love the internet.)

Brenda said...

The pictures are terrific, but the story.... The impish grin truly is priceless!

ces said...

this reminds me of ice cream vendors in the Philippines...such a very well-captured moment as he smiles at you! and heart-warming story behind it too...

lime said...

what a wonderful series of shots. the blurred shot is great because it gives a sense of his movement and the one where he looks playfully at the camera. that is just priceless.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

That's a really lovely story, David and fantastic pictures. What a pleasant man and very obliging.

CJ xx

willow said...

What an adorable face! Perfect sequence of shots. This brought a smile to my face. Great post, David.

leslie said...

You have ME smiling now! I love that impish look on his face. You and your camera might have been the highlight of his day - you never know. Thank you for telling us this story of a vendor. Makes me think of all I have to be thankful for.

womaninawindow said...

I like this a lot! And is it bad to have the hand blurred? I rather think it underlines the quickness of the whole exchange.

Momma said...

David - I am always in awe of people who overcome. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Is Singapore still the cleanest country in the world? I heard that somewhere and have always wanted to go.

Peace - D

Dragonstar said...

Oh, I love it! What a great expression on his face! Who needs language?

ellen b said...

Oh I love the expressions you captured of this determined man. Fabulous...

polona said...

what a wonderful story! the man is a character and his expression is priceless!

Katney said...

How delightful! I love the way you so artfully find an experience for every occasion, every prompt. You capture the art in the mundane and the artist in the common man.

But didn't you buy anything from him?

Maggie May said...

That was a great story! How expressive his face was & you caught it well in the photo. I wonder what his life story was? We'll never know!

Texas Travelers said...

The series of photos make the story. Sometimes mere words do not suffice to tell the entire tale. You did a great job with this.
Thanks for sharing the story and photos.

Our Victim is verifible,
as well as the other V.

Come Visit,
Troy and Martha

andrée said...

That's a wonderful story, David. And he is a wonderful subject. His dignity shines in your photos.

imac said...

Nice one David.

pop and see my V.

babooshka said...

We don not have vendor such as this delightful gentleman, and cdertainly no shop assistants as exuberant. Just another wonderful read and images form start to finish.

Meg Wolff said...

David, I think you bring out the best in everyone. I enjoyed this man's transformation (he took off his mask for you).

CrazyCath said...

You have seen so much and have so much to share. I am grateful that you do. What a wonderful interlocking of words and pictures.

I notice you obviously stand above this man (you mentioned you are 6'3" in another post somewhere) but did you have to crouch reach that smile of his?

Great V post for ABC Wednesday. You've given me a bit of place I've never seen. Thank you.
Mine is up too - come see. (But not as exotic!)

Jo Beaufoix said...

Ahhh, he has a wonderful face. Fantastic.

Sandy Kessler said...

I watche d a program Bizzare Foods about street vendors in India - what an education !!!

AphotoAday said...

That's really an amazing set of photos you put together!   Well done.

Louis la Vache said...

Beautiful "V" post, David! Quite at contrast to the "V"isions of Hell at San Francisco Bay Daily Photo.

Kim said...

It sounds like you may have made his day. I'm sure on most days he went unnoticed, and having someone notice him must have felt really good.
Kim

Mima said...

David, I think that smile says that the mad foreigner with a camera made his day - he will have a great story to tell when he gets home from work! He has a lovely face when it lights up.

John said...

Lovely story, great and funny shots also, David.

Dina said...

I love this story and your decision to pursue it.
And you "broke journey." That's a wonderful expression I had almost forgotten. I'll make it my own.

edison said...
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