Listen with your eyes

A photographer caught my soul today – even without his camera lens.

Listen with your eyes (istockphoto)

I had arrived at a breakfast meeting this morning feeling out of sorts. Much as I’d like to blame London Transport for not putting on enough Tubes, the source of my unease had been an unwelcome and unwieldy, claustrophobically uncomfortable hatred of other people. Hatred may be a strong word, but it’s certainly in context when it comes to considering the insidious anxiety that fills the commuter-me: the angry individual whose boundaries have been invaded by too little space, too little time, and too little patience

What is it about the London Underground that triggers an uber-survival urge to oust any object that gets in its way (human, animal, vegetable or mineral?)  There is something about a closing Tube door that symbolizes rejection, frustration, abandonment: being too late; being too uptight; not being good enough.

I felt like an animal being herded behind gates; then forced into battle with former humans whose consideration and empathy were eradicated in the precious five seconds of door-closing beeps, like a life-support machine measuring out a last breath.

Fight-or-flight survival mechanisms kicked in, with passengers using every method within their reach (newspaper flicked against neck; sweaty armpit pressed against nose; bloated bag used as shield to protect and project) to gauge and gain more space against their competitor commuters.

I arrived feeling cross and late, scanning the room to reassure myself that tardy arrival could be forgiven. And, seconds before the main speaker did her introductions, and as I pulled out my notebook, the photographer snapped me. Not in a state of pretend happiness; or picture-perfect smile; but in a natural, notebook-ready state of openness. Too late for pose of perfection; just reality in that moment.

The photographer came up to me at the end of the function and showed me his portfolio, encapsulated in large stamp-size photos of people infinitely more famous than I would ever or could ever be. Turns out he’s the creative brains behind famously iconic photos, and I feel extremely humbled to connect, at least on some level, with the beauties he photographed from the 60s.

The photographer said to me: “I’ve been watching you all morning, and wish I could have filmed you. You look around the room, and you listen with your eyes.”

I had thought myself nosy; curious to know what was going on for other people.  Now I look forward to hearing more stuff with my own eyes.

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