The other day, one of my readers wrote me an email commenting on my last post. He started his comments (and I translate directly from the Hebrew): “This post is, as usual, full of nonsense and lovely pictures but it’s nice to read and even somewhat interesting to know what comes next”. Well, well, well. Nonsense? Really? I wasn’t in the least offended because (a) I had used the term “nonsense” myself in an earlier post and (b) it reminded me that the push to start this blog was to find a way of letting some people see some of the pictures I take and for me to comment, if not on them, then at least about the some of the thoughts that surround them. And as for the “what comes next?”, I find that quite often I, too, ask myself the same question as I sit down to write. Just like now.
I’m sometimes in a quandary as to how far it’s safe to stray off the beaten track. There are days when I have some interesting photographs to show but the imagery is overshadowed by “current events” so I give vent to my exceedingy jaundiced political views and then generally get told off for writing them, first at home and occasionally from some of my readers. (There are a few who read me seriously. Seriously!).
Just after I started with this blog, almost two years ago, I posted a piece that explained my fascination with fire hydrants, those objects that, in one form or another, are dotted around the streets of cities everywhere. Actually, it was post #7 and I’ve now done 120 more between that one and this. It’s not really a fascination let alone an obsession but I keep on seeing these things as if they were faces with expressions so that it’s very easy to fit captions to them.
I wrote that when I started photographing in Tel Aviv in September 2007, I had noticed these red fire hydrants and photographed some of them because they seemed to have “eyes” and a certain “character”. At the time, I had just “graduated” from Apple’s iPhoto application to their then new and now defunct photo-editing application Aperture, which had a Face Recognition facility, and it was recognising the hydrants as faces and this is what prompted me to see them as such as I walked around.
At the time, it all seemed very amusing, as I began identifying a whole new population of these wonderful street “people” who were seemingly invisible to the general population. Yet after a year or so of photographing hydrants, I realised that, perhaps more than people, variety amongst them is somewhat limited so although I didn’t stop photographing them, I certainly wasn’t doing a dozen a day.
However, every now and then, one comes across an individual who, in one way or another, looks different to the others — even unique. And, as almost two years have passed since the last “hydrant post”, I think it’s time to offer you a few more images of these exquisitely spellbinding little creatures. Looking through my collection, I noticed that recently, I’ve been classifying other “street people” that are not strictly such by using the keyword “hydrant”, so you may find the odd pillbox or hosepipe or phone booth, too. Please be understanding of me.
“So, if you’re sitting comfortably, let us begin”, as they used to say on BBC radio 60 years ago at 1.45 p.m. on “Listen With Mother”. BTW, some of these images have appeared before in earlier posts.
Take the basic full frontal portrait as a typical case. Here, the photographer and the camera are looking straight at the hydrant—or perhaps it’s the other way around. Anyway, the the photographer says “Smile” and the hydrant complies with the request readily. “Smile”, s/he says, “and the world smiles with you”.
There are other happy people who don’t show their happiness with a smile but instead, they have a glint in their eye, even if the glint is no more than a chocolate or ice cream wrapper.
Even though being a hydrant can make one happy, you don’t have to be (a hydrant, that is). Others with a different disposition just laugh out loud to show how cheerful they are feeling.
Then again, there are others who are just happy being able to do things that are bad for them — like smoking cigarettes or chewing gum. They know it’s wrong but they just delight in it and if it keeps them happy and out of trouble, who is a simple photographer to pass judgement?
Most of the hydrants in Tel Aviv are painted red; in fact red is the colour for hydrants throughout most of the country. The neighbouring city of Ramat Gan paints some of theirs yellow.
Occasionally, in Tel Aviv, you’ll come across a hydrant that isn’t red, so you have to be constantly on the lookout for these social misfits.
Then, as well as the social misfits, there are those unfortunates that have a physical disability or disfigurement.
Occasionally you come across some that tell a life story …
And then there are the hydrants that remind you of something from long ago!
And there are those that simply have a story to tell …
Finally, while walking home the other day, I spied a niqab-hydrant, which only goes to show that Israel is an open society for these would not be permitted in parts of Europe or Canada!
Finally, a couple of different shots for the sake of variety. Last week, I was returning home on the bus after meeting a friend in town. Sitting opposite me on the other side of the aisle was a not-so-young couple having an earnest heart-to-heart conversation as not-so-young couples sometimes do. I was looking at them and, in particular, at their hands so I plucked up the courage and asked them if they minded me taking a photograph. The bus was moving and the light wasn’t great but I thought it made a lovely photo.
And I’ll conclude with a photo from the never-ending saga of the drainage-sewage-electricity-water infrastructure replacement that’s been ongoing along the street since the beginning of the year. Our short section took four and half months and then there was a break for a week and a half. In the interim, all the neighbours received a flyer from the municipality regarding the continuation of work on the last section of the street — dates, traffic arrangements, etc.
Now, we live on a corner house and we had expected the work to continue where it had been left off, i.e., continuing eastward along the same street. However, the Municipality notification had neglected to mention an important piece of information. So, you can imagine the amazement when on Sunday of last week, neighbours (we included) discovered the diggers creating a channel on the street perpendicular. The reason was simple. The pipes and things at the northern third of Stricker Street connect with those on Shlomtzion HaMalkah, the street that had just been done. So I snapped the bemusement of some of the neighbours who went to collect their cars only to find that they couldn’t drive them along a channel where the street had been just a few hours earlier!