September 8, 2010

Cat Daddy

Canon EOS 7D | Canon 35mm f/1.4 | Natural Light

I'm a natural recluse. Ironically. So, there are times when I am tentative about approaching people for this project. But sometimes I see someone who is so obviously photogenic that whatever curmudgeon tendency I may feel at the time is instantly subsumed by my desire to realize the beautiful portrait I see in my mind's eye.

Such was the case when I saw this gentleman at the Detroit International Jazz Festival. I mean, clean white on green and a 70's era bebop hat? What's F-ing with that?

I approached the brother and he was more than willing to participate. In addition to being a exquisitely attired jazz fan, he is also a plumber. His card says you should call 313 615 6264 if you're "looking for a good plumber."

Now, that clean white and green attire, playerific grin, gangsta lean so mean you can see it in a still photo may lead you to believe that "plumber" is some kinda jive-talk euphemism. But nay, the card definitely denotes a plumber of the Merriam-Webster variety

Queue the muzak:

The producers of The People of Detroit would like to take this opportunity to affirm that the plumbing done by people featured in TPOD does not necessarily agree with the plumbing done by Noah Stephens, The People of Detroit Photodocumentary,  and its thusfar nonexistent sponsors.

Seek references and execute due diligence when contracting with any service providers mentioned here or anywhere else for that matter

That said, I figured I should trust the brother enough to pass along his business information, since he trusted me enough to take his photo.

Which brings me to the part of the show where I cast aside my Cloak of Altruism and proceed to talk about myself.

For some reason, people really trust me. This project more than anything else has proven that to me.  Far more people accept my impromptu request to take their picture than rebuff me. It means a lot to let a strange man take your photo for a strange website you've never heard of. I think its just something about my face.

Some other lines of evidence for my status as a trustworthy face:

In the last month, two white people in coffee shops have asked me to watch their laptops and personal belongings while they went to the bathroom.  One of them was a white woman who asked me to watch her MacBook Pro while she went to tinkle.

Now, maybe that shouldn't surprise people in the era of Obama, but its significant to me. See, I've been in enough situations where I was in a mostly white community, relaxing, thinking I had overcome and shit, when out of the blue someone exploded a a lil M80 of racism.

A couple of summers back I had just seen Bob James perform at a jazz festival in  Birmingham (an extremely affluent suburb of Detroit. They have corner stores that sell Ferraris. Seriously. Google it.),  when I stopped to get a sub and had my dignity  lynched.

A gaggle of passing, middle-aged, drunk white women asked to have a bite of my "sammich."

Now, I grew up in the hood. I don't know a lot  about white people. But I know they don't call sandwiches, "sammiches."

When you are completely relaxed and open, and feeling like you have just as much right to be in a privileged, white neighborhood as anyone else and some shit like that happens, you tend to keep your guard up the next time you are in the same environment.  If only subconsciously.

So I guess my running assumption is that a cauldron of racism steams beneath the facade of suburban gentility.

So, when the aforementioned white woman asked me to watch her MacBook Pro (I'd like to to take this time to publicly recognize her as a credit to her race), I was slightly surprised.

Maybe I had over estimated the size of this hidden cauldron of hate.

Some of my friends attributed it to my being light skin. I don't know. Puerto Ricans are light skinned, and no one trusts them.

Would you ask Fat Joe to watch your laptop? Exactly.

I don't think complexion has anything to do with it. I think I just have a trustworthy kinda face.

And just to show you I am committed to the scientific method, I even have a control group. Just today in a Detroit Starbucks, a black dude asked me  to watch his shit while he went to the bathroom.

Does he only trust light skinned black people also? I think the fuck not.

It's me, got damn it. I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And gosh darn it, people trust me with their shit.

And their portraits.

[View the ongoing project and meet more of: The People of Detroit ]


mallit18 said...

Lol! LOVE IT! Every word. So true. I've had people do the same to me, but then again I'm light skin too, so maybe that doesn't help the argument. Ahem, well I remember being in Starbucks and really having to go to the bathroom but refusing to ask anyone to watch my laptop, so I sat there for hours until I could no longer take it and packed my things, went to thr bathroom, and left. Now I always remember to go as soon as I get there so I wont HAVE to ask anyone. (Sorry for the rant). I'm glad that lady trusted you and thereby allowed you to see that those prior encounters were just some "Ignant white folks". Peace.

The People of Detroit said...


We are simpatico. I'm the exact same way. I can't imagine trusting a 1300 anything with anyone. I don't care what they look like lol.

I don't know if I'm to mistrusting or if other people are gullible.

mallit18 said...

I agree and my laptop is a hand-me-down, and I'm STILL not trusting anyone with