Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Two Can be the Loneliest Number (sometimes but not always)

One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It's the loneliest number since the number one

So opens that wonderful song One written by Harry Nielson and made really famous by Three Dog Night who recorded their version in 1969. Practically everyone else has recorded a cover of the song since then: from the Muppets, to the New Seekers all the way through to the Australian singer Johnny Farnham. You might have even heard the song on an X Files soundtrack. Why, even Lisa Simpson has had a go with this one (in The Simpsons Episode 553 for all you fans out there).

But, today we're here to talk about line number two: Two can be as bad as one. It isn't always, though, as I suggest in the title of this post. During my time on the street I get to witness scenes, lovely and not so lovely, inhabited by two people. Sometimes they are sweet and tender moments like this,

A Kiss Goodbye (Lisbon Portugal June 2013)

And then there are those sweet and romantic moments, moments when I know that there is love in the air, like this one (if I'd been any closer I would have been sitting at the table with them, yet they didn't notice me at all),

Romance and a Special Date (Katoomba Australia May 2014)

You could say that, as these two photographs show, two is not a bad number at all. In fact you might say it's a great number, one of the best! But, often I see scenes, and witness moments that don't seem quite so love filled. Of course sometimes the scenes are what we might term neutral, such as this scene inhabited by two people who are clearly strangers to each other

A Seat to Oneself (Perth Australia January 2014)

This, as we see, is a simple scene on a railway station platform, one person waiting, another just walking on by. Other times, the two people may be strangers, but there seems somehow to be a connection of some sort; a story we can imagine. Or perhaps the scene could be seen as symbolic in some way for some viewers. As in these pictures,

Every Face Tells a Story (Melbourne Australia December 2012)

Strangers in a Park (Perth Australia December 2013)

But, more often than you might imagine, I witness and get to share in moments involving people who might be known to each other or might not. Like in this one,

Not on Speaking Terms (Melbourne Australia June 2012)

As you can probably guess from the title, I have imagined these two as known to each other, but not on speaking terms. Someone has suggested they are father and son who've had a falling out. Who can say? One of the mysteries of the street.  Sometimes (again more often than you might imagine), I am privileged to witness and share moments of high (or perhaps the correct adjective is low) emotion between two people who it is clear are known to each other. Like these for example,

 It's Just Not Working Out (Echuca Australia July 2011)

 Sisters Thinking (Ramsgate England February 2013)

So Much for Our Happy Holiday (Echuca Australia April 2012)

Then there are those scenes and moments that exude emotion, but whether that emotion is a positive or a negative one, can't be worked out. Such as in this one,

La conversation intime entre deux amis (Melbourne Australia August 2011)

Is this simply an intimate conversation between friends as the title suggests? Or is it something deeper, more serious? We can only imagine. Whatever the emotions detected or being experienced by the people in these scenes, I do not treat images such as this lightly. The people photographed are sharing with me something of their personal and private lives. I can't, of course, know exactly what they are experiencing or thinking or feeling; my role is to share and record the moment. Emotions witnessed or recorded are of, of course, sometimes more positive, happier even. Such as this where the two people seem to be sharing a joke or a private happy moment,

I'm Saying Nothing (Katoomba Australia April 2014)

Again, I have no idea what these two are talking about, or thinking or feeling. It's just that the scene feels to me more positive, lighter. Still, it is a private moment and I am grateful to have been there to share it.

A good street photograph will evoke an emotional response in the viewer. And if the image itself has people expressing an emotion, then all the better. It makes it easier for us as viewers and fellow human beings to empathize and perhaps even understand what's going on, how the people photographed are feeling. A little glimpse can be gained into the emotional lives of others.

One last thought about the number two. There are scenes one sees on the street where the number two is both good and bad, depending on who's who. In such cases it is often the eyes that will tell you that three is most definitely a crowd

Holding Tight (Melbourne Australia June 2014)


  1. Paul,
    Your ability to capture these fleeting intimate moments of poignant emotion that are gone in an instant, is a continual source of inspiration for me.

    Thank you

    1. Gerry You have ni idea how much that means to me. Lately I've been feeling a bit discouraged. Now just from your kind words i feel a renewed energy. Thank you so very much

  2. Paul, I love this post. Is this so called photo-essay? It's fun to read and I love the photos. Helen

    1. Thank ypu Helen Im really pleased you like it. It is a kind of photo essa although a photo essay willusually tell a story Say a series of photos and words about an event or specific subject Like i have a friend who spent ayear with heroin addicts and he made photos ro tell that story

    2. Ah... I got it. I hope. Thanks. Helen

    3. ah good. Photo essays used to be hugely popular with Life and other magazines I think they are making a bit of a come back Have a look at a site/app called Issuu..onlline and mostly free mags..Lots of photo ones too


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