The Shot: Sweep Me Up.
Tourists are selfish. It's okay, we've all been tourists and we've all taken something we're not supposed to take. This photo is one of those things, and while I know it was selfish, I'm glad I took it. I think about it all the time and in an age in which it's easy to go numb, this one keeps me feeling.
I was in Antwerp, Belgium during the 2015 Tour de France, and I had a rare moment to myself to wander the town before that day's stage started. Not far from where my colleagues (usually read: drinking buddies) were sipping espresso and catching up on email, I wandered through cobbled streets, drinking in Belgium for the first time in my life. The town was throbbing with tourists from all over Europe and beyond, all hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite racers as they rolled through the city center on the way to the finish line somewhere far away on a television screen.
Every square inch of Antwerp bustled and hummed. All off them except this alleyway.
And of course, I stole something.
It was a quick thing, something I didn't think about. The man in the photo had been standing at an intersection and I could not see beyond him in either direction. To his right, throngs of cycling fans. In front of him, a mystery to me, except for sunlight. Despite the crowds, this particular junction happened to bask in quiet, and it was of course a moment for this man to enjoy the warmth on his face. Perhaps I should not have shared the moment with him, but tourists are selfish and I happened to see something worth taking. The man in the photo did not have to know.
Even years later I feel sort of bad about it, experiencing this man's quick moment of solace without him even knowing about it. In subsequent years, I had often thought of this photo as mine, something I had captured, but it's not mine really. Not at all, despite how many times I had tried to capture it in fiction (everything from a melodramatic play on classical music to a brutal, uncomfortable, and unwieldy reflection on terrorism). It was always borrowed and always will be.
But the quiet, and his stature in the sunlight, the relaxing position of his shoulders and the questioning angle of his face — and of course, the bicycle in the shot, my favorite symbol of freedom and peace — makes the shot feel like a small favor to me. It may be borrowed, but it's still mine.