Getting images from 20-30 something African American males has been ...difficult. Men, young or old, don't take selfies. If they do, they tend to be suspicious of random strangers who ask for their pictures. Not to mention that I'm the wrong color, wrong age, wrong gender for that connection to be fluid.
I took the train back to Chicago for Monday night before Thanksgiving. As luck would have it there were two young African American men in the waiting area at the station. I was going to the talk to them before we boarded but I lost my nerve. Fortunately, they sat down behind me and freestyled half way to Chicago. It was impressive. I couldn't tell if the intensity of the lyrical content was from personal experience —I hoped it was not— youthful bravado or simply maintaining the conventions of rap. In line behind them as we exited the train, I asked —one of them had mentioned that he had played basketball to a young woman looking for his attention— if they knew Brandon Kelly, the hoopster in painting I had just completed. I said that I assumed that they didn't know about the Galesburg Portrait Portrait project. One of them countered that his uncle from the bank had been talking about it that week. Apparently the freestyle was mostly the last two categories.
This project has repeatedly dented my presuppositions. We all bring a welter of assumptions with us. The people whose first impressions of me asking for photos were uneasy on one hand and on the other, there were my projections onto the people I've met. Engagement with each other constantly recalibrates what we are sure we know.
One last thing, Gary and Greg's pictures on the platform at Union Station that night are the final photos of the project. Thanks, Galesburg.
There's a hangover from constantly soliciting photos. In Chicago, while I was getting groceries for our family's Thanksgiving dinner, I had to stop myself from asking people to send me photos. I took me a couple of days to get out of image acquisition mode.
I hope you are all still feasting on leftovers as I am. I'll send you my late mother's exquisitely refreshing cranberry salad recipe if you email me. I assume you know the address by now.