Posted on August 18, 2016 by Andy Thorpe under People

Smethwick Wall Text -2

I’m not sure where to start with this posting.  By way of some background, these photos were taken on one of my journeys to work, during the course of which I often stop to photograph things, people or events that are interesting to me.  This situation and others seem to be in the process of creating a book with the working title “Short Stories from My Journeys to Work”.  (A second volume might consider the return journey home, but I’m usually in too much of a hurry to stop despite using a bicycle which makes it easier to do so.)

Anyway, recently I spotted new graffiti on a wall which was distinct from the norm in that it was phrased as a message to a particular person or “princess”, the likes of which are quite common in Smethwick! In itself it makes an interesting subject, but I came away from the scene with a lot more, as the photos below suggest.

Smethwick Wall Text -1

Smethwick Wall Text -3

Smethwick Wall Text -4

Smethwick Wall Text -5

In trying to simply record the scene (first photo) I waited until the chap in the top right of the photo was facing away from me because I didn’t want to draw any attention to myself, enhanced by use of a Fuji X-A1 at waist level using the tilting screen (something I’ve been doing for years since my Nikon 995 days). I took a chance to take another when he was half way across the drive-way; he was pacing backwards and forwards across the drive for some reason.

Ah, too late, I’d stayed too long and after one of his journeys across the driveway he started to make his way towards me, so very cowardly and not wanting a confrontation about invading privacy etc, I turned to face the road.  Then he asked, in a friendly manner, if I was a journalist so I explained about the interesting graffiti. This sparked a longer conversation.

The chap (I never found out his name) explained that he’d been away in prison for a while and that he was trying to reconnect with his girlfriend (princess) who apparently still lived in the area but at an address unknown to him because members of her family had been trying to keep her away from him.  Quite a sad and moving story.  I thought it was interesting that he was holding a mobile phone, his house had a satellite dish and his car was parked on the road outside it (see portraits above), and yet inspite of having access to such communication technology he had resorted to using a brush and paint to find his girlfriend.  He also mentioned being quite religious and was relying on his faith to see a happy conclusion to the situation.  He was happy for me to photograph him, perhaps thinking it would somehow help in his quest.

In presenting the series of photos I took, I’m also trying to illustrate the process from me being a cowardly street photographer to having the confidence to find out more about the situation, at least on this occasion.  The blurry portrait of him (I’m still getting used to the focusing system on the Fuji!) shows the chap in full flow telling his story, so the barriers had well and truly come down.

As a postscript to the story, I saw him pacing on the driveway for another couple of days or talking to people on the street, but I wasn’t able to catch his attention as I rode past on my bike to just wave hello or to get an update.  I haven’t seen him since so perhaps there’s been a happy ending.

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