Mechanic

In an older area of Vancouver along a stretch of Evergreen that has long been a mix of commercial and residential is a tire shop. It’s been around for years and is the kind of place that people know about through word of mouth and if you go there, you’ve probably gone there for years. It’s an intriguing building and I had noticed that the proprietor was a tall lanky gentleman who was built for leaning in a doorway. So on a late summer afternoon I drove down there to see if I could make a photograph.

As I neared the tire store, I saw a man working on a little pickup truck in front of what had been a filling station perhaps 40 years ago. He was shirtless and swarthy. An older man working with his hands. I thought to myself, well, there’s the shot. Instead, I continued to the tire store, parking in a bowling alley just across the way.

I chatted with the tire store guy, an interesting fellow, and certainly a good character for the photograph I had envisioned. But he was completely unwilling. I did my usual folksy spiel to no avail. After that I thought I might go investigate the mechanic, see what I could see. I walked back along the street and pretended to take some photos of things in his vicinity. As I edged closer, he asked me “Are you taking a picture of me?” I answered truthfully that I wasn’t since to that point I had not even attempted a shot.

I used that as a segue into a conversation. He was an odd combination of garrulous and reticent. Sometimes going on about something and at other times falling silent. I continued to ask questions to just keep him talking, hoping for an opportunity to take a few shots. I brought up the possibility of a picture and he told me “No one wants to see a picture of me, I’m too ugly.” Eventually I thought I would get nowhere and was about to wrap things up and head off. He paused a moment and I looked down into my monitor, framed the shot I had envisioned, and clicked once.

He asked me if I had taken a picture and I replied that I had. I offered to delete it if he wasn’t comfortable. He just grunted a dismissal and that was that. 20 minutes invested, one shutter actuation. I had no idea if it was even a good shot until I got home and looked at it on the computer. I quite liked it but that sometimes means nothing. I showed it around and people responded to it and it was then I figured I might have something special.