Monday, 20 November 2017

Cat and mouse

It was one of those situations that you can sometimes catch on camera. I was still in Swansea, but I'd left the art gallery and was walking back to Fiona through the main shopping area in the centre of the city.

Walking along, I saw a photographic scene developing before me. Yes, there was something about the man in the seat. He was looking at the girls passing by. He was intent. I had Tigerlily in my hand, all ready to take pictures. I held her up, framed the shot, took this, and walked on. All in one practiced movement. Nobody noticed.


This is in fact a cropped version of the original photo: I've eliminated the unwanted bits on the left and right edges. Let's examine it.

As I always do in cities, I like to capture aspects of the local urban scene. The electrical gadget exchange shop was part of that scene. The man, idling time away on the seat, seemed part of it. The girls - doubtless students - were part of it too. The picture came together for me as I approached, and I had time to recognise it and get ready for a nonchalant passing shot. It was made complete by one of the girls turning to face the lens with the whites of her eyes showing, just as I fired the shutter.

Back at the caravan, hours later, I was running through the day's pictures to assess their potential for retention. This shot seemed worthy of especial examination. Something was going on here.

Look first at the man's attitude. He's relaxed, but not just staring into space. He's definitely looking at the group of three girls on the left, led by the blonde girl with blue jeans. The tilt of his head, and the way he's put his fingertips to his lips, both suggest a focused interest in those girls, and possibly one of them in particular.

Let's zoom in.


Now call me fanciful, and looking for things that aren't really there, but I think that the girl facing the camera lens isn't merely chatting to the girls walking with her, even though the blonde girl is turned towards her, as if hearing some urgent news. The eye we can see is looking out of their tight group, at the man on the seat. And the facial expression suggests surprise, even concern. She could be gaping with dismay, and telling the blonde girl that she has seen somebody she didn't want to encounter.

Can you see it too?

I'm thinking it's a man and a girl who have split up, but he won't let go. He thinks he has the right to remind her that he's still around, watching where she goes, and who with. So he's there on the seat. And she feels intimidated. That's what it looks like to me. 

My apologies, of course, to the people concerned if it's nothing at all like that. He could for instance be someone she has fancied for ages, but hasn't yet been able to talk to, and she is nervous about how to arrange that. But he looks like a man who has ample self-confidence, someone who would make it easy for her to speak to him, if he sensed any attraction. And her expression seems more fearful than wistful.

I dare say you could take shots at random, anywhere you like, and, in every shot, come up with examples of eyes meeting - and imagine a story every time. The word 'stalker' has been in the back of my mind ever since I first examined this picture closely. You know, a man hanging around where somebody he's fixated on might go, and not minding if she sees him. In fact, that must be the point of it for him: to see her anxiety, to provoke and control her fear, and enjoy being the cause. A game of cat and mouse. 

Spot the cat in my picture.

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