Up on the Roof

Last fall I spent several afternoons behind a local shopping center photographing delivery entrances, dumpsters, back and side doors. Early one evening while I was shooting pictures of crates and miscellaneous junk left behind a so-called “Emporium” (what some might call a “Dollar Store,”) I happened to look up and see this man looking down at me—I think he had been doing some work on the roof. I’m sure he was curious as to why this old guy was wandering around taking pictures of doors and junk.

He hollered down at me, “Hey—can I help you?”

 I hollered back, “Not sure—in what way?”

 He replied, “Wadda you doing?”

I said, “Taking pictures—wadda you doing?”

By this time he was talking into a cell phone—calling his boss probably. He started down the ladder you see in the image, I met him at the bottom and before his feet hit the ground I handed him a business card with my name, phone number and website on it.

 This happens from time to time—I call this sort of suspicion, “Post 9-11 Paranoia.”  I’ve found it always pays to be proactive and make the first move—keep the other person a little off balance—beat him or her to the punch—but in an earnest, up-front, non-threatening kind of way.

 I gave him my standard line for these occasions,

“Hi my name’s Holen—I’m a photographer—I’m an old retired guy who likes taking pictures of old stuff. And I always enjoy meeting and talking with wonderful, cool people like yourself that I meet when I’m shooting.” I stuck out my hand, “And you are?

 He didn’t tell me his name—just looked at the card I offered him for a second.

 I said, “Here’s one for you—you can give the other one to your boss or client or whoever you answer to. I have more if you want them—you could give them to friends or co-workers who might want to hire a photographer—I do weddings, birthday parties, Bar Mitzvahs, Alien Abductions—just kidding on that last one.” I held out a small stack with a rubber band around them.

He shook his head no, turned and walked away.

 At home that evening I finished up matting prints for an upcoming show. I waited for the phone to ring—no calls—that night or the next day. I never get calls after these sorts of incidents. They don’t happen often but when they do, it pays to be confident—you know—nothing to hide—but at the same time very open and respectful.

 And who knows—you might snag a gig—make a few bucks shooting a birthday party.


I’m working on a new story series—it’ll probably run 4 installments. It’s about the girl in the last story—Cheryl—the girl Georgie was in love with. I think you’ll enjoy it. It’s called “Highway 61,” and Cheryl is looking for the meaning of her young life.

 Aren’t we all?

Check out this video:


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