This photograph, the feature photograph of this entry, is one of my favorite photographs. I took this ‘shadow portrait’ back in the 90s. In this photo, the mystery, the fear and the shadows of a single person that was being bullied over a period of decades.
The woman, in this photograph, after living decades in that same city, discovered the Brooklyn Bridge. The ‘discovery’ was a personal discovery. Though she lived there for decades, she wasn’t ever aware, until that day, that it was ‘ok’ to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. She thought that bridges were for cars, trucks and busses. She just had a kind of clear-cut idea of what the world was like and she kept that view for most of her years.
Somehow, somewhere, a person, or a book or something flipped the lightswitch in her and she ‘discovered’ that, indeed, human beings were allowed to actually walk over this huge bridge. Yet, she really didn’t do much walking in her life. She was afraid of the trains, busses and all other forms of transportation. She was afraid to, even, walk around.
Due to her fear of being out in the world, she used her bicycle to get around to places. Everywhere she went, unless she went with her children or with her friends, she used that trusty ‘English Racer’ or later on, the mountain bike. The bike accomplished lots of things for her. First, it was kind of a protection from the public. If need be, she’d jump on the bike and go. And secondly, as more obvious, the bike enabled her to get in and around the city, even over the newly-discovered Brooklyn Bridge
As she floated through life, she used these things to feel safer, to appear that she might be just a regular person, she used the shadows, the bikes, the hats, the gloves, and even , sometimes, even her clothing ‘uniform’. All these things enabled her to go outdoors, to be with other people and even enabled her to take part in gatherings, events and conferences where there were hundreds or thousands of people .
And that photograph, the feature one, is the picture that brings it all back. B u t, at the very same time, that same picture brings back the feelings of success, of someone conquering their fears , the success of being where they want to be, in spite of all of her fears. It was during the 90s that she was most fearful. At times she felt even terrorized. And make no mistake, these fears were very real fears, not imagined ones. While most of society can appear real and regular and pretty much fearless, those survivors, those targets of stalkers and targets of aggressive, narcissistic bullies have very real fears and very real reasons to be afraid.
Not to fear, readers, she has also magnificent reasons to cast the fear aside and journey down new roads of life. And, that she does, she takes the journey, boldly ,slowly, but most times, usually always with her bicycle. The missing in this picture is the bike.
She got off the bike, momentarily, to snap a history of her solo journey. There in a space, a space that she previously saw as the ‘trap’ space, she created the space of the photojournalist. She created the space of the creative non-fiction writer and the space of the lady that was finally, stepping out of her solo world and now breaking into the spaces of the ‘rest of society’. Boldly she steps off the bike, over in that corner of the Brooklyn Bridge, and she stands tall, and snaps. Snap away, hundreds of pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge, and yet there is one that she will keep. This is a keeper.
Originally, she had stepped out onto the bridge in great fear of that one spot, that one place where it appeared might be a ‘target’ plave or a ‘mugging place’ . After all, aren’t all muggings happening ‘around the corner’ , just out of site? In this spot, you can see the walls, and the shadows of the lanterns , the lamps, the electric lights. But in this spot, though there are lights, you can not see the people. There in this mysterious place, from a distance, the walkers see just the walls, they can’t see the people that are standing in the corners of the walls. The hiding place, the spot where if you stay there long enough, you just might meet a mugger or an aggressive sort of person. These are the kinds of places that muggers hang out in, the hidden spaces.
But, today, for this picture, she went there with a different mind, a different attitude, a whole different idea of the Brooklyn Bridge walk. Today, she felt bold. Today she felt strong. Today she knew that she would not be a target of a criminal. Or better than that, today she knew that she would not be a target of the bully.
After, all, you know that bullies get the person in secret, right? You know that bullies get their targets aside, where nobody else can see them bully the person, right? (Well, most bullies anyways. There are some bolder, crazier bullies that will lash out in public. But, so far, her bully, the one that targeted her was not so bold to gather witnesses. for now, so far, her bully attacked only in private, only in dark places, only when the bully was absolutlely sure that the target was most vulnerable, most attackable…most unprotected in the shadows of the corner of the Bridge walls.
But today, ahh, today, this hiding spot, the dark spot was no longer the holder of this lady’s fear. Today was so very different for her. And the reason? She knew karate.
Quite a while before, when she realized how vulnerable she felt in the shadows of life,
always, in the shadows of life, her fear covered her entirely. Even her strong faith in God was unable to render her totally fearless in some moments. She kept her faith; she knew her faith and she still had her faith, but the physical body of hers had been so beaten down, so pummelled by aggression that the physical body retained its’ own memory, and she froze at times, just froze in fear when she knew that danger was around.