When my daughter was still young enough to enjoy the rides at festivals and the candy thrown at parades, I’d take a camera along to capture those moments of her childhood. While she was in elementary school, I also took pictures of crowd scenes at these events. I felt that these candid moments full of people were a sort of poetry in itself.
I learned the meter of such poetry by living on the grounds of a church who hosted a massive three-day festival every year in June. By the way, my dad was the groundskeeper at St. Gerard Church for many years, and we lived in the apartment attached to the church building during most of his time working there. The church parking lot was also a staging site for most of my city’s parades.
While I’ve been revisiting my photo archive, I’m glad that I captured some moments of such crowds. Witnessing the festival and the parades was part of the bedrock of my early years. Taking my daughter to see the gatherings and taking the photos was like passing on a family tradition to the next generation. My dad actually took some pictures of the crowds back in the day, and my mom once remarked, “I think your dad has taken more pictures of strangers than of us.”
I’ve decided to post my street photography of festivals and parades on my Facebook page. By doing this, I’ll make these photos more easily available to the people depicted and their loved ones.
Many of the crowd photos I took from 2006-2011 have elderly people in them, and I’d be happy to know that the families of those people have access to those images. It so happens that my family had a single photo of one of my great grandfathers for decades, and that photo was a death portrait from 1936. Through reunion with long last family, we have seen three more pictures of him. I’m still haunted by the notion that there are more pictures of him lingering elsewhere in photos albums that have become heirlooms of other families he knew. He could be the guy in the photo standing beside someone else’s great-great grandfather, and no one yet has been able to answer the question, “Who’s that guy?”