Street vendor, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
A street vendor checks his bag of goods before heading out for business. I liked the intensity of his gesture – the grasping hand suggest tension and pent up energy. I noticed the same sundries – I think these are razors and bandages – are sold by many such vendors all over the city. It must be a very large sales force, so the competition will be intensive.
Carpet salesmen, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
The carpet salesmen of Istanbul are fiercely competitive. They engage passing tourists in conversations, virtually begging them to stop and haggle. I heard my friend Tim May telling one of them that he already had three fine Turkish carpets at home, but the salesman was not finished with him. “Why not a fourth?” he asked. In this image I show them outside of their shop, one resting on a window ledge, and two others waiting to pounce near the entrance. By making this image at night, I am able to abstract much of the scene through backlighting and showcase the carpets as context. There seemed to be very little action – most of the tourists had long since left the sightseeing trail.
Cutlery shop, Istanbul, Turkey, 2009
I stood over this tray of assorted knives, photographing them with a 14mm superwideangle lens. As I was shooting, the salesman jumped up from his chair and almost sprinted towards me, begging me to buy from him. I lifted the camera slightly and caught him in mid-stride, and mid sentence. It is an image full of energy, and even though the figure is slightly distorted by the extreme wideangle, he still looks real enough to me. Two other elements add context – a framed advertisement for razors, showing a fellow stroking his cheek, and a black robed woman carrying a large bag of goods out of the frame at the left. Ultimately, the image is built around the salesman, and his effort to sell all of us something very sharp.
The day begins, Tozeur, Tunisia, 2008
The main street of Tozeur, Avenue Habib Bourguiba, is devoted almost entirely to providing tourists with stuff they don’t need but can’t live without. I was the first tourist to arrive on this day, and photographed the sales people as they arrived and greeted each other. I juxtapose a man arriving by motorbike, and a trio of salesmen exchanging morning greetings. The first light splashes the street with gold, and highlights the thumbs of the greeters. Selling is a fraternity – and the members, while competitors, generally respect each other.
Waiting, Tunis, Tunisia, 2008
Three salesmen await their customers at a souk in the Tunis medina. Two of them fight boredom by readying merchandise or reading the news, while one seems alone with his thoughts. In the souks of Tunis, shops such as this one carry items for local consumption, rather than goods for tourists. I use a 24mm wideangle lens to spread the scene, apportioning a separate segment of the image to each of the three salesmen.
Appeal, Tunis, Tunisia, 2008
It is so early that most of the shops in the Tunis medina are still locked behind closed doors. But one door is open, and I found a salesman in it beckoning to a passer-by. Is he making an early pitch? Or is he simply sharing a greeting? The image leaves the answers with our imaginations.
Street vendor, Tunis, Tunisia, 2008
A postcard salesman peers into the shadows, looking for tourists. I allow the shadows to go even darker here, suggesting that he is also looking at the unknown. And that is what his task really comes down to – he sits on this chair every day, and waits for things to happen, and hopes to find a few customers in the process.
Ignored, Tunis, Tunisia, 2008
A tailor’s assistant threads a bobbin in a Tunis medina street, either because the light is better out there, or he hopes his skill will attract a passing customer. I waited for the three shadowy figures to enter his world, and all ignore him as I pressed the shutter. The shop window, meanwhile, is filled with the pictures of well-known patrons. Nobody looks at them here, either.
Butchers, Kairouan, Tunisia, 2008
The severed head of a huge bull hangs over a pair of butchers as they share a late evening cup of tea. For them, and many like them, the job fills a social need as much as an economic one. They may not have many customers at the moment, but they share a sense of camaraderie. The huge head is an incongruity – they pay no heed to either it, or the skinned goat sheathed in plastic that hangs at left. The slaughtered animals function as both products and signage.
Slow business, Tozeur, Tunisia, 2008
Business seems slow for this butcher. His products are on display behind him, but his potential customers walk on by without stopping. Meanwhile, he keeps busy by talking on the phone. I liked the contrast between his world of white – coat, phone, chairs – and the passing woman’s traditional black garment. The foot placement of, both, meanwhile, is complementary.
Discussion, Tozeur, Tunisia, 2008
Two men are having a spirited discussion between two mute mannequins. I found a vantage point that blended the four of them together into a fitting relationship -- the work here can also be considered a mixture of reality and fantasy. A sale means money earned. The wish for a sale, meanwhile, is vaporous. Given the relaxed manner in which the man holding the sunglasses supports his arm on the shoulder of the mannequin in the yellow NY Yankees hat, I am assuming that he is explaining himself to his boss. On the other hand, he could also be a customer making himself very much at home. Such questions make this image a multi-layered fascination.
Sizing them up, Tozeur, Tunisia, 2008
I watched this young salesman eyeballing potential customers as they rushed past him. A shutter speed of 1/60th of a second was slow enough to deliberately blur the pedestrians. In doing so, I stress the fact that the great majority of people never even take a second look at a store such as this. It caters to tourists, and these men looked to me like residents. The salesman, meanwhile, remains alert and patient. He remains ready to make his pitch to anyone who slows his or her pace, or even glances his way.