It’s always interesting to reflect on what we might expect to see on Valentine’s Day in the city - and then to check that out to see how well reality matches our expectations. As part of my photography class today we spent time in Melbourne’s laneways trying to concoct a photo essay of some sort. I began exploring the Valentine’s Day theme. There were a few shops that ran with the theme. Red or pink balloons, a vase of red roses or in one case, as seen the photo, a much more sophisticated display with love hearts and quotations. A few couples were present, but no-one looking particularly like it was a morning different to any Saturday.
As with any other street photography I’ve attempted I struggled with taking photos of people. Whether to do the ‘right thing’ and ask or whether to get a more sneaky candid shot which is what I really want. It’s a real dilemma for me and it was interesting to hear others’ thoughts on it. For some asking is fine and most people are ok with having their photo taken. So what if a couple of people aren’t so agreeable and say no? For others the sneaky shot is the way to go. I tended to stick to the public crowd shots rather than narrowing my focus to anyone person in particular.
As time went by and I struggled to find imagery to match the Valentine’s Day theme, there was one young woman who stood out though. She was sitting alone reading her book. I had decided that I could have red as the theme for my photo essay and link it to Valentine’s Day if I happened to find any usable photos. The young woman happened to be wearing a reddish top so stood out in the photo of the crowd sitting in the laneway having coffee and breakfast.
She sat quietly by herself for quite a while and then suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, a young man appeared, ran up and smothered her in kisses. For the next few minutes, they shared what looked like poems with each other. She read to him from a book. He'd brought a piece of paper with him and pulled it out of the pocket of his shorts. They looked delighted with each other’s efforts – and presence. Before long, and without noticing our fascination with them, they stood up and almost skipped off down the laneway together.
Just when we thought Valentine’s Day was pretty empty and meaningless other than a few commercial endeavours to promote it, it happened to come to life before our very eyes. A good reminder, again, of the importance of taking the time to notice, to stop and look at what is going on around us and, on this occasion at least, partake, albeit voyeuristically, in a little Valentine magic after all.