“Excuse me, would you mind taking a picture of us?”
You have probably been asked that sometime, or have said it yourself to a stranger. If not, you may be spending too much time in your La-Z-Boy, because that exchange is common at tourist attractions all over the world. It is followed by brief instructions: “Just press this button.” “This one, right?” “That’s it.” Then the couple or group strikes a pose in front of the waterfall or museum or whatever. You snap the shutter, you hand the camera back, and you never see each other again.
It always leaves me wondering how they liked the picture I took of them once they had a chance to study it. Did they love it so much that it’s now hanging over their mantel? Or were they disappointed: “It’s OK of the Grand Canyon, I suppose, but I spent three hundred dollars on these shoes, and that guy didn’t even get them in the picture!?”
I’d like to believe that a photo I once took of a couple in Key West is a keepsake, but who knows? Maybe she didn’t think her hair looked good that day. I’d also like to know if the tourists in London who spoke no English ever had second thoughts. They had insisted on posing near Big Ben — with them facing in the opposite direction! I could not get them to stand with that famous landmark in their picture.
Sally and I have handed our camera to strangers on quite a few occasions, with mixed results. In Paris, a gentleman made it look as though we were at the Leaning Tower of Eiffel. A young woman in San Francisco composed the shot in such a way that our bodies blocked the Golden Gate Bridge, which, I should have explained to her, was the reason for taking the picture.
On our way to a show one night in New York, a uniformed security guard in Times Square stopped us and said, “give me your camera, I’ll take a picture of you two.” I try not to argue with armed men, so I not only handed over the camera, I didn’t protest when he demanded that I pose with my arms folded across my chest like I was the newly crowned heavyweight champion. Then he instructed Sally to drape herself over my shoulder and “look hot”. As you might imagine, the picture turned out… pretty well, actually.
Once in a while, a stranger proves to be so skilled — or so lucky — that you wind up with a wonderful preserved memory (which, when you think about it, is what a snapshot is). Unfortunately, there’s no way to express your gratitude to the photographer, since you have no idea who they are.
Still, I wish I could say “great job” to the person who took our photo at sunset on the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, and to the guy who framed the shot perfectly at Versailles. Then there was the man who took our picture at a Memorial Day event at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. His first attempt had cut off the top of the dome; Sally asked him to take another one, and he graciously did. The second try was outstanding, so — thank you, whoever you are. I hope you like the one I took of you.