Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vignettes from Vermont: Leo Buys My STD Photo


BENNINGTON -- Leo walked into Fiddlehead at Four Corners and led his cute Bennington girlfriend on a beeline to the wall near the emergency exit where three of my Jamaica photographs hang with all the prominence of used car salesmen of the month.

I was, like, dude, come on, no one ever walks straight to my work in this gallery, one of the coolest art spaces in New England.

Leo walked toward the counter. Still stunned at his urgency, I told him I took the photos he had been looking at. He then said he going to buy one of them, which floored me.

I took the photo in late '97 or early '98 during my 6-month stint as a photographer with the Gleaner Company in Kingston, Jamaica. It shows the female teacher of a boys primary school standing at a chalkboard and delivering a lesson in sex education. The chalkboard reads "Sexually Transmitted Diseases get it by " and it's at that point I snapped the moment. I've always enjoyed that photo but I never thought anyone would buy it. Why would they?

The strange thing is that an hour before Leo appeared today, a woman looked at the picture and smiled and in a minor state of shock held her chest in an "Oh, my!" kind of way. It was amusing to see.

Leo said he saw the picture two years ago in his only other stop to Fiddlehead.

"Because I couldn't get it out of my mind," Leo said when I asked why he bought it. "I love it. It has lingered in my mind. And probably because it has a teacher in it. It struck me."

As a photographer, hearing that kind of remark is flattering.

Leo's gesture comes less than a week after a journalism colleague by the name of Aimee Ford Foster sent me a framed original oil-on-canvas that she painted, based on a photograph I took in Trenton on April 21. She said the photo awoke the artist inside, and that's why "Beauty and Despair" hangs in Fiddlehead. Amy is painting another photo I took years ago during a soccer game in Quechee.

Leo Ruiz lives in Albany and says he's a social studies teacher. The federal grant that allowed him to work at the Albany Public Library and teach adults how to get jobs just expired, he said, "so I'm taking a dive into Boston."

Thanks, Leo, for putting a shit-eating grin on my face today.

Some more of million-plus photos I've taken can be found HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.