On Board The Farslan S: Cemil
On the way back from town, I dropped into the docklands as I haven't been out there in months. Alexandra Basin & environs was very quiet, a few ships were in but little activity, the enormous Goliath Cranes unstirring at the container dock. I took a few dusk shots looking towards the rounded hump of the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains, rising behind the cranes on the south docks. It was cold and windy on the quays and I am still getting over a bad cold so I was about to head home when I glanced again at the ships in the container dock and thought why not just check and see if I can get on board? So I did, and came to meet some of the crew of a smallish Turkish container ship. They were both shy and very hospitable. One of them made me a glass of strong, sweet tea, and they let me wander anywhere, into cabins and kitchens, and down onto the lower deck. I wasn't in the best form though, so I rushed it somewhat, and after shooting a few portraits I said my goodbyes. The experience taught me, or rather reminded me, how difficult it is to take a good photographic portrait. You can find an interesting background and lighting (though the latter was poor, mainly florescent) and ask the sitter not to smile (or frown or glare or pout) and make them as comfortable as possible, but there is something else. You can look for the 'punctum', some oddity that gives the image a character, or maybe it has more to do with studying a stranger's face as intently as possible, to try and locate that little bit of weirdness that makes each of us both human and unique. And of course you need to find the right face. Cemil (pronounced Jemel) was the perhaps the shyest and least smily of the men I met, but not at all unfriendly. His face was striking, and he allowed me to shoot quite a few frames while he got on with the business of eating his dinner.
I heard the tragic news this morning about the Santa who gunned down those nightclubbers in Istanbul. So we are off to a characteristically human start to the new year, the worst our species can offer. Some synchronicity here, that I had just met these friendly Turkish men, who taught me how to say 'thank you' in Turkish: Teşekkür ederim.