He stood astride his bicycle at the corner of 8th and Franklin. I could feel his intent gaze on me as I photographed the red doors of Trinity Episcopal Church. Satisfied with my red door captures, I wandered toward the former Masonic Temple father down the block, I felt his gaze follow me.
Maybe he was the documentary photographer that I had been fantasizing about, but I doubted that he had $4000 of camera gear in that backpack at his feet.
I was on his side of the road and started to make my way towards him, but I chickened out at the last minute, choosing instead to recross the street and photograph some pretty flowers at the side of the church. I wasn't ready to answer any questions regarding what I was doing. Even though I had my acceptable answer ready. I was taking a photography class, and one of the assignments was to visit a small town and photograph the buildings. While not 100% true, I am always taking some online photography course, and I will probably need pictures of architecture sooner or later.
By the time I had finished photographing the flowers, he was gone. He must have realized I was avoiding him, and didn't wish to creep me out any further.
Able to wander freely again, I set off to explore the rest of the downtown that I had driven through for the past twenty years. Driving through the boarded up and crumbling in favor of the bright, shiny and new at the Outlet mall.
I was happy to see fewer empty, dusty plate glass storefront windows and more open signs. A sign of hope and better things to come. Restoration is a slow and painful process in small towns like this, but it can be done. It just takes a community that cares about supporting local businesses and local business owners.
Eventually I did have to answer the question of what I was doing, but I was ready when the time came. I had passed this door once, in favor of an artfully arranged window of local artist's wares, but I could feel the tug of the green door pulling at my heart. I went back. In the process I passed the owners of a new gallery admiring their business sign that had been hung the day before. As I passed them the second time, they inquired if I was looking for a certain business or waiting for a store to open. I gave them my 'taking a photography class' answer, and they completely understood. But I could have told them the truth, that I was having a day to myself to photograph and work on writing a blog post, they would have gotten it. They were artists after all.