An Iraqi in London

I was walking in Chiswick earlier last week, looking for nice scenes to photograph to finish my first roll of Fuji Acros 100 loaded on my Nikon FM2n. I was somehow reluctant to ask strangers, which is pretty weird considering that it is what I’ve been doing extensively in the last years. For some reasons I feel that asking for a portrait when I don’t have either the Hasselblad or the Pentax is a shame, as Medium Format is the main reason I felt so in love with film photography. With that in mind, I was mainly shooting old car details, some candid street scene, trying double exposure etc. It was already quite late in the afternoon and the light was almost gone when, walking on the sidewalk near home I realised someone was walking behind me. He was not that close, and I was not walking that slow, but I moved aside just to let him pass…and then I saw him: a little man, around 65 or 70 years old, dressed with one of those comfortable suit that were quite popular in the 70s. He walked past me and, looking in my direction, he smiled to say thank you. It was a frank, genuine and warm smile. In a matter of microseconds, when he was walking in front of me no more than 2 or 3 metres away, without even thinking I called him and asked him if he would mind me taking his portrait. I was 100% sure that the answer would be yes…

He explained me that he was originally from Iraq, and came to London more than 30 years ago. Don’t know how but in a matter of 2 or 3 minutes he told how he has been doing research in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics at the University, he suggested some weird expression for the pictures, and then I let him go, with a big smile on his face and a great series of portraits on my camera. What I like about them is that, even though they are not perfect (and some are also slightly out of focus), they captured the essence of this nice man. For once my medium format cameras or my surgical precise DSLR were not necessary and I am glad I had a light, old, honest little camera.

Technical info: Nikon FM2n > Nikkor AF-D 50mm f1.4 > Fuji Neopan Acros 100 @100 ISO > Rodinal 1:50, 12m at 21*C

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