Walk on By © 2017 Jed Smith
This week I share an image I recently captured in the Dorsoduro area of Venice. As I was finally going through the batch of images taken on a hot July afternoon, this leapt out at me and its power took me by surprise.
In Venice a common theme is beggars in supplication to people passing by.
I call this “passive begging” and the streets of Venice are populated with people such as the man above. I’ve also seen numerous women prostrating themselves on their knees and elbows. Their heads are bowed and a small cup is in their hands. They don’t move. Rarely do I take photos of these people. I feel more comfortable taking photos of the street performers. After all, they’re actually doing something to earn money, right? That’s what I tell myself. But looking at this particular image I say, “Jed Smith you don’t know this man’s story, do you?”
Hmmm, that gives me pause.
People are adept at looking away, and avoiding what makes them uncomfortable.
And this is what stands out to me as the central theme of this photo. This man is patiently and humbly looking with expectation and hope that the three men about to pass will notice him and share of their well-heeled fortunes. Yet the one man whose face we see seems already to have put on his blinders as he is about to walk by.
This is life, and we’re often afraid to look or connect with this side of it.
I say this as much to myself as to anyone else. Maybe by taking the time to look and connect vs. walling myself away protectively might teach me something. Maybe I’ll understand my own fear that at the end of the day life’s circumstances land each of us in very different places. I could have been this man by a simple twist of fate.
Who really knows any person’s story in life? And I’m not just talking about beggars.
Perhaps this man is a complete shyster, and his appearance is carefully calculated to evoke pity and coax money from a stranger’s wallet. And then again, perhaps he doesn’t have the ability to work for a variety of possible reasons, and this is what he does to get by.
I simply don’t know, and judging a situation by our own preconceived ideas and filters rarely lands us with the truth of a situation and a person. Maybe this is why this photo speaks to me with so much emotion.
My heart hurts when I contemplate this photo. My heart hurts when I think of how many times I have walked by people and looked away while seeking to stay in my protected world.
This leaves me with an important reminder.
Art and photography is an important way for me to “journal” and contemplate life.
My art often teaches me by bypassing my conscious mind. Thank goodness. When I take photos something inside tells me where to point my camera. Only later, as this photo demonstrates, do I understand why.
Beautiful photo Jed as well as your words/thoughts. Not everyone is as fortunate or lucky as others. You’ve opened up my mind, and heart a little bit more, again. Thank you.
Love this Jed. Keep it coming.
I’ll do my best, John!
Ciao mio caro, I am capturing the moment to comment your story while on the train coming back from Chieti on a very hot but really hot day. I liked the photo but most of all your story. I agree in everything you wrote. Not only Venezia is full of these desperate people but the whole country. Sulmona is full of young boys and girls that come from Africa. I give them what I can, but most of the people with their ignorance treat them bad, and we are in a chatolic country , the preists say that we are all brothers and sisters, but the community tends to forget this. When Ithe young people see me they put a big smile on their faces and call out loud CIAO MAMMA, that makes me so happy , it doesn’t take much to give a SORRISO E COME STAI to any human being. Your famiglia is waiting for you in Sulmona. UN GRANDE ABBRACCIO NOVELIA.
Ciao my dear Novelia. I always love hearing from you. I can only imagine what the heat is like there. We’re doing everything we can to stay cool since it’s been very hot and humid here. Thank goodness we installed AC this year!
Thank you for adding your beautiful words to the dialog about our fellow human beings who are struggling to get by. Taking this photo and writing the commentary was a big wake-up call to me to be more mindful, and more generous.
I miss you and Peppe like crazy. Hope to see you in October! Bacioni! Jed
Poignant, with beautiful light. It could be the detail of a Renaissance painting, updated.
This means so much coming from you, Elizabeth. You have the eye! Thanks for the encouragement. xoxox Jed
Jed,As always the contemplative spirit I have known! The artist is the one who takes time to really see the world and present it to us in evocative visuals as well as capturing thoughts to help others increase their own sensitivity and awareness of their purpose in life. Loving you my dear friend and thanking you for your gentle spirit shared so generously. Katherine
Ahhh, dear Katherine, so good to hear from you. I’m grateful life provides these gentle messages, prodding me to wake up to a connectedness I often forget. Sending a big heaping load of love right back at you! Jed
Thought provoking photo and your words are a reminder to not judge others – we don’t know their journey. And yet, we should be mindful of situations in case they are misleading. Well said Jed. Thanks for sharing – love the photo! p.s. We’ll be in Venice early next month!
Thank you, Christina! I’m so glad you like the photo and the journaling that accompanied it. Sometimes I think we are born wide awake, then we go to sleep with all of our conditioning, and life eventually (if we let it) will start waking us up again!
Wonderful image Jed
Thanks, Darren. Looking forward to seeing you and David soon!
Really lovely, Jed; both thoughtful and insightful–I had not thought deeply about art reaching us in by routes that our conscious minds learn to block. Thank you. I see such people as projections of our shadow selves–the parts of ourselves that we don’t want to acknowledge or deal with. Maybe our fear of them is as close as we’ll get to admitting that life really is pretty random; and that we don’t often “deserve” whatever we think we’ve worked to achieve.
So beautifully expressed, Chris. I especially like what you say about our shadow selves. More often than not we choose to look away. Life is teaching me, more and more, to look into the shadows and not be afraid.
Hope all is well with you and your family. Thanks for writing! Jed
Yes! “Look in the shadows and do not be afraid.” This is a beautiful and important photo and essay, one that I needed to see and hear.
Thank you, Jed
Hi Paige! That you for writing. Just writing this post was a wake-up call to myself!
The photo speaks volumes! Beautiful. Talk with this man and ask him what is going on. Right now, seniors have it tough if living on a simple pension, not enough to live on. Italy taxes them even if poor. I am happy to give if they seem like locals, and not hassling me. I do give to Africans and they really appreciate it! But do only to locals. Glad the photo is so beautiful, Jed. thank you. Suzy
Thank you Suzy. Yes, seniors often have an amazingly tough time financially. We’re all in the world together. Nice to help pull each other up when we’ve been blessed with good fortune.
Stunningly evocative photo.
Grazie mille, Teri!
Love this photo Jed. It looks like a painting. That alleyway is very intriguing. But the beggar speaks to me. Your musings made me think a bit more. I’ve been guilty of walking past these folks of course, but sometimes I give money. You can’t give to them all unfortunately. And yes, we are all just a twist of fate away from his fate. We should be thankful for what we have everyday and remember those without. Thanks!
Ciao Nancy, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and observations. Maybe the world can use a reminder that we are all connected all part of the “human race”.
Fantastic Jed. Love this photo and your commentary
Grazie, Susan. Always love hearing from you!