Meliqua and Bernard, 6th Street, San Francisco

Meliqua and Bernard, 6th Street, San Francisco

Lately as I’ve been walking around San Francisco I’ve been purposely trying to look people in the eyes as I pass them on the street. For years my natural reaction has been to look at someone and then immediately look away from them as our eyes meet. But lately I’ve been doing something different. As I’m walking I’ll purposely let my eyes lock with those that I pass. I’ll resist my urge to look away and just continue staring right at them.

Sometime the people that I look at this way look away as I used to do. Other times though there is a small connection made. Sometimes it’s nothing more than just an acknowledgement between two human beings, a hey and a hey back. A polite, gentile acknowledgement from days past of two human beings crossing each other’s path.

Other times though I’m finding it turns into something more. The person will actually say something to me. Something playful or engaging. I respond in kind, maybe even stop and talk, and frequently these brief street interactions turn into actual conversations.

As I’ve always got my camera out, these friendly street interchanges oftentimes result in me being able to take a portrait of the person I’m interacting with.

Like today.

This is Bernard. I ran across him down on 6th Street in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Bernard gave me a great smile for a single portrait alone, but then this woman who was hanging out with him, Meliqua, decided to get into the photo as well. I think the two of them together are just beautiful. They really shine.

I showed Bernard the photo on my camera LCD and he really liked it. He asked if he could have a copy of it. I said sure and asked him how I could get it to him. He asked me to email it to the San Francisco Barber College and they could get it to him. I looked up the San Francisco Barber College on 6th St. in San Francisco and found it. I think I’m going to make a print and drop it by next week in person instead. I think he looks really happy in this photo and it’s one of my favorite portraits that I’ve taken this year.

Update: I tracked Bernard down yesterday and delivered a large print of this to him. He really liked it. He told me to come back anytime I wanted to take more photos of him. 🙂

Be Sociable, Share!
Loading Facebook Comments ...


  1. Andrew says:

    Great portrait; love it. I hope you do manage to get Bernard the print.

  2. Derrick says:

    Hi Tom,

    Many thanks for dropping in at my place and for your kind words about the poem your foosball image prompted. If you have been visiting the other folks at RWP you’ll know what a huge variety of poems has resulted from your one photograph!

    Your portrait today is great and both subjects look very happy. I also read you piece on the new Disney museum and the photography ban. Disney always seems to be very protective of their work! But I will take a look at your other Disney subjects.

  3. Maya says:

    I’ve been looking people in the eye for years. I originally did it to make myself look more confident, but eventually it became habit. It’s very interesting to see what people will do. It looks like it really paid off for you this time with these incredible portraits!

  4. katya says:

    This entire post makes me smile.