A trickle of sweat ran down my overheating cheek.
Tens of thousands of strangers were shouting at me, pointing, there was no place to hide as I made my way down the street…..
No, It wasn’t an angry mob finally forming over my reluctance to get a proper job in 2.5 years. There were no pitchforks or not even a single rotten tomato was thrown in fury. it was the Independence Day parade and I found myself right in the middle of it!
For the first time ever, I wasn’t on the outside bumping elbows with onlookers. I wasn’t having slushies, random fried objects, and all the other filth that Americans feel the need to eat at parades spilled all over me…I was actually in the street where the action was!
Tops in Lex, the local magazine that I have been shooting pictures for invited me to walk with them in the parade. It was a strange experience, with literally thousands and thousands of eyeballs burning down on me from windows, bridges, and the sidewalks. It was also exhilarating. We had a limo, mostly for show, and all of us swarmed the streets in our dangerously yellow T-shirts to join the politicians, midgets, and other oddities that you find in a parade.
I was shooting like a pissed off postal worker….in all directions, I would shoot bursts of 5 or more pictures at everyone that would hold still for me. And there were a lot! We were received extremely well, maybe it lends some credibility actually walking in the parade, or maybe everyone was overwhelmed with a sense of patriotic duty to step in front of my camera…either way, my Nikon could barely keep up. Familiar faces, friends, and old coworkers, would shout at me from the sides as I would run over to say hello and snap a burst of photos before running to catch up with our limo.
We had the Republican party wagon bringing up our rear and whenever I would fall back or we would pass through a specific section of the crowd, the boos and hisses would come from both sides. Sometimes so passionately that I would run to catch the limo before a hail of bullets (or tomatoes) came. They were probably the same people that care so much about politics they let campaign signs pop up in their front yards like ugly little dandelions. Bleh.
Since we were in the middle of the parade, it was just like being in an ARMY road march. The smart soldiers always get near the front, because we know that after a while the accordion effect begins and you find yourself running to close the gaps with the people in front of you. By the end of the one hour parade, we were all pretty well exhausted and plans of hanging out downtown to soak in the glory and new celebrity status soon crumbled.
Any photographer will tell you that the most important part of a portrait is to capture someone’s eyes. In one hour, I had shot 260 pictures of people and interestingly, I could see a fresh excitement in their eyes, a rare little spark that I don’t get as often when shooting events. Maybe its because they grew up watching parades, or maybe its because this was something different – a break from the drudgery of grinding through life. But it was there….and I managed to capture it which was beautiful. It looked like happiness.
With all the flag waving, cigar chewing, Americanism going on I probably would have re-enlisted back into the army on the spot. It was nice to be reminded that Independence Day isn’t just all about Will Smith’s snappy comebacks to some alien.
As much as I love to travel, I’m ecstatic to return home to a country where we can have obnoxious parades, shoot illegal fireworks afterward instead of AK-47s in the air, and party until sunrise. To top it all off, thanks to some brave farmers back in the day, we don’t pay tax to a queen either. Woohoo!
Life is good.