I've taken lots of photographs since I did this one in 1978. And I've used some of the best equipment in the world in the process. But even though the resulting images are far sharper, much higher resolution and in many instances nearly grainless, this one image remains one of my very favorite. I was in Paris for the first time as an adult. I'd bought a Canon QL17 camera just a month or so before I arrived. I knew next to nothing about photography. I didn't know how to read and exposure meter and didn't own one. My friend, Alan Pogue, lent me some Ansel Adams books and told me to shoot Tri-X film. He suggested that I shoot it all at ASA 200 and that he would show me how to develop it when I returned to Austin.
It was early on a September weekday morning and my girlfriend and I were out walking, headed for Printemps to have breakfast in the rooftop cafe. I had the little camera in my hand and a very tattered backpack over my shoulder. I looked ahead and saw this woman coming toward us. I lifted the camera tried to quickly line up the rangefinder in the viewfinder and I snapped one frame and she hustled past.
It was months later that I developed that roll of Tri-X and weeks after that when I made my first feeble prints. The negative was underexposed, grainy and out of focus. I must have tried reprinting it 50 times over the last 32 years. I finally decided that I liked the image enough to ignore the negative's negatives. And now I have a print of the image over my desk.
I've never bothered to ask anyone else if they like the image and I'll never be able to separate the amalgam of my feelings that come to the surface when I try to evaluate it's objective value. But I've come to understand that the day I made a print of this image is the day I decided to become a photographer.
We think of audiences and influences when we create our careers but mine started with a slice of time captured on a loud city street on a brisk autumn morning.
And I've spent the last 32 years looking for more images like this. Do I care if this image is sharp?