It was Friday afternoon and I was editing images in my office, suddenly, an odd noise from outside the window startled my two cats who were sleeping on the filing cabinet next to my desk. When you live on the 5th floor of an apartment building in New York, you don't expect odd noises right outside your window, but a quick peek revealed a man painting the fire escape. I knew right away I had to take his picture.
Obviously, his paint-covered clothes and the brick red color of the primer paint caught my eye, but the most compelling reason to photograph this hard working man was the story in his face. It was clear that he's been working all day and was tired, but who was this man, how did he become a fire escape painter? I asked if he needed anything and in a heavily accented voice he said, "water". While he gulped two glasses of water I asked if I could take his picture, "English no good", he said, shaking his head. I picked up my camera and pointed from it to him and he said, "sure". I climbed out the window. There was no posing, no direction; I only took 5 shots. The painter just stood there, naturally, with an air of both pride and exhaustion.
I was proud too, proud that I didn't let the moment pass without creating a memorable interaction; it would have been easy to ignore him outside my window. Instead, I got to meet one of the many every day working people who make this great city run and to create a beautiful portrait at the same time. I made a 5x7 print of this shot and will give it to him next week when he finished the job.