I stare at the woman. She stares back.
She’s blonde – strawberry blonde, I suppose. She looks like Catherine, that girl whom everyone hated in middle school. Thank God I haven’t seen Catherine since graduation. If I had to go to high school with her, I think I’d jump off a cliff. Six years of the Academy with her was most definitely more than enough.
The Catherine-woman is leaning on the windowsill of a red brick apartment building. She is holding her head in her hands and has a glum look about her, as if she just realized that she’s a bit overweight and has to start a diet immediately. On either side of her, there are stone, gargoyle-esque faces. The face to her left has a downcast, sad look about its expression. The face to her right is jeering and mocking. Three faces, all in a row.
Next picture. Jack Feder has taken a photograph of “Boy Scout In Window.” All the photographs in the gallery were taken circa 1970. This boy is probably all grown-up now. Maybe he even has a family. Maybe he’s a businessman or a doctor. Maybe I’ve seen him on the street before. He looks upset in this photo; I hope things turned out all right for him.
Girl With Venetian Blind. Drinking Soda. Old Man In Window. Two Children In Window.
Whoever this photographer Jack Feder is, he must have been a total creep back in the seventies. I don’t know what other type of person takes photos of random people through their windows.
What if the Catherine-woman saw the photo of her? She is likely eighty years old now. I wonder if she’d look at the photograph and say, “My, I still have that shirt today!”, or even, “Those were the good days, when everything was cheaper, the music was better, and Wally was still with us.” Or she could say, “Where did you get this picture of me? I don’t remember it being taken. Who is this Jack Feder man and why did he want my picture?”
It is strange to think that the people in these photographs have lives. I wonder what they thought of Jack and his camera capturing a second of their existence. I wonder if he asked them for permission before aiming his lens at their open windows and (click!) taking a picture.
I don’t think he did. I’m not sure how many of these people would want their face hanging in a high school art gallery for brainless, unworldly, self-absorbed English students to gawk at and then write a paper about.
They have lives. The Catherine-woman has a life. Maybe she did really have a husband or brother named Wally. Maybe the kids in Two Children In Window haven’t spoken since the eighties. Or perhaps they are best friends, and have lunch together every Tuesday at the diner around the corner from where they both work. Maybe they are blissfully unaware of the fact that they have been turned into a piece of art for people to stare at and overanalyze. Or they could, perchance, know about the existence of the photo and have searched Google in vain to find the whereabouts and name of the photographer.
These people probably didn’t get credit for appearing in the pictures. If they didn’t get credit, that would be unfair. If some strange man were to take a picture of me sitting in a windowsill and proceed to make money off the image of my face, I would want to be compensated.
None of the people in Jack Feder’s photographs look happy. I suppose Mr. Feder was trying to create a piece of deep and brooding artwork. Deep and brooding artwork is never happy. But maybe these people were in fact happy people; he just caught them on a bad day. I really hope their lives are wonderful. I hope everything has come together for these anonymous subjects. I hope they got everything they ever wanted, without having to pay the price. I hope they’re loved. I hope they’re happy. I wish them the best of luck. I really do.