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Two Benches on Two Coasts: Street Photography Moments

Four folks on a bench in San Diego, California, in 1977.
Four folks on a bench in San Diego, California, in 1977. Photograph © Stewart M. Green

I’ve always been a street photographer at heart, walking with a camera and grabbing shots as life happens on the avenue of life. And me, the image-maker being present as the surreptitious point and shooter, the fly on the wall, the documenter of people and events and moments.

Those moments are the most important thing. A frozen moment in time that will never happen again. A moment that glimpses a different world that is inhabited by unknown people that are simply going about their daily lives. Those moments tell a story to us, the viewer of the photograph. What is that person doing? Where is she from? Does he have a family? Why are they here? Here being that intersection of time and space with me, at the very moment that I click the shutter.

From the first images that I took with my first camera, a Kodak Brownie Hawkeye, in 1963 when I was ten years old on Kodak 160 black-and-white film, I documented my world. I took photographs of our flocks of geese and ducks, our black-and-white collie Rip, my brothers and sisters, my solo hikes up North Cheyenne Cañon, camping trips, and local streets and storefronts.

Later I bought my first SLR 35mm film camera, a Canon Ftb with a 50mm lens, from Jimmie Dunn in 1972 and embarked on the road to becoming a photojournalist.

Here are a couple of Kodachrome photographs that I shot on opposite sides of the continent 12 months apart. One is an image of four people, three women and a man, sitting on a Pacific Oceanside bench in San Diego in July 1977. The other photo also shows three women and a man sitting on a bench beside the Atlantic Ocean on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, New Jersey in August 1978.

I like the symmetry of these two moments—six women, two men, two benches, two oceans, 1,414 miles of distance between the two points, 12 months of elapsed time, and one photographer.

Of course, these are but two of my series of bench photographs spanning all the years since I took these shots, but these two, I like these.

Four people on a bench in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1978.
Four people enjoy a view of the Atlantic Ocean from a bench in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1978. Photograph © Stewart M. Green


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