I’m not a great person to walk around a city with. I see things. I stop. A lot.
That’s what happened on Bainbridge Street in Philadelphia when I paused to talk with an interesting human sitting on a bench who caught my eye. He exuded a bohemian irie vibe that my lens found impossible to ignore. I wanted to make a portrait of him. Sorry. I needed to make a portrait of him.
Taking a picture is easy: point the camera and click the button. To make a portrait, you have to put the camera down. You have to talk to the person you want to shoot. Your camera has to capture the story beyond the light reflected off your subject.
“Would you mind if I made a portrait of you?” It’s that simple. It really is. It elicits a yes or no response. Most often it’s yes. Once that’s out of the way, it’s just a matter of letting down your guard and being curious and genuinely interested in the lives of others. Of being human.
His name is Ezekiel. He’s the son of Isaiah Zagar. You may not know his father’s name, but you probably know his work if you’ve ever visited Philadelphia. Isaiah is the artist behind the famous Magic Gardens gallery space on South Street.
Zeke’s apple didn’t fall far from his father’s artistic tree. As we spoke, I learned he played a pioneering role in the punk music scene. He was a founding member of a band called Flag of Democracy (commonly known as F.O.D.) and co-founded McRad, one of the bands in the first wave of skate punk that eventually spawned today’s more mainstream acts like The Offspring and Blink-182. Today, he plays guitar for the Philadelphia-based band, Kingsound, founded by Paul “H.R.” Hudson. H.R., whose initials stand for “Human Rights,” was the lead singer of the legendary hardcore/reggae band Bad Brains formed in the late ‘70s.