A Life’s Work
Bright and early on January 1 found me doing what I really love to do: Heading to a photoshoot.
Well, actually, bright and early January 1 found me doing one of TWO things I love to do…
While I was, in fact, heading to a photoshoot, I first stopped off in one of my favorite New Jersey diners for breakfast.
The Roadside Diner, down at the intersection of Routes 33 and 34 in Wall Township, is the second-oldest diner in New Jersey. It was put down in this spot in the 1940s* and hasn’t moved
The Roadside has always been a favorite. I first started taking Olivia there when she was just a couple of years old.
I’ve taken visiting dignitaries there.
It was Chase’s first diner experience too.
I just love this joint, a Silk City original. This year, when I headed there, I had it in my head to make a portrait of one of the waitresses who usually waits on me. I was there last January 1, the only person in the place actually, and chickened out, didn’t take her portrait. I didn’t want that to be the case this year.
So, in me, my hungry belly and a camera strode. I slid back the door to enter the diner and took a booth at at the west end. I agree with Doc Holiday – Always sit with your back to the wall. Also, this gives me a good vantage point of the joint.
It was a bit busier than last January 1, when I was the only one there. And, alas, the waitress I wanted to shoot wasn’t there. “Works every other Wednesday,” I heard. January 1 wasn’t on her shift this time.
Oh well. I dug into my ham and tomato omelet and asked for another cup of coffee. As I sat there looking around, a gent in a white apron came out, wished the customers a Happy New Year. I had seen him in the there in the past, knew he was the owner and not just the cook.
So, option 2. I slid out of the book and went to the counter where he was standing. I extended my hand, introduced myself and gave him my card. He told me his name was Demetris**. I chatted with him a little and told him about my 100 Strangers project. I asked if I could shoot his portrait.
He was a little surprised, I think, but said yes, sure. Asked me where I wanted him to go.
The whole place had some nice light. When I do these things, though, I don’t feel it’s right to take up a lot of my subject’s time. Gotta get to it bang bang.
I asked him to just step out from behind the counter and sit on the swivel chair there. Wanted to get some of his environment and atmosphere in the shot.
I kept chatting with him to loosen him up a little. He told me the restaurant business has been his life’s work, been at it 42 years. He’s owned this diner for 16 years. We talked about his hometown in Greece (I missed the name), and if he got back much (not since 2010 but hopes this year or next).
As I started to shoot, though, a strange thing happened. While chatting, he seemed shy. Wouldn’t look at me while I was shooting. Kept looking away off camera.
Sometimes that best, really. Almost more real. For the purpose of my 100 Strangers project, I’m going with the one that leads off this post. But this one is my favorite, actually.
We chatted some more, he told me a little history about the diner. I promised him I’d drop him off a print of his portrait the next time I can swing by (and I will).
Though it was only a few minutes and a few clicks, I had to get myself going on to Asbury Park. And people were coming in. Demetris had to get back to work.
Another snap, I got a smile.
We shook hands. Demetris became #94 of my 100 Strangers Project. My next year of photography had started.
I pulled out of the parking lot, hit the next jughandle (often called a Jersey Left), and headed back down Route 33 to Asbury Park….
More to come….
*In speaking with Demetris, I could have sworn he told me The Roadside Diner had been there since 1932, making it second-oldest diner in New Jersey. Maybe I heard him wrong.
**I looked at the restaurant license on the wall and thought his name was spelled Dmitri. I’ll confirm either way when I drop the print off.
© Mark V. Krajnak | JerseyStyle Photography | All Rights Reserved 2014