The student was sitting on a bench beside North Quad Residence Hall. As I approached, standing over her to make a photograph, she abruptly rose, leaving her books and purse behind her, and ran off. Later she would claim that she thought the pinhole camera I wore, tied to my skull by twine, was a bomb. This was the early stage of testing out a new kind of camera I have now completed: one that you don’t use with your hands, and one that is anything but discreet, a “jaw-operated pinhole camera.” With the device functioning, I packed up and headed to New York City, where I had a month long class — and where I planned on experimenting with a rather obtrusive type of street photography.
Based on the reactions I got on the street after testing the new pinhole camera in Ann Arbor, I was apprehensive about using it in New York City — a place where, as one of my advisors pointed out, was once “literally under attack.” However, as I began affixing the handmade pinhole camera (a matchbox body with an aluminum can aperture) to my head, I realized that in a city as avant-garde as New York, literally no one gave a damn about what I was wearing on my head. In fact, I ended up moving more stealthily as a street photographer because it seemed when I put the device on, I looked strange enough to fall into the “don’t look at him even once; he is crazy” category. You see, in New York, the unusual are ignored; people are too busy to honor their presence unless they can create “something” out of them.
In this case, I made something out of the normal: people in transit, signs, people on cell phones. Most did not even notice me, erasing off-putting images from their minds.