Minority Report

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It was some years ago, in Jersey City, U.S.A. that I saw this girl, on a chilly day in early November. She was walking slowly through an alley with her hands full and her head down, searching for something. She seemed so intent that I thought the scene was worth a picture.

It’s certainly not the glamorous “America” most people here have in mind. When they think of America they think of spectacular casino shows in Las Vegas, glittering skyscrapers in New York, forests of giant redwood trees in California, everything clean and bright and shining.

But this picture is actually a very American scene, typically American in fact. It’s an alleyway in Jersey City; but nothing about it locates it there. This alley, this girl, could just as well be in Cleveland, or Chicago, or Kansas City, or almost anywhere in the U.S.

Most of America looks like this. Blank alleyways, streetcorners, waiting rooms, parking lots; a few people passing through them on their way somewhere, looking for something, heads down against the wind.

These places are not rich, not poor, neither exciting nor dangerous, just drab; places to pass through on your way to somewhere else. If you’re an American, this is what you see, most of the time.

But this girl in the cold alleyway might imagine herself escaping from these drab surroundings someday- to a “Tropical Paradise”, a place like Thailand, or Bali, or Dumaguete. And she would imagine:

Forests of waving coconut trees, attractive smiling people in colorful strange costumes, exotic foods sizzling on open fires on white sand beaches, with clear warms seas to swim in. But she’s thinking of ads she’s seen for beach resorts- places no more typical of ordinary life here than Las Vegas shows are typical of America.

Beach resorts and Casino shows actually exist, but no one lives in them, or not for long. They live between here and there, through alleyways, side streets, sari-sari- stores, schoolyards. And these places must be captured by artists and photographers to give a true picture of what it really means to be alive, ninety percent of the time.

The girl in the alley in Jersey City- what was she doing there, what was she looking for? I don’t know, and probably she wouldn’t remember either. But this picture still remains- of that moment, that feeling, of that ninety percent of the world.


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