documenting worlds
photography by annie appel
film-based work *
1987
At nine o'clock on a Sunday morning I set up my backdrop and 4x5 view camera at
Pershing Square, a park in downtown Los Angeles. A few people, roused from sleep
by my unloading of equipment, watched carefully as I transformed a corner of their
living place into an impromptu studio. In the fifteen minutes that passed between
setting up and waiting for the first person to approach me, I was filled with doubt.
What if no one wanted to be photographed?  Did I dare to approach individuals and if
so, whom would I select?

"Let go of control, Annie, and just have a little faith," I told to myself.

"What are you doing?" asked a friendly voice. I turned to see that the voice came from
a man, well over six feet tall, with a smile that seemed nearly as wide.

"I'm giving you a free photograph of yourself, what do you think of that?" I replied.

"Great, what do I have to do?" asked the man.

"I ask two favors of you: first, tell me what it is that makes you happy, and second,
think about that when I snap the shutter."

Using a polaroid back on my camera, I was able to give each person an instant print of
the image I captured. The only difficult part of my day was explaining that the
photograph was not a gift, but rather an exchange.

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