If it be now, 'tis not to come;
if it be not to come, it will be now;
if it be not now, yet it will come.
The readiness is all.
Got Hamlet on my mind, I suppose, not having read the play in years then just now going over it again. Hamlet is thinking about mortality in Act V, not taking pictures. Nonetheless, I think of Hamlet when I see this almost sublime portrait again, having now heard its story.
The photographer is Steve McCurry, and his photographs are immensely wonderful. His "Afghan girl" is iconic. All I have to do is put those two words together and a ton of people know exactly the image I'm talking about. National Geographic uses it every time they can.
This one--I don't know if it has a name or title--was taken, obviously, from inside the car. This mother and child just happened to approach his car on a rainy day in India somewhere, I heard him say yesterday, and he had the camera out. Voila! an almost perfect portrait.
Feels for all the world like serendipity, doesn't it? But it would be more serendipitous had I been in the car and not Stephen McCurry. After all, McCurry's the one with the treasure trove of great portraits from India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. But then, he himself says this one was almost the luck of the draw, the consummate "act of God." He just happened to have the camera beside him when an Indian madonna and child walked up to the car. Snap.
Wish life was--a snap, that is. The older I get the more I realize that neither Hamlet nor Steve McCurry are all wrong. Sometimes, success--and horror too--is simply a matter of being at the right place--or the wrong one--at the right or wrong time. Think of all those people stranded in Europe right now, a fog of billowing volcanic ash in the air.
It's inhuman to believe, really, that our stories have already been told, even as we're living them, that our footsteps lie as traceably before us as behind, And it's just as true that Steve McCurry has taken dozens and dozens of exposures for some of his other famous shots. Not everything that happens is serendipitous.
But some things are. Some things just are.
All you can do is smile. And have your camera ready. The readiness is all.