Since I was small I’ve loved a photo in my father’s World War Two album of an Egyptian weighing fruit in a market. Recently I went to some fruit and vegetable shops and international grocery shops to try to catch someone weighing fruit, though I knew it would be on a modern set of scales. I found nothing of the kind; it was all weighed at the checkout. Even if I could get to a fresh fruit market, I doubt I’d see someone holding a scale like this man in an Egyptian marketplace. However, at a largish supermarket I did see a man working in the produce section where bananas were amusingly displayed. When the customers had momentarily cleared the space, I snuck a photo.
How is the black and white quality different in each picture? The old one has blurring around the edges and focuses on the piled-up dates as well as the man at the centre of the image, while the new one is clear right to the sides, top and bottom. The blurring in the old photo seems to be telling me a story, as though it’s an illustration. But the clarity of the new one doesn’t suggest any story to me. Perhaps it’s the way the dates fade out from the centre to the left edge, compared with the bananas sharply defined across the photo.
Not only the bananas can be picked out individually, but so can the apples on the left of the image as well as the potatoes on the right. The details in the new photo, taken on my Fujifilm X-E4 just a few weeks ago, are the advantage we have in today’s photography. But I’m learning about the storytelling virtues of the old black and white film photos, and it will be a good exercise to try to replicate it in my street photography.