Alleys & Ruins no. 70, No Trespassing (2005, Bristol, VA)

This old bingo hall is beautifully lit. And the open door, along with the reflections, is the topper. But an open door might not stay open long and I know from experience as a photographer how quickly things change and how quickly a shot can be lost.

I set up fast, the light meter tells me nine minutes, and I lock the shutter open.

A few minutes later a young man walks out taking a bag of garbage to a dumpster out of the frame, to the left. The shutter is still open, and I’m hoping he won’t stop or he might leave a ghost image on the negative. He looks at me and stops. “What are you doing?”

“I’m taking a picture of the alley and the building. I like taking pictures of alleys.” Inside I’m saying keep walking, keep walking.

He looks at me strangely and walks to the dumpster, then goes back inside.

Minutes later, an older man walks out with a garbage bag. He looks at me and stops.

“What are you doing?”

“I like taking pictures of alleys and buildings at night.” Please keep walking.

“Why the hell are you taking a picture of my building?”

“I’m an artist. I take pictures at night.” Should I have asked before taking the shot? I don’t know, but now I’m worried it’ll be ruined. Please, please keep walking.

He storms off, dumping the garbage, and heads back to the building, slamming the door behind him. I look at my watch. Nine minutes!

Days later I look at the negatives and I’m thrilled: no ghost trails.

But I know they’re in there somewhere, scowling at me.

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