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The Portal Guard

Updated: Jul 25, 2019

Portal Guard Portrait, Jerusalem Central Bus Station, July 2019

I saw him again, yesterday evening on my way into the station. A skip of joy happened within me when I realised it was him. I turned around with certainty about photographing him and even stood still with my camera ready for two minutes, hoping for a more direct portrait. He was intent on his thoughts though, and wasn't looking around. I let the arcade game behind him come more fully into the frame, for it suited the atmosphere of the emerging story.

The other day, when I first saw him, I had been looking at my toes. I hadn't even fully walked out of the nail salon where I had just gotten a pedicure. The vision of him and the scene he was creating, seen below, arrived first in the upper periphery of my sight. I immediately reached for the only camera I had on hand, my phone, and took the shot before he repositioned himself and left the scene.

The Portal Guard, Jerusalem Central Bus Station, July 2019

The moment in which I took the shot was a moment mixed with excitement and regret, in the way I believe all street photographers experience as par for the course, at least sometimes. It was an instance where a vision appeared that I connected to and that's instinctively exciting. But I was not set up to capture it in the way I would've liked, which felt regretful. Perhaps first out of regret, I looked at the above photo more than usual in the days after taking it. I was trying to find the story in it that could've been told, had I had the tools and time in the moment. If this image had sharp clarity and high resolution, I thought, the tones would've been the drama of the story.

Soon however, my natural relationship with street photography settled in and I saw the image only with curiosity. What is this picture about, as it is and as it came to be. Who is this guard, what is this portal, and why can't I see it all as clearly as we see our reality? This is the drama of the story. This is the story as it wanted to be told. A story set between realms. A feat of communication only more pronounced by the grain and pixelation. A portal to elsewhere has opened, and the guard beside it is standing poised, wearing light on his face that we can only begin to see.

When I saw him again, I saw him still in this story. I photographed him with a focus that felt playfully like a privilege as I clicked. We can see him clearly now. The arcade light behind him glows as if in the know of things like portals and dimension guards. The unreal is real, it says, and the real is unreal. I'm making this all up, yes, but doing so is a way to see.


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