The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

John, author of the site Journeys with Johnbo, leads this week’s Lens-Artists Challenge with the topic, Faces in a Crowd. (Note: Some of my images in this post have appeared previously).

“Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?” ~ Pablo Picasso.

I vote, none. The photo, the mirror and the canvas each express a brief moment in time, and there is no single moment that can reveal the experiences that have been carved into the face.

Union Square, San Francisco, California.
The man in the photo below was sipping his coffee, while watching the world around him. This fellow has the look of one of San Francisco’s many street people. But, who knows, maybe he’s a retiree who decided to let go, be a little eccentric. He might just be spending a day at the park before going home to his million dollar San Francisco flat. In any event, he’s somebody’s son, maybe a father and a grandfather. There are stories in that face.

Chinatown, San Francisco, California. “The man is at the window,” said Jack Nicholson in Easy Rider.
I was walking around Chinatown, one of my favorite places to visit with a camera, when I looked up and saw this man lost in thought.

The artists.
Street artists and musicians are the low hanging fruit of street photography. Give ‘em a tip and snap away.

New Orleans, Louisiana.
This trombone player was accompanying singer/clarinetist, Doreen Kitchens at the corner of Royal and Bourbon Streets. When he wasn’t actively playing he was either huffing on a cigarette or a pulling from a beer bottle.

Art and Music Festival, Benicia, California

Madrid, Spain
I came across two different accordion players on the streets of Madrid. This man played the song, Time to Say Goodbye. The song accompanied by his sweet expression nearly brought me to tears. I lingered for a long time just taking in the notes.

In contrast, the man squeezing the box just outside Mercado San Miguel was visually adamant about some remuneration. When he saw me with my camera, his expression said, “You want a picture, you need to pony up.” I gladly obliged and he kept his end of the bargain.

Farmer’s Market, Ferry Building, San Francisco, California
This man also had a kindly aspect. He looks to me like he has some rough miles behind him.

Glamour. Madrid, Spain
Blanca Paloma is a Spanish singer with quite a following. On the way back to my hotel I caught her just as she was coming from a performance at Plaza Callao.

Blanca Paloma

Bits of life
Union Square, San Francisco, California
Playing kendama.

Selling Danger Dogs. Market Street, San Francisco, CA
In the midst of the bustle of Downtown San Francisco, this young woman was peddling danger dogs. Danger dog is the colloquial name for bacon wrapped hot dogs topped with onions and hot peppers, and cooked on a little street corner grill. The term danger dog comes from the fact that many of the vendors aren’t licensed by the health department. In other words, you take your chances. Take it from me, they’re worth any risk.


The soldiers
They perform the duties that most of us choose to avoid. Their jobs can be dangerous but they also require solemnity and a serious manner.
Arlington National Cemetery, United States.
These two Army soldiers perform the sacred daily service of the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

National Palace, Madrid, Spain
Just before touring Madrid’s National Palace we stopped to watch this military procession.


Best friend
Lexi. There are no words to describe this wonderful girl. She bugs me an hour before mealtime. She jumps up and wags her tail whenever I put on my shoes as if to ask, “Where are we going papa?” I went to the ballgame the other night and according to Cora, Lexi camped out by the door until I got home.

Old and In The Way
Old and In The Way, was the name of a bluegrass band back in the 1970s. Old and in the way is sometimes how I jokingly describe myself. One afternoon while trying to think about what to shoot, I decided to put my camera on a tripod, and using a cable release and the camera’s timer, took some selfies. I could’ve been kind to myself in post processing but I decided to leave the marks and crags of time.

“Wrinkles ? Why all the fuss ? Think of them as lines of distinction; marks of maturity.” ~ Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe

To view John’s take on Faces in a Crowd, visit his site, Journeys With Johnbo and then scroll through the comments where you’ll find links to other lens artists.

25 thoughts on “Facing the Lens Artists Photo Challenge

  1. I am really enjoying this photo challenge — the submissions are so interesting and full of variety!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you so much!

  2. I love your work! Your portraits are stunning. I can’t pick a favorite, they are all so well done. Nice job on the challenge!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you John for the kind comments and for leading.

  3. JohnRH says:

    Wow. GREAT selections. Those darn old people are everywhere! I can relate. The danger dogs sound yummy! (Anything with bacon is yummy, IMO.) 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you John. Danger dogs have increased my already high caloric intake at baseball games. After having my traditional, Sheboygan brat inside the park, once on the outside, headed for the car, I succumb to a danger dog.

  4. Well Paul, these are great portraits, all of them. Long time ago I’ve seen so many truly worthwhile pictures in a row. Wonderful job!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Peter. I’m glad you enjoyed my glimpse into the human soul.

  5. mistermuse says:


  6. Tina Schell says:

    You’re quite the portraitist Paul, these are truly beautiful You’ve captured the essence of each individual perfectly. My favorite it the 2 soldiers but I loved them all.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Tina.

  7. Anne Sandler says:

    Wow Paul, this post is simply amazing. You do photography like you write, capturing the heart and soul of a subject. I loved all of them, especially your selfie. Well done!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you so much Anne. The nice thing about self portraits is one doesn’t have to harangue the subject to cooperate.

  8. nesfelicio says:

    Beautiful work! These are excellent portraits.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you so much

  9. Jane Fritz says:

    Wonderful, as usual, Paul!

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Jane

  10. Deb says:

    Wonderful photos Paul- especially that “old guy” and his beautiful dog 🙂

    1. Paul says:

      Hi Deb,
      Thank you.
      The old guy

  11. Sofia Alves says:

    Awesome post. I can’t really pick a favourite, all so, so good.

    1. Paul says:

      Thank you Sofia. Much appreciated

  12. Toonsarah says:

    Wonderful portraits, all of them! In general I think I like best the monochrome ones, especially your homeless/retiree gentleman in Union Square (I tend to think the latter based just on this shot) and the first of your Madrid accordion players. But the Chinatown window shot in colour works well and I love the movement in the one of the danger dog seller 🙂 As for Picasso’s comment about ‘the photographer, the mirror, or the painter’ I would argue that each captures a face differently and none completely but perhaps a good portrait photographer comes closest?

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Sarah,
      Thank you so much. I agree with you on the monochrome. I have come to embrace that medium more and more. I was particularly inspired by a visit to an exhibition of Ansel Adams photographs at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco a few months ago.
      I never knew so many people played accordion. It seemed as if almost every other corner in Madrid had one.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  13. Leya says:

    You catch the essence of each person in your portraits. Great all of them. Your opener really speaks to me. God knows what he has been through.
    The army soldiers at the grave look like dolls – expressionless smooth faces …Love your selfie too – and that of your beautiful Lexi.

    1. Paul says:

      Hello Anne-Christine,
      Thank you so much for the kind words. “The army soldiers at the grave look like dolls – expressionless smooth faces.” What an excellent description.” They maintain those expressions throughout the entire ceremony and during their duty of standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.
      My selfie? Not so smooth. Ha!
      Thank you for visiting

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