Photo Prose

By Gary Rabenko

Someone dropped a heavy theatrical lighting cabling from a 15-foot height. He did it without looking to see what was below. I was below!

It merely grazed my face after the briefest of snags on my eyeglasses–brand-new frames and lenses that I invest in periodically so as to be best visually equipped.

I was shocked that someone rigging heavy gear would just toss gear from a scaffold without looking out below to see who was nearby. He had been there for quite a while. Many were working below. I’d walked back and forth various times. Earlier, when I’d hesitated, he’d assured me it was OK. He was nice and charming. That was 15 minutes earlier.

Now, seconds after the cable deflected off my brow, snagged briefly on my spectacles, and, with snake-like charm, landed with a thud two feet from me, I was jolted. He was not. He was obviously not only careless but carefree. Reflexively, I yelled, as one would be expected to after narrowly escaping a bullet. That is when the next problem occurred.

Now, if I’d just totally ignored this assault, one might actually question my calm. Am I so deep in thought that fires around me smolder and yet I proceed unaware, unfazed, and unconcerned? I am supposed to be a good technician. I am supposed to care. I am supposed to be sensitive. Well, what the heck! I mean, there were clients, family, and friends, venue personnel, catering staff, decorators, and so on, and he just tosses a cable without looking, without caution? I was shocked. And yet, the most offensive word out of my mouth, accompanied no doubt by a piercing gaze through my displaced eyewear, was the innocent “Hey!” followed naturally with a follow-up “What are you doing?!?”

Sure, this was to be a big event in a big hotel, and it would be a long day filled with excitement, pressure, and responsibility. But that this true of every day I am working an event. I was not stressed, worried, or in any way less than calm. Everything was as I expected. That is to say, nearly everything was far from being ready, and potential problems loomed in every direction. Exactly what every event is fraught with, when one is involved at a very advanced level of performance and an even greater bar of expectation.

But my gut, visceral response was, I insist, quite human and natural. It was not that much different from the occasional time I have moved back without looking while hunting for a shot, only to find that the space into which I suddenly moved was already occupied. That is just a small human bump, not a heavy cable with hard ends that could hurt. Yet, in most cases, men respond with irritation and women respond with greater bile. Then I am humble, apologetic, and embarrassed, always. So I was confused, because his reaction was rather different.

He got upset . . . militantly upset. As if he were ready to go ballistic. “It was an accident!” he yelled, so all could hear. I never said he did it purposely. After all, how could he have known these were new glasses equipped with two new lenses!

What struck me far harder than his cable was that somehow he justified his being upset with me for my irritation and outburst, but refused to see that my action, my outburst, my shout was likely done with as little thought as his cable drop. He felt my reaction justified his continued anger at me, whereas he felt the physical action he instigated, which could seriously have done injury, was something that should figuratively as well as literally roll off my shoulder–or, in this case, my face!

He refused to apologize. He insisted it was an accident, as if accidents are not preventable and thus not something to express remorse over.

I knew it was an accident, just like the cop knows it was an accident the time you hit the gas instead of the brake.

But the individual insisted that I should not be angry. How could I not be angry? Maybe “angry” is the wrong word, I kept thinking. Perhaps “seriously concerned that his mind is diseased” would better describe my view. It’s a small-minded selfishness that has no place at a beautiful simcha.

Had the cable end hit me differently, it might have impacted my eyeball. As the lead photographer of a large crew, this would have been rather disastrous! It could have hit a bulb in my gear that was lit, spewing hot glass fragments in all directions. They say the show must go on and, for a pro, getting the best images possible is the essence of the show. The last thing I wanted was to get distracted with a non-issue. But what certainly should be an issue, is the recognition that righteous indignation at times is justified, is to be expected, and can serve well to avoid future and more serious occurrences. I walked away. I focused my thoughts on the beautiful people getting ready to pose for my camera and my wonderful clients, for whom my personal attendance means so much.

Hours later, unexpectedly, his boss apologized. He was wrong. And she was sorry. I realized then that maybe the man had been shouting out for her benefit. She could have fired him and was visibly concerned, I could tell. That worried him and frustrated him. Probably there often are people below. Probably this was not his first incident. Probably he is sick of apologizing and admitting a mistake. How important it is that we actually learn from mistakes, get a grip, and tighten up our performance. Repeated mistakes followed by repeated apologies fly in the face of logic, and to me, have always been frustrating, offensive, and costly. v

Gary Rabenko can be reached at Rabenko Photography & Video Artists is located at 1001 Broadway in Woodmere.


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