When I went into the City to pick up the Elmar I introduced here a while back, I naturally brought a camera with me. I took the Leica IIIg with the Serenar 28/3.5 on it, with the idea that I would switch over to the new Elmar once I had it. On my way across town from Grand Central, I naturally passed through Bryant Park, one of my standard stops when shooting in NYC; there’s always something worth photographing there. Because I had the 28 on the camera, I also went into the adjoining NY Public Library and took a few shots of the architecture, which you can’t really do very effectively with anything longer. Having completed the transaction that got me the Elmar and screwing it onto the camera, I made my way back to the train, passing again through Bryant Park to try out the new lens. I stayed outside this time, but it was a nice day around lunchtime and there was no shortage of activity.
Inescapably, the world is becoming ever more cosmopolitan. More people, more communication, and more technology mean more exposure to the strange, the foreign, the other. Sometimes it’s taken entirely for granted – think, for example, how many different restaurants serving different cuisines originating in locations thousands of miles away you have within easy reach – while in other, rarer, cases it can be sufficiently encompassing that full awareness is unavoidable and overwhelming. In these latter circumstances, one finds the positions reversed, with the immediate surroundings transcending their broader context. Here, it is no longer the other imposing itself upon your world; it is you who are the other.
Not far away is a Buddhist monastery, decidedly out of place among the hills that saw American revolutionaries in the 18th Century and industrial revolutionaries in the 19th. Yet there it is, and once inside one becomes part of a very different world. There are, of course, intrusions that could easily upset the illusion, but they are also not so hard to look past, not so disruptive as to bring one irrevocably back to the expected. There, one easily becomes a stranger in a strange land.