BOJAN'S BLOG

Photographs, words and sounds

Samo da mu guzica vidi puta

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I have a terrible case of cabin fever. I can hear my mom muttering as she reads this: “Samo da mu guzica vidi puta.” If only his ass could get on the road. She is right, of course. A trip would be a cure. Istanbul or Paris would be nice. Sarajevo or Venice. Havana. Montreal would do. Anywhere, really, where I could be a flâneur- an admirer of street life. A week of walking unfamiliar streets would be a bliss. Susan Sontag, who got so much wrong about photography, never understood that it is not about the hunt in “urban inferno,” but about feeling the energy of human interactions and ideas playing themselves out in a swirl of street life. A flâneur (or a boulevardier) is, to borrow Baudelaire’s phrase, “a gentleman stroller of city streets. An observer and a dispassionate chronicle of street life.” It doesn’t have to be a city –I’d love a long hike in the countryside, through a small village or a town just as much.

There is a certain amount of masochism involved in trying to be a street photographer in St. John’s. Tapping into the energy of empty streets is a terribly depressing thing – or maybe it is a sign of optimism. Look at the guy in the photo above. Every time I see him playing his accordion to empty streets, I feel he’s the most optimistic person I ever met.

This is not a unique St. John’s problem or even a Newfoundland problem, although it is certainly striking in a place like Corner Brook on the West Coast where the city centre feels like a ghost town.

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It’s actually unsettling to walk those streets. A walk on an empty street has that same claustrophobic feeling of one of the most brilliant movie scenes ever shot – the waiting scene from “High Noon.” (In fact, every photographer should watch that film over and over again – Floyd Crosby is the brilliant director of photography.)


Listening to the recent discussion on the radio about parking downtown, I am convinced that this lack of street life is in large part, if not exclusively, direct product of the bizarre car culture we live in here. Every decision we make is based around cars. Where are you going to locate your business? Wherever you can get parking. What is the guiding priority for a location of a new university facility? Parking. Farmers’ Market location? Well, wherever we can get parking. It’s a completely bonkers way to organize urban life, but there you go. And than a breath of fresh air comes from the president of the Board of Trade of all people. On a CBC morning show he talks about the need for a public transit strategy and how regional transportation should be one of the issues in the coming municipal election. He says a lot of other things and he gets all of it right. I feel like cheering him on.

After the interview, the CBC morning host asks the listeners something along the lines “So and so from the Board of Trade says parking should be an election issue. Do you agree?” And I scream at the radio: “No! No! No! That’s not what he said!” But there you have it, parking trumps everything.

Off I go to photograph empty streets… or maybe mix a Boulevardier.

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