When you travel as much as I do, a familiar face is always a welcome sight. Even if the face belongs to someone you don't even know.
Almost two years ago I went to the big food market in San Remo, Italy -just over the border from Southern France. I took a photo of a woman selling produce in the farmers' section of the market, where small farmers –mostly old ladies- sell produce they've grown themselves. She had a small, unexceptional stall selling a mound of potatoes and a few heads of curly Savoy cabbage: it was November and the pickings were slim. I took a shot –she looked away, playing coy for the camera, smiling only after the camera dropped back around my neck. It was one unremarkable shot amongst the hundreds I took that day.
I saw her again when I was back in San Remo just a few weeks ago. I recognized her immediately. She had the same enigmatic –at once friendly and severe- look on her face. Her arms still crossed, she was still playing coy for the camera. Her stall was livelier this time around: a big pile of fragrant lemons, young fava beans still in their pods, tiny, tasty épine artichokes with those intimidating thorns. The season was Spring, and she looked like she had just a bit more spring in her steps, with a little make-up on this time, and might have even lost some weight and gained a few more gray streaks in her hair.
I smiled and gestured toward my camera, tacitly asking permission
like I always do. She grinned back, if only for a moment, a sparkle of
recognition flashed across her face. It was fleeting but I could swear
it was really there.
I took my shot, mumbled a quiet grazie, and walked away. Perhaps I'll see her again some day.