John Barclay, the Interview

I first met John when we were both sitting in the chairs behind the pulpit at church.  During the opening hymn he looked over, furrowed his brow, and while pointing to his ankles mouthed the words, “where are your socks?” 

John Barclay

They were of course in my sock drawer. 

 He has been mocking me for this, or any other thing he can come up with ever since.  I like to think I always come out the victor in these verbal sparring sessions, these exercises in maturity, but I respect that he keeps picking the fight.

Later that day I overheard him telling someone of this location he knew of that was great for photography.  It had graffiti, crumbling concrete, and a view of the Ben Franklin Bridge.  He professed a love for photographing urban decay. 

This is John's work... urban decay?

Upon hearing this I offered that I knew of the place he was speaking of, it was by my house, and that I had access to a place even better.  I furthered that if he was game I could grant him entrance, but only at an unreasonably early morning hour.  I didn’t know who I was dealing with.

This is a bit more urban decayish

 This was the beginning of John and I working together on a project that shall for the time being go unnamed.  I wasn’t just bragging, I really do have access to a great place, but what I didn’t realize is that John is not just words; he actually planned to follow through on our idle chatter.  Since that day in church I have spent early mornings with John in the bad part of town, on an abandoned pier, in a graveyard, and then shooting the breeze at various cafes over breakfast.

One must respect a grown man with bunny rabbits on his hat.
He takes great photos.  Not just good, but the kind of good where he gets published in magazines that specialize in publishing good photos.  He takes the kind of pictures where marketers of photo editing software use him in their advertising.  Not as in the use his pictures in advertisements, but advertise that he uses their product.  In the Hanes add, he is Michael Jordan.  He takes groups of people on trips to various exotic locales to teach them to be like him, or at least to take pictures like him.  People pay him for this.  But this isn’t why you would want to know John.

John's work at Cape May

I didn’t really realize why he was worth knowing till he invited me to be his guest at one of his presentations.  The presentation is called Dream Believe Create, and it is only partially about taking pictures.  He shows pictures, he talks about taking pictures, but the pictures aren’t the point.  Sitting intentionally inconspicuously in the back row of his performance I began to appreciate why I tolerate his presence.

He makes people like themselves.

Let me demonstrate: one day while shooting the grime and grunge in this place...

What a talent.  He has a way of making people feel liked and then points out why they are likeable to the point where one begins to believe he is right.  He is one part photographer, one part instructor, and ten parts cheerleader.  He is genuine.  He actually likes these people that he is convincing to like themselves and that is just plain pleasant to be around.  I could be the biggest buffoon around but after ten minutes with him I will be convinced I’ll one day work for National Geographic.

... John turns around a snaps this picture. My daughter is sitting in a truck tire, bored and impatient with these old people, and this is what he sees.

Perhaps this is why he is good at pictures.  He can see the good in people and in things and places.  Better yet, he not only sees the good, but he captures it and then shows it to you.

every now and then he needs to be taught a lesson.