Yesterday, the day in the life of a "Day in the Life of America" photographer was a surrealistic experience that should have been left to the imagination (and perhaps the camera) of a modern Man Ray.
From California to the New York islands, from the redwood forests to Washington, D.C., 200-plus photographers turned America into a 24-hour photo session, which, in turn, will be turned into a coffeetable book, a PBS documentary, a Newsweek magazine spread and, ultimately, just another day in the life of America.
And photographer Seny Norasingh of North Carolina was diligently documenting his assigned piece of America -- Gallaudet College -- while Washington documented him.
It was a day of self-perpetuating 35-millimeter echoes.
On the playground, as Norasingh weaved in and out of the swing sets and jungle gyms, Pattie Cinelli, the media relations coordinator for Gallaudet, explained that Channel 7 had shot its film in the morning -- while Norasingh photographed the Gallaudet Dance Company's rehearsal. Channel 4 would be around in the afternoon. "It's good 'cause they'll all have different pictures," said Cinelli.
"And I'll have pictures of all of them," Norasingh said quietly.
Draped in a brown and beige Domke ("The Rugged Professional") camera bag and two 35-mm Nikon cameras, Norasingh was stalked from the playground to the cafeteria, from the Computer Center to (coincidentally) the men's room, by another photographer -- who just happened to have a brown and beige Domke camera bag and two 35-mm Nikon cameras.
Which photographer was which?
As Norasingh bit into a tuna-and-cheese sandwich, Chester Panzer, the camerman from Channel 4, turned on his Sony BVU 50 recorder, aimed his Ikegami 95 and zoomed in on the bite. Norasingh wiped his mouth with a white paper napkin and the camera kept on rolling. When Norasingh reloaded his camera and held a yellow roll of film between his lips, Nancy Moore, photographer for the Gallaudet publication On the Green, captured the moment.
Media relations directors, public relations specialists, camera crews and print journalists stepped in and out of and back into the "Day in the Life" photographs.
As part of the national event, each photographer gave a Kodak Instamatic camera to a young amateur -- who was to shoot two disks' worth of yesterday's America and send it to Denver, the "hub" city for the project.
Norasingh turned the Instamatic over to 10-year-old Maureen Yates, a towheaded Gallaudet student, because he could "see creativity in her eyes." Maureen squandered her lunch hour taking pictures, and Norasingh took pictures of her taking pictures, and Channel 7 took pictures of Norasingh taking pictures of her taking pictures . . .
"It's pretty hard," Norasingh said of his entourage. "It makes me nervous. They don't see it, they don't know it, but they are in my pictures -- especially when I use a wide-angle lens."
"If I get in your shot, let me know. We don't want to get in your way," Panzer told Norasingh.
"Can we ask you a few questions? I don't want to disrupt you," asked Channel 4's Joe Krebs.
Lunch ended when Maureen hung her Instamatic from her wrist and dumped her hamburger in the trash can. Nobody got a shot of that.
And nobody got a shot of Norasingh not getting that shot.