My First Published Photograph

It began with a shout from a passing car.  “Stop! Stop right there, I’ll be right back! It’s important!”  My friend, a tall, gaunt, bearded, fellow student at my university who had been walking along beside me gave me a look that said, “WTF and should I pay any attention to that guy?” My thought exactly.  Without saying anything, we walked on.  We had made it less than a block when an overweight, middle-aged man who would been a casting company’s dream pick for a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman caught up with us, panting from the effort of chasing us down.

“You look just like Jesus!” he gasped.  The man grabbed my friend’s arm and turned him from side to side, viewing his profile from different angles. “I want to make posters of Jesus!  I want to sell to the religious market.”  Adding under his breath, “That’s where the money is.”  He would pay my friend a percentage of every poster sale, he said, and he would see his face everywhere.  He would find a photographer and they would start right away.

“I’m a photographer!” I interjected so he would see that not only had he found Jesus, but a photographer as well.  I had a camera … I did take photos … so maybe just one Pinocchio.  He was impressed with the serendipitous encounter.  “Just take some test shots and get them to me,” he panted as he hurried back to his car.  “You look just like Jesus, man!” and he was gone.

Over the next few days we shot some clichéd photos: Jesus on the water; Jesus on the mount; Jesus walking on the railroad tracks balancing with outstretched arms; and delivered them by mail to the address on the man’s card, hopeful that we were headed toward financial solvency (the bar was low back then).  But our dreams were crushed as the weeks went by with no reply by mail.  No one answered the phone number on his card. 

We moved on, thinking it was a fitting end for such a bizarre beginning. It wasn’t really over, though, because after month or two I found Jesus.  I had traveled to another city and had made my way through most of the shops in the artsy district of town when I stepped into the poster shop.  There was Jesus, walking on the rail with outstretched arms, right next to the poster of the two copulating hogs with the caption “Making Bacon.”  My photo on the wall of a poster store — I was a published photographer!

It took about three weeks to track down the vacuum cleaner salesman again.  When confronted he blew it off as, “just testing the market” before he contacted me to arrange for payment.  But in the meantime he said he had something even better in mind for me.  He needed a manager for his newly-acquired store, Tomorrow Today, a two-story headshop.

To be continued . . .  how Tomorrow Today leads to making films for Chile’s Allende.