I was on the train – not last week, I think, the week before. Just pulling into Brighton, I had stood up to pack my things tightly in my laptop satchel and pull my gym bag down from the rack above.
I knelt with one knee on the seat (no shoes, obviously, not being a common train-animal) and happened to look over the top at the next set of four seats behind. And came upon a rather arresting sight. One bored commuter, who had clearly had been having an awful lot of trouble with the London Papers easy sudoku (which is not a judgement, for I am crap at them too) had completely given up and, as an alternative way of filling the time, had drawn the studious young man opposite her.
Without thinking – for, if Id thought about it, I would have thought that taking pictures of random strangers is not something I generally like doing – I whipped my camera out of my open bag, made sure the flash wasnt on, lifted it quickly above the parapet of the sprickly padded headrest, and captured her capturing him for posterity.
I thought she might know him, or idly assumed that that would be the case. But then, seconds later, as we arrived at the station, she put the newspaper down – picture facing the seat she had placed it on – stood up, and left the train without a word or a second glance at her model, as the train cleaners swept onto the train to clear away her art.
I found the whole thing oddly life affirming. This woman, secretly studying intricately the face of a stranger before putting the moment away and moving on. This man, oblivious to his portrait.
And, as someone commented on my original flickr picture, probably lucky, too, given his rather alarming reading matter