On the streets of Dun Laoghaire.
This year I spent a lot more time chatting to the people who agreed to be photographed (and a memorable one who didn’t…) than taking photos. And I’m not sorry about it, it was very educational and I had some great chats.
On average, people are very forthcoming when it comes to having their portrait taken.
I mean, it’s not like your average day. It is the day when you chose to show your religion to the rest of the world, a day of true undeterred and proud belief in who you are and what you are about.
And I very much like that about Ash Wednesday.
The willingness and friendliness with which most of the participants lose all shyness in front of the camera, because today is a special day, because today they bear the Mark.
Who categorically refused to have her photograph taken. But who would not let me go either until she had me converted, or back on the right path.
When I asked her if I could take her photograph, she asked me if I was a Catholic.
I explained that technically yes, as I was baptised.
She told me to go the church and “get one done on your own forehead then” with no little amount of aggression in her voice.
I had to explain to her that I was baptised but never did my holy communion.
She was flabbergasted. And angry. But did not want to let me go at the same time (I was trying to move on).
She told me that baptism was the first step but that I had to “go all the way”, that there would be no afterlife for me (I wonder why she wanted me so badly to enjoy the delights of the afterlife when she obviously had no love lost for a miscreant like me).
I talked a little bit with her but rapidly realised that absolutely no dialogue was possible. I tried to make a polite escape (after all I was the one who had approached her) but she kept coming back at me with the most frightening beliefs. About the impossibility of choice. About converting people because they do not know, and the priests know better. About the necessity to convert Africa to Catholicism. Scary stuff really.
There was a lot of anger bottled up in her. I would have loved to take her photograph. I asked again at regular intervals but each time she asked me if I was a Catholic, “not unless you are Catholic!”. I was tempted to convert (or rejoin the flock) here and there, just to capture the exalted anger in her eyes.
But it was not be.
Next year maybe?