The Image: Mike Peters, Man with hands behind back at the Easter Parade, NYC, 2010

© Mike Peters, Man with hands behind back at the Easter Parade, NYC, 2010

This was taken at the Easter Parade on 5th Avenue in New York City in 2010. I had never been to this event before.

Immediately before making this photo, I had been speaking with Mary Ellen Mark who shoots here every year. We lamented the state of the business and congratulated each other for continuing to use film. My photograph of her on Flickr continues to get looked at every day here.

Like the Halloween and Mermaid parades in NYC, this is generally an event where people get decked out in something outrageous so they can be the center of attention for a little while. And, like most parades, I found those people who wanted to be photographed, the least interesting.

So, not being at all interested in the people wearing the outrageous costumes and posing for all of the other photographers, I did what I always prefer to do, which is to troll the periphery. And, within about 2 minutes of concluding my conversation with Mary Ellen, this gentleman, whom I had seen from a distance earlier strolling by, was stopped and looking at someone to his left. As I raised the camera he turned to look at me.

His posture and the forward jut of his chin fascinated me, as did his hat and glasses. The hands clasped behind the back, as they had been earlier, left him open to the world as it was unfolding in front of him. He struck me as a man from another time, an earlier New York City that seemed to be a haven for men who looked like this. His chin held high, his hat crumpled just so, his mustache and even his pants so high up on his waist seemed to describe a real character to me.

But it's his glasses which shroud his gaze a bit, but not too much, that intrigue me the most. They hint at what I imagine to be a deep reserve in which he holds himself back. In short, this man seemed very dignified and real to me, unlike the posers waiting for a crowd of gawkers. To me he is a man onto which I could graft any number of imagined stories. He was here to see the spectacle just as I was, and in that, we were the same, and in his steady gaze I saw myself.