What would be most surprising to me would be to see Akiro without a camera slung over his shoulder. If I were to consciously choose for myself a photographer role model, a peer to whose devotion to the craft of capturing artful pixels I would aspire with deliberate attention, I would most certainly choose Akiro. He, of course, would tell me to fuck off and get over it.
Long before I would have called Akiro a friend, our paths had collided with irregular frequency. Maybe it was just this crossing of our paths with apparent randomness but with a pattern that would become clearer as their persistence increased that generated the friendship itself. Familiarity often leads to fondness, I have heard. Respect, however, is a different beast altogether.
Akiro would first find me, colliding as complete strangers when I was a volunteer for the Fringe Festival, I carting my SLR over one shoulder as I captured the festive spirit that hung so thick in the in the air, he cornering me, spying my volunteer badge and then slipping a self-printed business card into my hand because he had six lenses for sale and if I didn’t want them maybe I knew someone who did. I didn’t and I didn’t. I threw away the business card.
A year later we met again at a night photography course that, frankly, he could have taught and because I’m certain he has never honestly enjoyed the company of other photography enthusiasts, there must have been a motive in his participation that I still don’t understand.
That an unacknowledged talent like Akiro lives in the same city as I do and that our fates cross as frequently as they have is amazing enough. That I discovered he lives in the same neighbourhood and haunts the same photogenic locales has been a blessing to my own efforts behind the lens.
I shouldn’t dare to stoke his ego any more than necessary by admitting more than a passing influence upon me, but truth be told Akiro is responsible for a great deal of what I would myself attempt to pass off as my own photographic talent. As I alluded to, I lurk in his shadow and aspire to model his skill with the camera, and I’m sure he both knows it and despises me for it. We are friends despite it all.
Yet the story of our unlikely confluence in the southwest corner of a middle-of-nowhere city is of little comparison to my meager attempts to emphasize the talents of this man and his cameras. Akiro is never without one. Often two. The click of a shutter. The buzz of an auto-focusing lens. The whine of a charging flash. These things shed from his fingertips and and flutter through the air around him, discarded in the ether as their energy is converted into patterns of pixels on a memory card. To emphasize that this is a man who lives to capture photos is a understatement of proportions I feel inadequate to the task of describing. He is a photographer and I am merely a man with a camera and our paths crisscross as if two lives illuminated by the blink of a flashbulb in the darkest of nights.
Still, I cannot share a single one of those photographs. I have seen many. I have envied the skill with which the world is imprinted upon them. But Akiro does not post them. He does not upload photos. He does not submit them to Facebook, nor Instagram cropped versions into social scrutiny. Instead he deletes nearly everything, and saves those he considers his best work to a thumb drive dangled from a key-chain he keeps in his pocket, discarding photos I would frame had I taken them and turning his nose at the slightest deviation from some ineffable notion of perfection.
I cannot share a single one of Akiro’s photographs, but I can share stories of our collisions and our conflicts. I can convey in words what those pixels have meant to me. Part of me thinks that he may not like it, but another part suspects he wouldn’t care in the slightest. It is just a story and not, after all, a photograph.