Is this my best ever picture?


There's a story here. This picture was taken in a French village in the Languedoc. This is the square in the middle of the village and a group of men are sitting on a bench as you can see. There are leaves in front of them, even though it was high summer and there is a bicycle at each end of the bench. The inscription on the building 'Ecole de Garcons' means boys school. I and my wife Ann together with two friends were walking around the village and when I saw this I desperately wanted to photograph the scene but since they were all looking at me, I couldn't bring myself to do it. However the men saw very clearly what was happening and they all starting laughing. They then indicated that I should take their picture. I got off two frames of Fuji 50 with my Pentax 645 and 45mm lens (28mm in 35mm). I thanked them, waved and left. 

A while later the image was used as the lead picture in a book about visiting France and later in a magazine. The editor of that magazine then got in touch with me to ask when the picture was taken. It had apparently gone on display in the town hall as some of the men had died n the meantime and the village wanted to know the date. 

So a somewhat poignant story and one that symbolises for me everything that is good about photography. It's one of my favourite pictures, that's for certain and the content couldn't be better if I had posed it. There is a somewhat sad back story and I can remember the whole episode in some detail. For me it's 'street photography' or more accurately social documentary photography at its best and I like the picture even more because it was shot with the subjects permission and in a friendly, non intrusive and welcoming manner. I'm actually very proud of it and if I ever get asked to provide just one image to show what I have achieved photographically, it would be this one. Not what I shoot normally that's for certain, but probably all the more meaningful for me because of that. And yes it is the best picture I have ever taken and I'll need something pretty special to top it.