BEHIND THE MOMENT is a series where I take you in depth with my personal work. Exploring scenes, shots, and ideas.


The other side of Pike Place Market

Light rain with temps in the low 40’s. Typical weather people shit on Seattle for. Personally, I like the rain and the cold. Rain purifies the city and the cold quiets things down. I was on my couch wrapped in an Andean blanket my grandfather got Paulina and I for Christmas. I was feeling lazy, the kind of lazy where it's a struggle just to get up to go pee. I was considering breaking the promise I made to myself of going to take photos at Pike Place Market. Why Pike Place? Why late at night?

Months ago after dinner, Paulina and I took a stroll around the market after it had closed for the day. The stillness was surreal. Empty and quiet, it was a side of the market that I’d never experienced. It was a dream come true for an introvert like myself. I vowed to come back to capture it.

Paulina was getting ready for bed and I continued to fester on the couch. I was in a self-made dilemma: Do I take the easy way out and go to bed? Or do the uncomfortable thing that will cause me to grow as a photographer? Whenever I feel like taking the easy path, I think of self development mantras I’ve been learning over the past couple years. This night, Dr. Anders Ericsson, the expert on what it takes to be an expert, popped into my head. Doc says, “if you haven’t done something for a long time, your ability to do it decreases.”

If I wanted to become a better photographer, I needed to get off my juicy booty, battle the elements, and head down to the market. I put on my favorite waterproof convertible pants, kissed Paulina goodnight, and headed out the door.

I got to the market and it was empty. Fuck yeah. There was no hooting and hollering from the famous fish toss, no confused tourists blocking the walkways, nada. The stillness of the market wrapped around me like my warm Andean blanket. The only thing moving was melted ice from the fish pit running along the uneven market floor. Nothing was perfect here; asymmetrical everything. There was cobblestone, steel, brick, fish guts, gum - you name it. It was unstable, yet relaxing. Pike Place was asleep, recharging for the next day.

“FUCK YOU, YOU CUNT BITCH!” echoed through Post Alley and Pike Place. It was Seattle’s well-known misogynist homeless man. He was shirtless, exposing scars so large I could see them from a distance. His hair long, greasy, and ice cold. Paulina and I had ran into him before. He walks around berating women, walking right up to them and calling them derogatory names. It’s awful. With so much hate for women, it makes me wonder. Was he neglected by his mother? abused? raped? Or was he born with a mental illness and abandoned by his family? I feel sad because all those scenarios seem plausible. The man seems harmless tonight, but not willing to find out if that’s true, I move along.

I pulled out my Fuji X-T2 and got to work. I started scanning the market to see what jumped out at me. Some left over flowers from the Hmong farmers, chairs stacked on tables, wrapped up cooking equipment.

I quickly find out that the 35mm (~50mm equivalent) f/2.0 that I rented isn’t doing anything for me tonight. It’s not wide enough. It's limiting me. It's boring. I mount my 16-55mm f/2.8 and find comfort. I prefer to shoot wide. It's probably because I come from filmmaking. I want my photos to feel like shots from a film; like their part of a bigger story.

I slowly walk back and forth through the market, hoping that I'll see something interesting the 4th time around. Hunting for little moments, I try to go downstairs to where the shops are but the doors are locked. Bollocks. I make it back to the open round table area and notice the cleaning crews’ equipment. I make my way over.

I get this feeling. A physiological reaction. I’m drawn to it. Whenever I get this feeling, I trust it, I follow it. It's never failed me in the past. I take some quick pics, almost shooting blind because I don’t want the crew thinking I’m this freak with a fetish for cleaning equipment. I get paranoid for some reason that I’ll get caught, so I circle around twice. Do I want to get caught? Am I into that stuff? No, I don’t think so.  I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s like I’m capturing something I’m not supposed to. Becoming "the bad boy". I don’t know. I was probably overthinking it, right? What do you think? 

Anyways, back to the cart. There was so much wear and tear. The wood was chipping, the paint faded. The grime so baked in, it looked like some new furniture trend that people will be paying a premium for in a couple months. It looked like it had been through decades of work, but, in reality, was probably only a year old. The amount of traffic this place gets meant that the necessary maintenance was high. 

I have to tip my hat to the workers here. Rain or shine, hot as balls, or cold as balls, they're here. Doing work that many people couldn’t imagine doing for a living.

I have an affinity for people that work hard because my entire family tree consists of people that work hard. It's part of the immigrant life. My dad for example, worked EVERYDAY for 10+ HOURS for 23 YEARS at our family grocery store. I'm very proud of my work ethic and my dad definitely helped shape it.

I walk past an old man pushing a garbage can. He was maybe in his late 60’s. Society says he should be retired but for reasons I'll never know, he’s still working. I like to think that he finds meaning in his work and thats why he does it. He cleans the restaurant so people have a nice place to enjoy their meal, something everyone deserves after a hard day's work.

As soon as I pass him, I quickly turn around and take a photo. The spotlight shined perfectly on him from above. Maybe its the universe telling me I'm supposed to learn something from him.

This is my favorite photo from the night. The contrast from inside and outside the market epitomized what I felt on this mid-winter night. There are two sides to Pike Place Market: the bright, superficial one you see on postcards and the dark one people rarely see; the one steeped in raw emotion, back-breaking labor, and deep story.