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Walking across Fourteenth Street, he ran into a gray-haired street photographer in a red baseball cap. The two made plans to meet up at the upcoming Veterans Day Parade. The photographer tucked Mendes's portrait of him into his pocket as he rushed to the subway.
Another photographer, beefy and wearing a black bandanna, was on his way to shoot an assignment when he noticed Mendes. Back at his apartment that afternoon, Mendes drank a Budweiser and ate an Entenmann’s doughnut from a box sitting atop a mini fridge.
She searched through her phone and pulled up the image to show him: a younger Mendes in handsome profile.
Instead of buying the list of newborns that hospitals sold to established photographers, he would search for Pampers in the trash cans of brownstones; when he found them, he’d ring the doorbell and ask if anyone was in need of a photographer.In the late sixties, he was a building attendant at Port Authority.His supervisor at that job, who was white, didn’t like it when he bought a new car with his savings.“Somebody stole my body—I just got it back last night.” “That’s a new one! “I’ve been stealing his lines for ten years.”Leaving the flea, Mendes ran into an old friend, Geoffrey Berliner, the executive director of the nearby Penumbra Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving historical and emulsion-based photography.They talked shop for ten minutes, lamenting the discontinuation of the Fuji peel-apart film they both love.
One recent sunny morning, on the corner of Forty-second Street and Sixth Avenue, he was wearing an “I Heart New York” tie, his pockets stuffed with Fuji instant film and small individual flashbulbs. “Twenty dollars a photo—that sounds fair,” the man said, smiling, and they exchanged shots.