His aim is true
This guy has been documenting Detroit life and movement for 60 years - and he's not done yet
Published: December 8, 2010
"In the moment, when it might be there, one shot is all you need. There's no reason to snap five or six, or even two," Rauhauser says. And it's not because of his sense of economy as it pertains to the price of film. "The shot, the moment was there or it wasn't there." The success of a photograph, he believes, is the result of intuition. And his is uncanny.
As it's written in the book, Rauhauser often references Baudelaire's flâneur, an idea perhaps best characterized by the theorist Walter Benjamin: "The crowd is his element, as the air is that of birds and water of fishes. His passion and profession are to become one flesh with the crowd. For the perfect flâneur, for the passionate spectator, it is an immense job to set up house in the middle of the multitude, amid the ebb and flow of movement, in the midst of the fugitive and the infinite." Through the camera's lens, Rauhauser has documented Detroit, as well his travels to cities such as Chicago (frequently) and Seattle, as flâneur.
"Back then, before everyone had cameras and camera phones, you could be invisible, you had that power. You could be within a few feet of someone and snap a photo. Imagine that. People are highly sensitive today to the presence of a camera. It's harder to capture a genuine moment, to disappear."
But that doesn't stop him from trying. As Rauhauser heads for the door to leave, he pats the camera that slung across his chest and coat, the same way an aging detective might the gun under his jacket. "Got her right here." Rauhauser smiles. "Every single day."
As I hold the door for Rauhauser, my last question, half-kidding, is if he considers his days spent with his camera, his hobby-turned-profession, some sort of obsession.
"Obsessed?" he responds, with a strong handshake and a soft laugh. "Obsession might not be the word I'd use," his hand holds mine in pause. "The word I'd use is necessity."
Bill Rauhauser will present and sign copies of his new book at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 12, at Book Beat, 26010 Greenfield Rd., Oak Park; thebookbeat.com.
> Email Travis R. Wright