2 min read

The reading public reading in public

The reading public reading in public
This and all other photographs © Dale Keiger

May not be suitable for all ages. Includes graphic images of people engaging with print matter.

I was a constant reader from age 6. My father, after the death of my mother, assembled all the pictures he had made of her and me over 25 years. If I am in the photo, no matter what is happening around me—barbecue, family gathering, friends or neighbors visiting—I am most often reading, present in body but away in my own mind and the text at hand.

About seven years ago, I began photographing people reading in bookstores, usually children. Something in the images spoke to me. Maybe I felt like these were kindred kids.

Before long, I began photographing readers wherever I found them, still most often in bookshops but also on public transit or on the street or in coffeeshops. The work was discrete, clandestine in a way, so frequently done with an iPhone, which is silent and unobtrusive and so common now it doesn’t immediately scream, What is that guy going with that camera?

As a writer, of course I have an immediate connection to and fondness for readers. During a 50-year career, I have seen someone I was not married to reading a story of mine only twice. Once was as I boarded a flight on a airline that has just published me in its in-flight magazine. The other was at a newsstand, where I watched a man dressed as a corporate executive read a long cover story of mine and then put the magazine back. That magazine was my employer and in bad financial shape, a few months from closing down and tossing me out of work, and I wanted to say to Mr. Businessman, Hey, buddy, we sell those, you know.

I don’t grumble about the state of reading in our culture. What would be the point? Readers have always been a minority, for ever-shifting social, economic, political, and cultural reasons. I don’t care, anymore. For 50 years, there have been enough of them to sustain me, and enough to sustain bookshops and publishers and uncounted fellow scribblers. My people are out there. Here are some of them. To them, and to you, I say as always, Thank you for reading.

Coming soon: More on reading, including some thoughts on what happens when a writer says what we feel has been in our minds all along, and a new monthly book report. New issues of The Joggled Mind have been a bit sparse lately, because Dr Essai has been reading more than writing, a lifelong problem. He requests your forbearance.