The camera lie

by Jamie Lutton.

People watch me tossing treats to the crows. Some of them overcome the local reticence to ask me what I am doing. I tell them that I am photographing the crows, or filming them.

I have to give a reason for what I doing. It is not enough that I like to watch them, or that I am (actually) writing about them. I feed crows a lot more than I write about them. Photography sounds somehow more official and useful than just watching the crows; watching them for its own sake.

I have recorded in my brain all sorts of images of wintertime antics of crows, and not one dot of film or photographs. The lie is to keep some pecksnifian from calling the police, or from just telling me not to. And, somehow, what I am doing feels illegal and wrong; so I toss treats to the birds furtively, in back alleys, and side streets. I don't want to yelled at; one of those yelling sessions that freeze the blood and makes one head hang in shame. In a big city like this one, people who monitor your behavior are all around. So, I have my official lie, and I keep merrily on, every early morning, watching the crows, and they watch me.

What is wrong with just looking at something? The fixation on photographing something is so wrong, somehow. The camera gets between you and the observation at hand. Even when I look down at my hands, when I am prying my bag open, to get treats out, I am missing a moment of watching the birds, and I miss so much. If I had a camera, or film camera, I would be trying to get the birds to pose, to capture a particularly farcical or beautiful moment or sequence in flight, and spoil our friendship.

Also, I can't afford a good camera, and I am afraid of breaking an expensive one, after I got one. So some of this altitude is from poverty, really.  I do not have money to invest in gadgets to record my birds.  I still feel, though, that it would not be the same. It never could be the same as standing in the winter rain, getting my hair soaked, getting rather cold, and looking at wet crows, their feathers soaked. Some of the birds, their feathers stick up like wet hair on a human, from the pounding rain. They stop and shake the rain off, from time to time, like little black cats.  But this does not seem to deter them, really.  We  endure the weather together, for a little time, so that we can have a bit of throw,  get and eat the  dog treats.


  1. I can't help it--I really like your crow stories...I must admit, I've begun to look the bird differently...


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