This photograph 'appeared' when travelling via the metro/underground in Budapest.
As is so often the case in 'Street Photography' I grabbed it unconsciously, like a bear mid-stream to whom the salmon leaps – snap! (Impossible lighting & v modest camera)
I didn't construct it consciously. It was a gift, not something directly worked for. I only saw it afterwards, back home.
If someone else had taken it, and I had looked at it, really looked, I would be stunned! So I will try to 'critique' it as if it was another photographer's work.
One key is the two arrows. Another is that the two men look to be the same person.
Three people. Two worlds.
The man coming down the steps – a clone or alternative version of the beggar-man at the foot of the steps?.
Perhaps they represent two parallel versions of reality as in the 1998 film Sliding Doors – except the two, and their realities, have come together at the particular moment of the photograph.
Perhaps the two are the same person who decades ago when 'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood' took the wrong road, except in a parallel reality the other road was also taken. The two versions, the two selves the two roads come together on the steps of the metro in this moment.
One is holding a cup, the other, I think, sun-glasses.
One exudes wretchedness and a hatred of the world that dealt him his deal, a world that won't fill his cup sufficient to displace that hatred? His sound is, "Ssssssssss".
Perhaps his gay/girlie pink bag is the punctum if you view the scene through Barthes-ian spectacles.
One exudes super-relaxed nonchalance. His sound is, " Hi guyyyyyyys, yo, how are y'all". (Yes, yes I know that is a mixture of out-of-dates idioms!)
Presumably he also has a cup – what does it contain? Not the dregs of bitterness.
Two descend from a world of super-brightness.
One huddles on the lower-most step.
But which way is hell? What good is it the seduces us? The good deeds of the ordinary people are the sins of saints.
Which one is in hell, or might be tomorrow, following a turn of events?
Might their positions be reversed, if having coincided they take the next step along the journey?
Two arrows point. One points ascendingly, but not like a Zen master. One appears to point descendingly.
Which arrow is to be trusted?
Upwards there is the possibility of super-white teeth. Upwards there is a restaurant that asserts itself.
The woman is mysterious. Did she reject one, and accept the other? Is her own dual two-pathed reality about to come into a single moment? Did she turn back instead of making a choice between two roads.
Do we willingly descend?
Is hell a state of being, not a place, a state of being that we engender or step out from.
Would hell be the eternal living of the road not taken? A vision of this risk is Hirokazu Koreeda's film 'Afterlife'
Or a meeting with our 'selves', sub-personalities, that each made their own journeys and rattle and jostle our consciousness for space and time.
Are we ascending or descending?
Is the light too bright, as for eyes freed of cataracts?
Will we all realize the full consequences of choices made?
Is redemption in Abe Lincoln's home spun, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Hell or heaven is the state we (choose) to live in?
Who, or what, makes up our heart-mind?