The second wide photograph was of the football game. I had photographed the breakfast that followed the Sunday mass. After breakfast, the Indians were sitting around watching football on the TV set in the front of the room. It finally occurred to me that I should photograph this. I made one quick exposure and was about to reposition myself to organize things better, play with how things looked in the frame, when Talbot walked up, turned the television off, and told everyone it was time to leave. It was disappointing, because I didn’t have a chance to make the composition acceptable to myself.

I was afraid to give up the sure winners I knew I could get with my usual methods, pictures that showed a special, singular instant up-close and so had dramatic impact. If this is only going to happen once, can I risk experimenting with my framing and maybe miss the chance to photograph a special moment — like Talbot turning off the TV — that was now lost forever? Or would I be too far away, so that my photograph would lack impact?

I wasn’t yet thinking, as I would later on, of analyzing ongoing relationships photographically by looking for things that happened again and again rather than just once. I still wanted that unique image that captured an essence, although I didn’t know enough yet to understand what that essence might be. Any essence I captured at this point would be a stereotype (about street people, poor people) that I brought to the project. Furthermore, the idea of “capturing an essence” assumes that an essence is available visually. To capture it implies that the photograph already exists objectively. It’s not constructed but is literally out there for the taking.

While I was making the portraits, I also made a photograph of the TV set with the picture of Pope John Paul II propped up next to it. I photographed this three or four different times, trying to get the perfect composition and resolution. It was important to me that you be able to read the name of the pope on the picture frame and know it