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Photographer's Note

AP Alley was a filthy, dirt-paved alley where airmen from the nearby Misawa Air Base, came to get sex and booze. This picture was taken in the early 1960s and segregation was a fact of life. The first thing that caught my attention was that a black man was in the Alley. This was very unusual as blacks were generally not welcome, and if he had gone in a bar a fight might have occurred. That is what I was immediately conscious of. What I like about the picture is that it captures the spirit of the Alley – tawdry, slightly menacing. The sign for the El Paso bar shows one of the vital facets of the Alley. The unlit cigarette indicates he is in a transient state and his departure will probably happen before he has time to light it. The man’s face also seems to reflect the fact that he is not “happy”, and seems to display a sullen anger that only could be expected under the circumstances both because of the fact he was black and because he was in an area of danger. I think he must have been aware of the fact that I was taking his picture that also might have affected his expression. It was, to me, one of those decisive moments made famous by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

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