Another Day, Another Traffic Cone 23

Copyright 2009 Jens Haas -

This one from last Saturday. When I made it, I was reminded of why I’m doing what I’m doing.

After I had taken three or four frames (the light was very bright and it was tricky to get the balance right), I hear this low “Hmmmmm” right behind my head. I’m on the tall side, so I am not really used to looking up at somebody. I turn around, and there’s this policeman standing behind me, perhaps 6.6 feet tall, heavy. I look up at him and say sheepishly: “It’s an art project. I photograph traffic cones.”

This always does the trick. “Artist” is an excuse for basically everything. In this case, “artist” might be code for “harmless nutcase.” He made sure that I hadn’t put the traffic cone up there myself, and I was good to go.

So here’s what this reminded me of. Ten years ago, I had to edit a book project with a number of artists contributing to it. One of them had a sense that we, the editors, didn’t value his work as we should. So he comes to my office. Before he even sits, he starts to yell at me, and doesn’t stop for about 25 minutes. Four or five minutes into it, my phone starts ringing, with people calling from other offices on the same floor, from the floor below, and from the floor above me: “What is going on? Do you need help?!” I say, no problem, everything is under control. At some point my visitor is done with his tirade, gets up, shakes my hand, says his good bye in the friendliest tone, as if nothing had happened, and leaves. And I sit there, amazed at the role of the artist – for him, it was just obvious that no one was going to hold anything against him. While I don’t enjoy shouting at people, I have to admit that something about the scene struck me as quite enviable. It is sometimes said that only in an asylum people are truly free. This seemed like a much more light hearted and convenient version.

Well, here I am, 180 traffic cones later, enjoying my own little moments of freedom…