Funny how conversations go — and what comes out of them.
Jim Hamilton runs an online key duplication service for motorcycles and scooters. Last week he called my cell phone to confirm my shipping address and missed me (I was underground on Metro). I called back from the Vienna station and missed him. Later, he caught me at home. After a couple of minutes of business, we spent some time just talking. When the topic of locksmiths came up, I remembered this photo that has been hanging around wherever I live for years and years.
This was shot in 1972 or 1973. The gentleman in the picture ran a locksmith/key shop on San Carlos Street, probably between 3rd and 4th Streets. The shop was, quite literally, in a stairwell. Thousands of keys hanging on little hooks in front of little paper tags — stretching up those stairs. You did your business from the sidewalk, and could only see all the way up if you kinda hunkered down and peered into the dimness.
My first encounter was when I was looking for a duplicate key for a Fiat 1100 sedan. The locksmith walked up several steps, looked a bit, and came back with my blank.
This was a few blocks from San Jose State University where I majored in Photojournalism. There was a great deli nearby, and also real magazine “rack”, actually a store — the kind with magazines and newspapers from all over the world.
Later I went back to shoot a few pictures. The camera was probably a Pentax Spotmatic 35mm SLR. The lens was a Vivitar 28mm f/2.5 — an incredibly sharp lens. The film was undoubtedly Kodak Tri-X. The back of the photo mount is labeled “Environmental Portrait”.