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The essay “Lonely Man” by Jeff Wall appeared on “Foncie’s Corner” on knowledge.ca. Jeff Wall is a Canadian artist and has been a key figure in Vancouver’s art scene since the early 1970s.
Foncie took three photos of a man named Osvaldo during the 1950s.
Osvaldo submitted the photos to the website. Two of them were taken on the same spot, on Granville Street, just south of Robson, one at night, one during the day. The third is taken nearby, maybe outside the Hudson’s Bay Company building on Georgia Street. In all three, Osvaldo is unaware of the photographer and appears lost in his own thoughts. He wrote the following brief descriptions accompanying each of his submissions:
1. “Here I was wearing a light-beige blazer and red and black striped shirt. I looked sad and unemployed and on my way to the movies—sometimes three a day.”
2. “Night prowling on Granville Street. Always alone. The suit was a woollen striped maroon blazer and black slacks. Girls of the day had not noticed this handsome Italian yet, until I met Jacqueline.”
3. “Always well dressed, I am wearing a light-grey silk suit I still keep in my wardrobe.”
Walker Evans once said, “there’s no novel what’s not a book of photographs.”
Osvaldo has written a story, the familiar, inexhaustible story of a lonely man struggling to find a place in the world and to find recognition and love, a hard-boiled, taciturn story set on the streets and in the cafeterias, dance halls and rooming houses of the time. The hero is often a sharp dresser, painfully aware of his own appearance, absorbed in his own thoughts and grand plans, set apart from others, struggling with failure and insecurity. In the first or second chapter, he meets a woman.