If simplicity is to be valued, it’s because it tells more in less.
SOUTH KOREA. Seoul. 2013.
It was a priceless half-hour crouched awkwardly across from this white bungalow. The set was taken at around Christmas time, on one of the coldest days of winter last year (fully charged batteries lasted no longer than 2-3 hours).
But work produced in memorable circumstances certainly take on more personal meaning.
It was given to me on a bookmark, each word of the poem spilling onto the next on both densely writ-in cardboard sides. I’d got it from the old barber around the corner of the street I used to live on, who’d been keeping it for a friend and had told me he no longer had need of it. The gravity of that statement, I have only recently come to grasp.
I lost the bookmark on a rainy day a year ago today, but the poem has stuck with me. It’s a treasure, reposed in the author’s lifelong collection of poetry titled The Blue Museum.
The following belongs, in my traced memory, to the friend of the old barber who perhaps never made it to Paris.
For My Father Who Never Made it to Paris
Phil Cousineau, for Richard Beban
For my father who never made it to Paris
I meet friends late at night in smokey cafes
To drink frothy cappuccino and listen
To Coltrane sax solos on old jukeboxes
And talk of the wounds
Of fathers and sons
For fathers and sons
Who never returned home,
I reach down for words to express my grief,
Like an emergency ward surgeon groping
For stray sharpnel in the flesh
Of bleeding loved ones.
For all the words never found between men,
The buried burning words slowly infecting us,
I drop quarters in no-name bar telephones.
To call suicidal friends, distraught fathers,
Lone wolf sons who howl at the indifference of the moon,
And offer the round table of brotherhood.
For all the tumors caused by sorrow,
And all the ulcers formed by anger,
For all the nightmares wrought by rage,
And all the emptiness carved by despair,
I probe friends and family
For healing stories.
For my father and all fathers
Who never saw Paris,
One friend listens, reveals,
Reaches in an open wound,
Finds a piece of gold shrapnel,
Cashes it in for airfare,
Takes his father to the Left Bank.
So the healing
— Paris, 1986
Photography: Alex J. | SOUTH KOREA. Seoul. 2013.
ILLINOIS. Chicago. 2013.
After a solid half a year of travels, Chicago is finally on the horizon! Those of you who recall my previous blog layouts may recognise this shot of Chicago’s cityscape at sunset. Not much of an anecdote for this one, unfortunately, other than that the cars weren’t particularly happy to find me in the middle of the road.
ILLINOIS. Chicago. 2013.
Due to both fortunate and unfortunate circumstances, I’ve had my fair share of travels over the past few years. But when it comes to urban skylines, Chicago is simply insurmountable.
The shot here was taken aboard a boat on Lake Michigan. It is always a challenge to do justice to what the beholder feels at the moment the shutter is pressed, and the above was no exception. Personally speaking, this shot was a failure: it only partly conveys what I meant for it to. I write this specifically because my choice of lens or image orientation is not nearly as based on aesthetic considerations as it is based on my subjective feeling.
The result would have been closer to my perception had it been captured with a wide-angle lens (my sole reason for lamenting the lack of an instrument, which I don’t tend to do too often). Unfortunately, I had none at the time. The hope is that, in the next few years, I’ll be able to return to the same spot a little better prepared.
FRANCE. Paris. 2014.
As always, consistency problems have caught up with me. The past two months (without a single post!) have been a cauldron of cheek and trouble somewhat typical of whatever travel-heavy period follows an existential lapse. Hence the graffiti wall that is my state of mind — with the new constantly replacing the old, yet with the old still buried underneath — a cluster of conflicted personalities, and sideway glances.
This post is a very honest one, and the shot, a personal one. It helps also that I’ve managed to fix the blog layout! I’ll keep up this time.
FRANCE. Paris. 2014.
Three different shots at three different locations around Paris: the first near Odéon, the second on Canal Saint-Martin, and the third on Rue Bobillot on the way back to the dorm from school Centre. My chronic problem is that I tend to shy away from face-on shooting. As one might expect, there are people that mind less and there are those that mind more. My approach is to refrain from objectifying people (as in, making people feel like they’re “things” being photographed; more on subject vs. object in this post). Often my solution is to halt for a moment to snap a shot, then to carry on briskly. The point is to be unobtrusive.
The problem with this is that I can’t always look through the viewfinder. This works if you are intuitively aware of how your lens will frame the scene just by “feeling” it. Unfortunately my mastery of the camera is not yet at that level, so I get some, miss some. This method, however, does make for excellent candid photography, mainly because then the subjects are not startled by some creepy photographer trying to snag a shot of them. The last one in particular was taken in this manner. It’s a lot less sharp than the first two shots since I was still in movement when the shutter was pressed, but I’d say there’s more of a spur-of-the-moment feeling to the image.