Wide Awake

Monday, February 22, 2016

It's currently 1:45am here and I am wide awake. Which kind of blows because I have to be up in five hours for work, but also sort of nice. The house is dead quiet, which used to scare me a little but lately I've gotten used to it. I've learned to love the solitude of the early hours. 

Anyway I've been thinking (as I often do), and I've got a confession to make.

Ever since I was a little kid I have been unable to look at others in the eye.
I differ from person to person. People that I love and trust, like my Mum or Aunty or the people I've known since birth, I can easily look into their eyes. For a brief few seconds anyway. Yet even some of my closest friends that I met in my first year of uni, I can not for the life of me look them straight in the face.

The easiest way to explain it, is that eye contact makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel almost anxious, like I'm on the verge of a panic attack; my chest tightens, my stomach flutters. Like a more sickening version of looking directly into the sun. You can only do it for so long before you have to look away.

I've always thought that being unable to look at someone so intently was a human condition. My Aunty often says that if she died she would happily donate her organs, but they couldn't take her eyes because that would be like taking her soul away. I've also heard a friend say that an acquaintance of hers, someone who she thinks is incredibly attractive, has eyes so blue staring at him is like looking into the ocean. Looking someone in the eye is intense to say the least but the thing is, I've never heard anyone else describe it as painful. No one else I know "sees red" when they look at someone. Whether it's just me being a weirdo, or my anxiety has something to do with it, I will never know. Either way I've had to learn to live with it. I wear a lot of black, I listen to The Smiths a lot. I also take photos.

One of the reasons I got into photography in the first place, is because I found it so much easier to decipher people through a lens. We've all heard that saying, that "a picture is worth 1000 words". A photograph of someone speaks volumes for who they are and what they were feeling at the very moment the shutter came down; body language and facial expressions, the way a person holds themselves. Street photography in particular has always fascinated me. Groups of people, all strangers to one another, all with different upbringings, different cultural backgrounds, different opinions and perceptions about the world, will all come together for a single moment; the moment the shutter clicks. Frozen in time. Then they go on their way, ignorant of the fact that for a single second they had come together; the only proof, a photograph that they will probably never see.

In my first year at university, we were taught about Henri Cartier-Bresson, a French photographer who often talked about this decisive moment.

"To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression."

His photographs are beautiful to say the least. They epitomise how he saw the world around him, and in a way, Henri Cartier-Bresson's works are an ode to the early 20th century; not necessarily a better time, just a different time.

Juvisny, France (1938)

Anyway I think I'm getting sidetracked. Carrying on, a positive spin on being unable to make eye contact is that I notice certain things about people that others don't. Well at first anyway. While you're busy staring into a person's eyes, and translating their facial expressions, I'm looking at the space between their ear and hairline. The way their collarbones move when they laugh, their shoes, the ways they use their hands to communicate; how their legs move impatiently. Maybe I'll awkwardly take a photo of them, and then stare blankly at it later trying to work out what the hell they were thinking. Sometimes anxiety blows, other days... no actually, anxiety definatly blows all the time. The best thing you can do is take an optimistic approach to an awkward situation.

For example, the other day a friend of mine suggested I centre my final honours project on it, and I've been thinking that maybe he's onto something. The idea still needs work, but it's getting there. All I know right now is that I want to shoot on a medium format camera. Progress?

Until next time babes xx

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  1. Coming from a photography background, that actually sounds like an amazing final honours project, I'd love to see that. And darn it, you just reminded me that I'm meant to be selling my medium format because I don't use it enough (at all) to justify having it :(

    1. I love medium format, the detail is just incredible! I shot a project a few years back of an older woman on 120mm film, and you could see all the wrinkles and veins in her hands. It was just amazing, I've been hooked ever since. You're so lucky to own one, don't sell it! They're so hard to come by, keep it for a rainy day :) thanks for all the positive vibes beautiful, I really appreciate it xx


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