The Picture That Changes Everything: the Pleasant Madness of Street-Photography part 1

This article was supposed to be a simple one: an interview with Tom Plevnik, a street-photographer whose work I’ve admired. While this essesntial component is still there, I felt compelled to go a different route. I think I know where I’m going, but let’s see if I get there. 
This will be part one, other parts will follow. I can’t tell you how many parts. I’m curious to find this out myself.  
I hope you’ll bear with me and enjoy the ride… 
Pictures attached to this part of the article and subsequent ones belong to Tom Plevnik, whose work is on display on:  https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/

1: The Most Deluded Tale of All

Once you become aware of the enormity of human drama outside your own, it changes everything.
It wasn’t always like this. It used to be different. The world used to be so small. When you were a child, everything revolved around you. Your story was the only one that matters. This universe was created to inhabit your being. The people outside your existence were doing everything they could, if you were lucky that is, to make you feel comfortable. This was their purpose: they were teachers, providers, set-design. There are the important supporting roles- your parents, teachers, friends- and the bit players, merely faces to add atmosphere to your life. And all you want to do is play in this giant playground which belongs to you alone…
If you’re lucky, you’ll break free from this. This narcissistic delusion, the gentle kind, the one filled with childlike innocence is not supposed to sustain. We don’t want to become the subject of the most deluded tale of all: the one about the prisoner inside us, the one that never breaks free. You must wake up one day. You must begin to understand that you’re just one of many, another spawn of the thousand year lineage of the human animal. There’s nothing special about you. You’re just as important and insignificant as all the others.
And though this reality has a lot of drawbacks, sometimes it seems unnaturally harsh, sometimes you experience suffering of such magnitude that you could never have comprehended. And you can’t go back. There is no way. Once childhood is gone, it’s gone forever. You’re a lame adult now, get used to it.
This reality belongs to you now. If you hate it so much, you can always leave. It’s not that hard to leave. People leave this world by their own volition all the time. I thought about it lots of times but I could never do it. There was too much promise in the sad adult life.
On my way, the train suddenly stopped. It sat still for about twenty minutes and people naturally got agitated. Looking out the window, I saw the conductor walking next to a teenage boy, probably not older than sixteen. The kid was jabbering away, you could see he had been crying. The conductor called some people, the kid was picked up. The conductor told us why we stopped. Tell you the truth, I started complaining about coming home late.
A young boy shouldn’t want to leave this world, to have the urge to jump in front of a train in the middle of the day. If the young boy remained that child who owned the world, this would probably never happen. There are no catchers in the rye, the kids always slip through.
I felt bad about complaining about my day after this incident. It was selfish but also human. Most of the time we don’t pay attention or even care about the enormous human drama around us. There are people chasing dreams, people getting lost in their madness, people planning their own demise. If the boy had successfully killed himself, his death would probably not have been on the news. This is to avoid copycats. It would be another example of human drama fading away. Family members would talk about him, there would be guilt passed down to both parents, they would wonder why they couldn’t see it….
I wish we could all see it before it’s too late. But the dark truth of the matter, is that most of the time, we aren’t even looking. And we have to look, we can miss so much. We can’t catch them as they pass through the rye, but I believe that if we watch out and reach out when we see them slipping away. that we can catch them before they start jumping in front of trains.

Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik

***

 


 

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Good Game

So many people play this game,
nobody knows the rules,
perhaps there are no rules.
Some make them up as they go along.
So follow rules set by their ancestors.
Others pretend they follow no rules.
We rarely remind ourselves that this isn’t a competition,
nobody really wins in the end.
It all goes away,
your suffering,
your happiness,
everything.
The story ends. Sometimes just like that. Sometimes with a deafening whimper. Sometimes you watch death flooding your lungs.

This is the game,
some tell themselves that they are immortal,
perhaps they are right.
Perception is everything.
But since you’re now at the end,
and you can’t move and have no choice but to reflect,
you hope you plucked out all the hidden goodies.

We make something of this life
and we hope we understood what we were supposed to do.
We hope we can be proud of ourselves,
lying there with a head full of good memories,
in a deathbed surrounded by the ones you love.
We make ourselves complete.
And when when we finally lose,
we hope we get to the shake the hands of our souls, 

congratulating them on playing a fair game.

Picture made in Bremen, Germany
***

 

He Ran Through The Flames: a Tribute to Harry Dean Stanton

He was like all the others:
a soul trapped into the phantasmagoria of cinema.
Once you enter, you can never escape.
You’re in the collective unconscious,
you pretend to be other people
while the people who watch you pretend to know who you are.
It’s all projection,
we mourn our icons not because of who they are,
but who we think they are.
This world of endless identities,
method acting,
madness,
romances,
sadness
and countless deaths,
belong to the actors alone.
Your face has to be on the screen,
your name alone is not enough.
He was one of the faces, people remember the faces, they wonder about their names,
they look them up.

Wasn’t he the singing convict in Cool Hand Luke?
Wasn’t he the first victim of a grown-up xenomorph?
Isn’t he from that one movie where he snorts speed with Emilio Estevez?
Isn’t he that sad old guy whose afraid of death from that Twin Peaks movie?
Wasn’t he the brother who had a stroke in that movie where Richard Farnsworth travels on a lawnmower to see him?
Wasn’t he the guy on the tractor that got blown away in Arnold Schwarzenegger movie?
Isn’t he the lead of that movie about the ninety year old atheist? It’s called Lucky I think. David Lynch is in it too.

They look at their faces,
sometimes with shock: oh man, he’s got so old!
And sometimes with comfort: oh good, he’s still alive! If he can live so long drinking and smoking, I might still have a chance!
They reflect ourselves,
but they become more human than any of us.
It’s okay if they fuck up,
they can escape in all these different kind of roles,
the face might stay the same,
but the soul can travel in all these different vessels.
And then they die.
You watched them on the screen as a child,
you hear about their deaths when they are an adult.
So you sit still,
meditate.
Then you begin to mourn.

Mr. Stanton,
I was hoping to meet you one day.
I would imagine leaving the meeting,
telling the world that you were so down-to-earth, friendly,
your wise words would never leave me.
I would tell my friends about my meeting with you; this is what he told me, isn’t that great? It gives me hope for the future.
Tell you the truth, your death isn’t a huge surprise.
You were ninety years old,
I recently told my father that you were probably on the list.
But goddammit sir I hoped you would prove old age wrong.
And you already did, your lifestyle was your own, your dignity was never taken away.
The way you inhaled that smoke,
you never quit like I promised myself I never would- but I have, because I’m not as brave as you.
the way you drank,
your crystal clear words in interviews- you were a greater poet than I am sir,
the history of your sad eyes: I can see you were beaten, your heart was broken, but you survived.
You survived the war,
derision,
heartbreak,
betrayal,
sickness,
loss
and at some point in time, you might have wondered if you could survive death.
None of us can, the rules will always stay the same, but I bet you pissed off death when you raised your glass at him.

Your wrinkled face wasn’t the convention of beauty,
but you were beautiful to me sir.
You were a real man,
and you left this world,
leaving your mark,
your performance in Paris,Texas- if that would be your last role you said, you would be satisfied-,
seeing your enjoying your cigarette and looking into the sky in Twin Peaks: The return- only for that peace to be shattered by the brutal death of a small boy-
and
I’m sure your final performance, the leading role in Lucky, will be incredible.
You’ll play a defiant atheist pondering his mortality,
in a town full of weirdo’s played by incredible character-actors (I know you hated that term, I’m sorry, but it just fits this poem).
It’s a role that seems to fit you perfectly.
In a trailer you sing,
your
you perform yoga,
you look so damn old and so cool.

You are gone now,
left this world for another.
You’ve gone to meet Sam Shepard,
who gave you your favorite part.
You’ll smoke and have drinks with him,
in the place where barflies never need to drown their sorrows.
He’ll write you a transcendent sequel of Paris, Texas; where Travis finally finds happiness, where love comes back to save us all.
Or perhaps his tragedy is where we should end.
It’s such a good story
and that story will never go away.
Just like your days as a Repo man,
sharing the prison confines with Paul Newman and George Kennedy (both there with you),
in Missouri playing an outlaw alongside Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando (he’s there with you too),
in a dystopian New York with Ernest Borgnine (gone as well),
walking the green mile just like angelic Michael Clark Duncan (they all go, even the young).
The stories will never go away,
but we’ll miss seeing you in new ones.
But it’s like you said:
eventually you’ll accept all of it,
suffering, horror, love, loss, hate.
”It’s all a movie anyway.”

It will take some time for me to accept your departure,
but I know I will,
we have no choice in this life.
We know how this movie ends,
we move on or we let life destroy us.
We die inside and live another day.
I think I’ll take a page from your life,
and try to survive this movie as long as possible.
I don’t think my movie will end as gracefully as yours,
I don’t think I’ll be as beautiful as you were at the end of your life,
but that’s because I’m Chris van Dijk
and you were the great Harry Dean Stanton.
Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania harry dean stanton smoking

***

FATHER!

Sometimes I think it’s better to be indoctrinated into a certain style of thought, than roaming the wild west of ideas. The intellectual gunslingers waiting for you to draw. The preachers are trying to convert you into their cult. The scientists tell you all the facts. The artist tells you to ignore them all. It’s full of secrets but so many of them turn out to be lies. They all mock each other. They say that if you follow them, you’ll evolve, you’ll be enlightened, you’ll be happy, you’ll be awake. There’s so much violence, there’s blood on every wise thought. They shoot themselves, they shoot each other, they tell others to shoot for them, the gun explodes in their hands. When you’re indoctrinated you have a home. There is no need to be lost because you were born with all the answers. The questions that are left are inconsequential, they will reveal themselves. The things you don’t know, you don’t need to know. Inside the church of your choosing, you have an established identity. There’s no need to search for one, you can laugh at all the others who try to define you. You have your own morals. You can be a loner. You can condemn those who are praised by the majority. It feels good knowing who the real bad guys are. It feels good to SEE. It feels good knowing that those who are not part of your church are blind. The others seem so foolish. They wear stupid hats. They abort their babies. They eat their young. They are petulant savages. They don’t know how to make love, they only how to fuck. They have no souls or at least they don’t believe they do. They fuck too much and make too many goddamn babies. They fuck each other in order to fill the hole inside their rotten souls. They have no higher purpose. They will never fill the hole inside them. The pursuit to fill that hole will lead to our destruction. It feels good to condemn people. It feels good to be a judge. It feels good sentencing people to death, watching them hang on oak trees. Fill the syringe, watching their eyes lose themselves into the void. Watch their bodies fall like paper sacks. It feels good to not be lost. It feels good to know why you joined the army. It feels good knowing why you fight this war. If I go outside, I’ll have rediscover myself. I’ll probably find out stuff I don’t want to know. The indoctrination included the willingness to let side and perform certain evils. I don’t want to be aware of this. Sometimes when I look outside my window I see a great fire in the distance. I know that if I find it, if I engulf myself into the flames, I will know everything. I can outdraw the intellectual gunslingers, I can be the leader of the right cult, I have future peer-reviewed studies inside my head that tells you all you need to know about the human body, the human brain, the universe and how to make a perfect society. I can spend hours making art and never doubt my abilities. If I reach the fire I can destroy the ego. I will be eternal, I will know all the celestial truths. I could travel through time and space. I can make the human world run on love. And sometimes I go looking for that fire, leaving my church behind. Sometimes it seems like I’m right path and I’m so close but then it seems to move away for me or maybe I’m standing still, I don’t know. Somehow I get lost. It makes no sense, I was so sure in the beginning of my journey. I ask people for directions and they all point to different directions. The fire seems to be there until I discover it’s just a reflection. There are so many intellectual gunslingers I kill along the way. But they wound me too. Sometimes I need to crawl to the fire. Sometimes I hallucinate the fire. There’s something in the water, something in the air, I don’t know. There are times when I feel that I’ve reached it, that is until I realize I haven’t changed at all. I become discontent again. I’m so unhappy I want to fucking die. I really gave the wild west a chance but it’s too much. It’s so vast. it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too much of everything. All these awakenings, all these gods, all these interpretations, all this suffering, all this science, all these lies. So many suffer because they believed, so many suffer because others believed in things they didn’t. It’s too much. I can’t climb every mountain. I can’t look around every building. I can’t make sense of this science. I don’t feel the love of these gods. I can’t SEE everything. Perhaps the answer lies in knowing everything but I’m just a human animal, filled with countless limitations. There’s only so much you can know until you start forgetting the most important things. Just tell me how to go back. I found home once, I can do it again but I lost my way again. Tell me how to go back and I’ll never leave. I promise. My feet hurt, I walked so far. I met so many people, I can’t remember their faces even though they meant everything to me. There are so many people I loved that left me. There are so many friends who abandoned me and I abandoned just as many. I didn’t want to but something compelled me, I thought staying with them would never make me find the fire. When they said stupid shit, I couldn’t abide by them. They strayed too far. I can’t keep track of them all. I try to keep in the pack but I have others to think about. I have ME to think about. I’m the one all alone out here! Can someone please tell me how to go home! I forgot the address, I don’t have money for a cab. I’m a little disoriented. I haven’t eaten much. Sometimes I feel like I’m going insane. People looking down their phones, hoping if they look long enough, they won’t care for answers. I do that too but I keep looking for answers in there. There’s so much information available, but none of them have the motherfucking answers. I’m so tired, I’m about to fall asleep. The fire burns bright and maybe I’ll dream about it. If you find me, wake me up, point me in the right direction. In the fire you’ll never be cold again. When I get there, I’ll be indoctrinated by the Gods and I’ll tell you all how to live. I’ll write you a map and tell how to get there. You can all join me on condition: never tell me I’m wrong. If you’re not sure, burn alongside me. The fire will make you all look the same. The fire will make you all think the same. You’ll realize there was never any reason to doubt me……….

Picture taken in Wisla, Poland

***

That Small Part

”I used to consider myself a writer, but then I couldn’t find the words anymore. I hated every word I put down. They seemed disingenuous, hackneyed, soulless. When I looked back at my earlier work, I was horrified. It wasn’t that it was filled with clichés- even though it was- it’s that I couldn’t get the clichés right. It all fucking sucked. To even call myself an amateur would be insulting to amateurs. Amateurs can have careers in their particular craft, they can become professionals. I don’t know how to walk this path. I find it, then I turn into the forest. I keep getting lost along the way. I remembered them to have promise, I would read the works of others and feel that I grasped something they didn’t. But it was all just a dream. We get lost in our dreams, some never come back. After many pitiful attempts, I decided that the best thing for me was to give it up. I just didn’t have it. There’s talent, a lot of luck. Some say it’s nothing but hard work. Perhaps but the right ones get better. The right ones learn of their mistakes and figure out how to make things work. I couldn’t do this. It’s okay, I will be just like most people. No more stories, no more poems, no more imagined novels. You’re not a creator, you’re the one that appreciates the creation. Nothing wrong with that. Artists are dicks anyway… But then the words came back! It came flooding back, every word seemed right, the sentences kept coming, the poems seemed meaningful, the stories seemed to be about real people. I was a writer again.
And then it happened again. Another painful break-up. I lost my mind again, there was the edge and it seemed so right to jump. You will go there anyway, might as well jump. Nobody will pick you up from down there. There’s nobody there. It’s a place where everybody goes but nobody’s there.
But I decided to save myself. I stopped writing again. I promised myself once more: don’t write another word. You don’t have the right kind of insanity to be a writer.
I haven’t written in quite a while but I feel the urge coming back. Sentences assemble, ruminations that turn into reflections, stories, limericks. There are these moments between people, or by ourselves; a human experience, sometimes tragic, hilarious or even wonderfully mundane, that deserved telling. But I know I can’t do them justice. I’d only screw them up. Nobody would understand why they are valuable.
But the words are there… I just need to write them down…
I know I shouldn’t, I know how it will end. But I keep thinking about death, the void, the nothingness. It seemed the only way to combat is by writing. The thought of not leaving any words around scares me. I could die at any moment and all the words, stories, poems, novels in my head, would die along with them. They are so dear to me, even if I never seem to find them.
If I don’t write, the void will take everything. If I leave some words behind, the void can only take parts of me. Even if it takes most of me, that small part will still be out there. That little part will never go away, that small part will make me immortal…”

Picture taken in Wisla, Poland
***

Fake Samurai Swords

There were these children who pretended to be adults,
fighting against the forces of evil.
Inspired by animated films that focused on this ancient struggle,
these adults, these children in disguise, were transformed into cute animals, anthropomorphic, pure of heart, ready to suffer the ultimate sacrifice if it means a happy ending.
As long as good wins against evil, they can sleep soundly.
The world can be full of loss, but the balance is there.
There will be justice for all,
everything will be alright.
There is a life we fight for,
and when that ends,
we will go to heaven,
celebrating eternity with the ones we love.

This is what these children believed,
they acted this out, wearing their parents kimonos, using sticks like they are samurai swords.
One of these boys played this game devoutly,
he was going to save the world.
His grandmother told them stories about this great war,
the unfathomable death toll, piles of corpses, buildings made for death.
Desperate men crying out for their mothers,
crying out for their dreams of childhood: a universe that balances itself out, a universe that punishes the wicked and rewards the good.
And it’s then that this child started wondering about those who died so that this narrative could linger: the heroes who never had a chance to dream, heroes without luck, heroes too weak or too good to kill without hesitation or guilt.
It then dawned on him these were childlike fantasies,
something to make us sleep better at night.
This cosmic battle of good versus evil,
belongs to man alone,
the great cost of life,
is ours to make sense off.
But it won’t make anybody come back,
and nobody will be waiting for us,
none of the dead will forgive us.
the great cost is only ours to bear.
And what about the universe?
The Universe can’t be bothered.

This realization made the child cry,
when he wiped away his tears,
a process that took years,
he became an adult.
He continued the fight against evil,
playing by different rules,
wearing a army-uniform instead of kimonos,
wielding military-grade weaponry instead of fake samurai swords.
He would get ready for that great war that would come again,
he could either die so that others could dream,
or live so he could be inspired by those who died for this dream.
But sometimes he couldn’t help himself:
sometimes he just wanted to play with fake samurai swords again.
And when his platoon wasn’t looking;
he pretended to be that child pretending to be an adult.
He knew that when the time came,
he had to let this go,
but for now,
while no one was looking,
he was winning the fight against evil,
and sometimes he would lose but the universe would balance itself out,
he would see his fallen friends in heaven,
they would wait for him,
salute him on arrival.
He would sleep soundly those nights
and
all his dreams
would have a happy ending.

Picture taken in Wisla, Poland

***

Disappearing Act

”I like this country because you can still disappear here. Everybody’s out in the open, everyone wants or needs to be seen. In this country you can still disappear. People won’t bother you. People won’t ask your name. They won’t look you in the eyes. They let you fade away in peace. It’s not something I wanted for myself, I wanted to be seen just like you. But somewhere along the line, I wanted to left alone. I wanted to be left alone for such a long time that it seems to be the only thing I know how to do. Sometimes I deviate from my solitude, I try to make friends and it never goes right. I don’t know what to say or how to act. When I think about my grand social life as a young man, I don’t understand how that could be me. It seems like I’m looking at a stranger….
I hate this country for letting me disappear. I want to leave this place, but I don’t know how. I used to, but it’s been too long. You only get so much time to develop yourself. Once that time is past, you’ll have to live with this man for the rest of your life.”

Picture taken in Katowice, Poland
***