The Picture That Changes Everything: the Pleasant Madness of Street-Photography part 3

3: There Is No Reason To Hide

There’s an argument to be made that perhaps remaining childishly narcissistic could grant someone a more blissful life than an empathic one. Perhaps, but it seems like such a meaningless story. Even the greatest stories about loners are about their relationships to people in the past: people they have lost, relationships they have ruined, people they fell in love with, people they watch from a distance. There’s the need for connection, even if you think you don’t need anybody. I can’t decide whether I’m a real loner or not. I guess I’m not. I might be extremely misanthropic but I love too many people. All the enjoyable times spend with myself pales in comparison to the happiness I feel when I’m with my girlfriend. It’s how she holds me, looks at me, kisses me, it’s the way she says good-morning with those loving eyes. Watching films by myself is never as much fun when you are watching it with someone else. I love watching their reactions during a sudden shocking or humorous moment. I would have seen a film already and I would just wait until that scene just so I can see how they react. People can be so wonderfully goofy. Hell might be other people but so heaven. It’s good to love people, to feel that some are more important than others. It’s good to love someone so much, you’re willing to die for this person.
But in order to be good at any art form, you have to spend a lot of times with yours truly. There will be great big parties which you will have excuse yourself from because you need to work on your craft. I’m not saying I’m some brilliant writer, but I certainly got better by practicing. You need to learn to be alone, you need to find ways to express yourself through your art. This takes time, this takes loneliness.
It can take a toll sometimes, as it did with me. I went too far in my loneliness. There was a short but destructive period in my life in which I felt compelled to use drugs to inspire my writing. Writing would enhance your high. You write something good, you feel extra good about yourself. You feel like you just tapped into something, like a hidden secret. You feel a greater connection to the universe, you feel like you finally did something worthwhile.
As you can expect, most of my writing then was shit and drugs became less tools for inspiration and more habitual forming, until they became a huge problem. When I finally quit, it took months, maybe even longer, to get me out of this funk. The damage is often times far greater for the mind than the body. I’m better now but when I look back at it, I do feel sympathy for those who never managed to escape the spiral. If you don’t get out in time, you might get stuck for a long time. It’s so easy for good and beautiful people to slip into this cycle of self-destruction, all it takes is a few wrong choices.
But it only takes one good decision- with fierce determination- to get yourself out of it. If I can, so can anybody else- which isn’t really true, but it sounds hopeful doesn’t it?
It’s the loners, the desperate, the lost that interest me most not only in writing but in photography. It’s easy to spot them, you only have to pay attention. They don’t like to be photographed, when they see you aiming a camera for them, they quickly put their head down, they pretend not to feel any shame when somebody sees them for who they are. The beggars don’t like it, to them it often feels like exploitation. The junkies don’t like it, to them it often feels like you’re making fun of them. But it’s not only those inside skid-row, those in shabby clothing and plastic bags. The Lost are everywhere, in every social-group and every class-group. It’s just that one is less obvious than the other. Sometimes I spot them, you can see them lost in thought, dealing with some grievance, some heart break. When you do you have to quickly move on, pretend you just made a random picture and you weren’t targeting them. They will get angry if you did. They don’t want to be seen. Everybody wants to hide. They look away because the pictures tells the truth.
So you need to chose a distance, you need to be quick. This sounds simple but it isn’t. You need to have an eye for composition, to chose the right angle and all in seconds. There’s not much time to think. If you think one second too long, the shot is lost. You will only get a glimpse but the glimpse is everything. You will never know what they are thinking, but you know that whatever is on their mind, it means everything to them. It’s destroying them, it’s taking their soul hostage. To imagine what goes on through their mind; a lost spouse, financial troubles, desire, paranoia, even boredom can be fascinating.
I am not taking pictures of them because I’m mocking them or I feel better than them. I do it because I am them. Even if I have escaped this feeling now, I can only go back to it. I could have easily stayed in that moment. I could have been one of them at moment. It’s so easy to get lost in this world, too easy in fact. To me, only art can make it meaningful. Only art can make this suffering means something. I guess this is also a reason of why I take pictures on the streets, preferably in the city because they have so much more to offer. If you live in a secluded rural town, you might only see the regular ones. The smaller you make your world, the less complicated it becomes. But if you live in a big city, where on a regular stroll you might walk pass tens or even hundreds of people, you can see them everywhere, they are on display. They think they can hide among the great mass of people and they can, just not to street-photographers.
We see them, we make a picture, we move on. We hope we did it well because we can give meaning to them. You might never see the picture but we will cherish it because you have become so beautiful to us. If you only knew how beautiful we think you were, you wouldn’t feel like you had to hide. You would smile at the camera.

Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/ 

***

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The Picture That Changes Everything: the Pleasant Madness of Street-Photography part 2

2: The Lights Just Keep Passing Us and Fading Away

I’m not sure where my awareness began. There is no exact moment, the death of childhood is gradual. It’s a series of instances, experience that drives the mind of a child to the realm of adulthood. Perhaps it began in the backseat of my grandmother’s car.
Both my parents didn’t own a car, nor had the license to drive one, so my grandmother from my father’s side would drive us everywhere. I’m not sure where we were going or how old I was but none of that matters. This memory an amalgamation rather than a specific one. It was a moment that repeated itself plenty. A moment that didn’t feel significant at all. A nighttime drive on the high-way, her tired grandson gazing out the car window. Sometimes the greatest mysteries of life are best pondered in a sleepy haze, as your consciousness drifts through memories, as you interact with old friends and made-up ones, to movie-stars you’ll never meet and Gods that never existed. You don’t want to fight for the answer anymore, it’s too tiresome. You gently ask the Gods that aren’t really there, who are just swimming in your mind, about why you are here. You’ll never get an answer but that’s fine, you’ll make up one. The Gods tell you it’s okay, you can rest. You’ll wake up in a new world tomorrow.
I wasn’t thinking about Gods then, but I made my first childish step toward existentialism. Gazing out the car window, I started watching the cars pass us by. I started watching them disappear into the night. In the distance they would change into car lights, they would ultimately fade away. I began to wonder about the people inside those cars, who where they? Where were they going?
I began to imagine these people living exciting, sometimes tragic lives. We would pass each other and never know each other. If we ever meet, we would never know we passed each other that one time on that particular night. Perhaps a friend or a future love would be in that car. Perhaps even my future killer. We could mean so much to each other but we’ll never find this out. We are connected but we will never find out. Perhaps you are fighting similar demons. The possibilities are endless. You will never know. We should be reaching out but we won’t. The lights just keep passing and fading away.
For some reason this fascinated me. These musings would come back to me, as I passed the myriad of faces in the city streets. All these lives, too many perhaps, that pass us by. Most don’t have a photographic memories. You need pictures to remember the faces of even those you love so dearly. There’s a limited amount of space in our minds. We come to a point where our bodies are just deteriorating. If are lucky we are so deteriorated that people ask us about oblivion, whether or not we fear it, whether or not we really think there is such a thing.
These fading faces should be more precious than that. These moments that pass away should linger somewhere so we can go back to them, to understand what was happening. There is so much humanity that is wasted away. I think this is why I became interested in street-photography…

Picture belongs to Tom Plevnik, https://tomplevnik.wordpress.com/
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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

***

 


 

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
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