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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