THE NO PHOTO TRAVEL ITINERARY

Within days of my arrival in China I lost my blackberry, and I carried no camera. Should I get a new one? I thought.After all, if i didn’t put pics of my trip on Facebook, it never happened, right?

 

But I decided not to. I did not fly to Asia to snap photos, most particularly of myself. And so I made my way across China and didn’t take one photograph. To this day at times I almost doubt I even went at all. The entire journey unfolded like a psychedelic sprawl of memories, a blue with intermittent vivid, colorful images that I will carry to my grave. Every one of the experiences I had will have to rely on hearsay to regale. And those kind enough to listen to my retellings will in turn have to rely on their own imaginations to construct their own images in their own mind’s eye.

 

Everyone has heard about how Native Americans allegedly at one time believed that a picture steals the subject’s soul. And I can relate. Certain aspects of the process of photographing a human being seem strange to me. The posing, the performance. An amount of objectification and fetishization must go into it. The subject ceases their volition and becomes a…subject.

 

A pertinent article at a sociological website http://thesocietypages.org relates interesting anecdotes from the perspective of a medical student participating in ‘voluntourism’ missions to Africa. Boldly, she even includes a photograph of herself, an Image of her surrounded by little impoverished Ghanan children that she staged to ‘get likes’ on Facebook while on one of her trips. Then she continues on to critique her own behavior, saying:

 

The girl is me. And the photograph was taken on my first trip to Ghana during a 10 day medical brigade. I’m beaming in the photograph, half towering and half hovering over these children. I do not know their names, they do not know my name, but I directed a friend to capture this moment with my own camera. Why?

This photograph is less about doing actual work and more about retrospectively appearing to have had a positive impact overseas. Photographs like these represent the overseas experience in accordance with what writer Teju Cole calls the “White Savior Industrial Complex.”

I commend her willingness to turn the microscope on herself. That takes guts.

She continues:

On these trips, we hide behind the lens, consuming the world around us with our powerful gazes and the clicking of camera shutters. When I directed this photo opportunity and starred in it, I used my privilege to capture a photograph that made me feel as though I was engaging with the community. Only now do I realize that what I was actually doing was making myself the hero/star in a story about “suffering Africa.”

These feelings of discontent I can relate to and mirror my disillusionment with Hollywood and film making in general. An image can objectify, while also making its object into a subject of the photographers own (often narcissistic) agendas. The camera separates the photographer from, and thus also mediates the relationship with, the subject.

I have personally been the subject of many photo shoots, most of them self initiated on behalf of my now discarded acting career. In those hundreds and hundreds of images, with hours spent sifting through them, I recognized a pattern. The posed shots, where I stood or sat still, ‘broke the fourth wall’, and looked directly into the camera, did not look good to me. I almost always felt unhappy with them. The best shots of myself I found were the ones where I was walking, moving, in action. Perhaps there are more reasons people a century ago frowned on film than simply long exposure time.

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On my next trip I plan to take photos, but they will mostly consist of environments and places. Still life I encounter on my urban explorations. I also highly value candid action shots, glimpses of how people work and live their daily lives in other cultures. And certain anthropological subjects such as primitive fishing techniques and traditional watercraft particularly fascinate me. But posed images? Staged images? No thanks. They just don’t interest me.

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Life on the fringes of success: “You’re just an extra.”

There comes a time in every artists life when moving back in with the parent(s) is plan A. Plan B for me is volunteering on an organic farm and kissing fame an fortune into the compost or going to Thailand and teaching English. There are no other options.

I’m one of those rare cats that rambles through Central Casting for a re-registration (every two years, compulsory) without much of an inclination for the fame half of the equation. The fortune part is definitely up my alley. If fame comes along, fine. But should my name recognition go platinum I intend to cause more trouble than Snipes going down for tax evasion or Madonna saying ‘fuck’ on Letterman.

So back I am in San Diego. That’s two hours out from LA (speeding). I still do BG work, because I ‘ain’t willing to do BJ work. So up the 5 I go at 3 am a couple of days a week, nap in the car for an hour, then find myself at a mock Toga party on the set of CBS studios.

Needless to say I am not having fun. I’m riding a wild Red Bull and immersed in the most desperate subculture on earth: aspiring actors. All that and on a non-union voucher. That means little money. The best thing to come from the ordeal was the above picture. I like it because it reminds me of Brando as Julius Caesar. Narcissus had nothing on Caesar. Not so sure about the real historical figure though.

No, this is my game so I can surf. I’ll leave the nightlife and the being seen to people who thrive on loud noises while I climb coconut trees and catch waves on a beach that is secluded except for me and a harem of nubililty.

THIS: OR THIS: ?

Since I am nursing an attention deficit sinkhole and a slight autistic growth in my cerebellum, I figure I’ll doggedly persue a career path that is congruent with my best talent (besides taking my shoes off and getting muddy): being over dramatic and brooding.

Sure, there are things more useful to humanity than actors. Trauma surgeons, engineers, and journalists come to mind. But I’ll go ahead and fool myself into an illusion of grandeur that legitimizes my goals. I’ll tell myself, ‘Self, you can really inspire people.’ Still, knowing how to build a house seems a tad more utilitarian than knowing how to do produce something that can be shown on a TV in a house.

Mankind will eventually go to space and while we are in hyper-sleep we will be role playing VR scenarios. Until then, people will want to see good movies, and I hope I can make enough doing so to support my Whole Foods habit.

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