Despite how old this photograph may look, it’s only from 2003, along with the rest of what will be posted. During the winter of that year, at the age of seventeen, I made my first and only trip to Europe. Unfortunately, a few months after I returned home, my life was nearly cut short. In a sporting accident, the orbital (eye-socket), zygomatic (cheekbone), and my nose (not sure the legitimate term for that) were shattered on the right side of my face by another person’s shoulder. Along with that being concussion number 8 (?), my ribs were also bruised and one of my lungs collapsed. After several days in the hospital and full reconstructive surgery of that side of my face (now sturdily held together by numerous plates and screws), I did recover – mostly. Because of the short time period between The Accident and my travels, I could recall almost nothing about them afterward and even less now.
Today, I picked up the binder where the photos from that trip now reside, wiping the dust from the cover with my hands on to my jeans and proceeded to flip through the pages.
First stop was England (London pictured above). Then came France.
Not sure if digital had begun its takeover in 2003, but I was still using a film camera. All photographs were in color. Most photographs were definitely through the eyes of an awkward highschool boy. Some photographs were, much to the surprise of my intensely critical, and psychotically self-critical eye, actually… appealing? Not only were some of them appealing, but some of them were actually well-composed (albeit with a slight-tendency toward the central focal-point).
So, I took the opportunity to scan the 1-hour-photo prints into my computer, crop them as close to how they actually were shot as possible and treat them as if I had shot them yesterday. It was different, though. It was detached from emotion or memory – something that I’ve never experienced with my other work. And instead of thinking about what I could have done differently, I just let them be! I was intrigued by my attempts to capture images, years before I cared to know or thought I knew how to take a photograph.
These were photographs taken when the camera was just another eye. Before the camera was something to master. Before it had ties with success or failure. Before it was a career choice, or a degree, or a lifetime’s worth of debt, or a paycheck, or a passion. The camera was just as naive as its user and there is beauty in that I miss.
Finally in my travels came Germany.
Late November and I woke on the train to squint my eyes at a snow-covered, fog-dipped Alps. It groaned its age and gusted its beauty. The entryway to the end of my travels. Time meant nothing then; memories cement and my immortality the steel bars to keep them. I lifted the camera where I went and pushed a button to blink. Nothing could be more simple or more difficult all at once. But paths to learning or understanding are often circular, and someday I’ll look back on my footprints as I step beside them, appreciating what I have learned along the way.