Last week I stumbled upon an old Ilford HP5 disposable camera that I bought back in 2016 while in New York. I’ve since mostly forgotten that I had it, though on odd occasions it has made its way back onto the streets for a couple of frames.
It was a strange sensation, not knowing what memories the forgotten photographs may hold. Uncertain of what I actually photographed or when. It’s that ‘lucky-packet’ sensation from childhood memories, but saturated with a mix of other emotions.
Thinking back on what I’ve been through since 2016 is like opening a vast box of tightly packaged thoughts – each one meticulously placed in their own space. Most of which I’ve tried hard to work through. And other’s which I opted to simply lock away. The past years have felt like a journey of blindly falling forward until somehow something along the way started making sense. I still don’t know if anything ever really makes sense at all (I often feel like I have a sort of imposter syndrome.) I found myself thinking of people whom I’ve met along the way, the one’s who became close friends and confidants. Other’s who I loved, and the ones that I lost. They all sit in their own little space in the past. As if caught on their own frame of film, except that they will never be disposable, not really, not ever.
It’s ironic how something so seemingly insignificant as a disposable camera, a tool meant for the documentation of quick ‘throw-away’ moments instantly became a catalyst to much deeper thought and memory. How seeing a photo that I took at an intersection in New York suddenly snapped me back there. Replaying moments in a loop. Nothing good can come from trudging up the past. This I know, but I think there’s value in allowing yourself to feel it.
I’ve always been a person who to many comes across as confident, determined and mostly happy when I surround myself with others. You can basically drop me in an ocean of people and leave me there, only to come back an hour later and find me deep in conversation with someone who an hour ago was a total stranger. Easy going, to the observer. The few whom I’ve let in, or the handful of determined friends who have tunnelled themselves past my defences have seen the other parts of myself. The parts which I often retreat into, seeking silence. Where I shield myself from emotions and come across as heartless because I need too. Because I was feeling too much of too many things and simply couldn’t – the part of me entering survival mode. Most of them can attest to the changes over the last 4 years.
Processing has been a massive part of the last couple of years, learning how to open up in meaningful ways. Learning how to trust, and how to love, but more importantly, learning how to accept love. Something that for many years I struggled with. Something that to this day is a challenge for me. It’s odd don’t you thing? How something that seems so simple, that so many people crave so desperately to feel and receive from others is something that for some of us we simple can’t or won’t easily accept. Self-acceptance, self-love, love. It’s incredibly complicated and complex.
If there’s one thing that stood out while I flipped through these photographs shortly after I got home today, it’s that even though so much has happened I’m still here. I’m still trying, I’m still learning, and there’s a beauty to the pure resilience and tenacity of life. The streets captured on these frames, though somewhat changed — still move with the waves of those get swept up within them. All those lives frozen on this spool for the last couple of years have taken their own turns. So many individual journeys are happening all around us, and there are endless possibilities of where they may end up. Some a bit blurred, out of focus and imperfect such as these photographs, but beautiful in their own way.
I find that incredibly captivating.