About followers.

A couple of weeks ago I went to another of those local photography meetings. This time it was about a project someone wanted to show and discuss. You can read more about it here. It is not about followers on social media but people who just follow their loved ones from one place to another because many reasons. Work is the most common one.

Somehow it felt familiar. I was myself one who followed his parents along the years through some different places. And now I am one who has dragged his family with him to a new place with the promise of a better life. Now I have my own followers, so I can easily relate to this project. There are many known things that happen in a leader-follower kind of relationship in a foreign country that this project describes.

One is the follower having to stop working. Developing her/his own career becomes difficult if not impossible. Depending on the country, the academic titles might not be recognized. In some countries you can only work with a permit of some kind, that doesn’t usually include your partner. The unemployment numbers might be high for specific kinds of jobs. Specialization means having to do courses, that cost money and time. And time for oneself is not easy to get, given that now she/he will need to care of the children at home, if there are any.

Another issue comes with the concept of home, a place that you are supposed to live in forever. Or is it just the place where you actually live?. While the leader can be perfectly fine at his/her office doing the job, meeting with co-workers, feeling part of the experience, the follower can feel just the opposite. Difficulties on people in the new place and possibly a complete lack of sympathy with the new place that she/he refuses to call home.

There are more things that can happen, but as a start, these two can become quite complicated. Sooner or later this will produce frictions in the relationship. Doubts about her/his role as a follower will appear. So at some point she/he will start questioning what was all this fuss about the expat life.

I asked to the host of the meeting about the leader part. If she ever did talk with the ones that at some point decided to bring his/her followers to a new place. She told me that only in a few cases. The project is more about her interest in people is this particular situation, one that she also is having, by the way. Another similar project could be done, or a second part to this one, about the leaders. These can also have their own sort of issues and doubts, more if not everything goes as expected. If that happens, the dynamics between leaders and followers can become even more difficult.

And what this has to do with photography? Why this discussion took place in a photography meeting? Part of the project are portraits and pictures of some of the places where the followers live. And while they initially didn’t look like very interesting pictures to me, they made more sense when explained. The most interesting ones were the portraits, with a split composition showing an empty space and a half of a follower’s portrait. This was meant to show that somehow, the follower was and at the same time wasn’t there, in a place that doesn’t look exactly like home. Other pictures were more about the place itself, like specific corners of the house, or personal belongings.

You can see a few of these pictures here.

To shoot or not to shoot.

Yesterday I attended to a local photography group meeting. The subjects of these meetings are usually more photography techniques related, but sometimes there is a nice debate. The theme of the night was ethics in photography practice. It wasn’t necessary to be a seasoned photographer to attend to this session, as the subject is applicable to lots of different aspects of life or work.

Some famous photographs were shown, that somehow have stirred the minds of people in recent years, along with other examples.The panellists talked about their experience in newspapers or street photography, two specific genres that can have issues of this kind. Issues about what pictures must be taken and not.Issues about what are the intentions of publishing specific pictures, their context and how playing with that context can alter the meaning of those pictures.

It seemed to me that for the newspaper person, the thing was about delegation and his own common sense and experience. Everything was measured on a professional scale. He was sent by his editors to cover some specific thing happening somewhere. His mission was just taking as many pictures as he could. And later this editors, based on their own criteria, featured “the picture”for the event. He mentioned a few times in his career that was told off by people asking why he was taking this or that picture. He was sent once to a place where a woman had drown in the sea, and some people started questioning his presence in that terrible scene. He also mentioned other times when he just wasn’t able to take pictures of some specific events he experienced. For example, when he saw an accident in the road just in front of him, and his first reaction was waiting for the medical services to appear. He wasn’t on an assignment, so he didn’t took any pictures. He didn’t even thought about it.

The street photographer was less concerned about this, I think. His sole intentions are mostly artistic ones. He wants to make a nicely framed picture of ordinary people doing more or less ordinary things in the streets of Cambridge. The biggest moral dilemma is usually the kind of: should I ask for permission, or not? Will that person notice me with my camera? If some embarrassing situation arises he just gives a card to people with his website address, so if they see a “bad” picture of theirs, they can ask him for removal. I have seen his pictures and they are really nice. In both technical qualities and intentions. I don’t think anyone could have ever found them offensive.

The extremes were mentioned. People that will do the impossible to get a picture. Someone mentioned Don McCullin, and I instantly remembered his documentary. I think that is a quite good example of a photographer that faced really difficult situations and even risked his life for “the picture”. Could his presence have changed some events he witnessed? Does a photographer in an armed conflict has that kind of power or responsibility? These are some incredible difficult questions that not even McCullin seems to have an answer for. At the same time, his legacy is an amazing set of historical pictures that hopefully will raise the awareness about the damages of the armed conflicts he documented.The other (ridiculous) extreme they talked about was the paparazzis. People with a camera that will become an intruder in anyone’s life for not precisely the right reasons.

Food for thought. Good weekend!

It’s no secret that a friend is someone who lets you help.
It’s no secret that a liar won’t believe anyone else.
They say a secret is something you tell one other person.
So I’m telling you… child.

The Fly, U2.

To my imaginary friends.

Yes, I have an imaginary friends. I must be going nuts or something, but that reality is becoming more and more obvious. I thought this things just happened when you a are a child. I see my daughter sometimes talking to people who is not there, as far as I know. They have different names, they tell her things, she plays with them, or she runs away scared. When this happens, I cannot avoid some strange feeling. Maybe, there was someone there, next to my daughter.

Anyone with children has had this experience. It is a very usual phenomenon, a child’s imagination is completely out of control, as it needs to be, and when you become older, your own self-control and awareness of reality makes this things more difficult to happen. At least, that’s what I thought. I’m almost 40, and long time ago I stopped playing with cuddly toys and LEGO (although I like LEGO still and I find broken old cuddly toys heartbreaking). I don’t consider myself a very imaginative person though.

Then, why at this age I’m thinking I have imaginary friends? What has happened in my mind lately to make me think so. Enter Social networks vs Real life. Everybody  this days is into social networks. Facebook, twitter, google, etc… The first thing I find funny is calling this social. Social for me is hanging out with friends or colleagues and chat about whatever comes across. Social is receiving an invitation for a dinner in some friends house. Social is doing a bbq in your garden, if the weather is right (oh, the weather). Social is inviting someone to your house or a restaurant or a pub to have lunch. Social is going with other people to places or just have a walk. Social is to meet new people, like when you start a new job in a foreign country.

All that, and a few more things, mean social to me, while seating in a computer reading status updates I don’t care about, laughing at the nth version of the latest meme, browsing pictures of holidays taken who knows where, or parties you haven’t been invited to, is not. At least not for me.

When I started using facebook, I thought it was great. I did what most people do. Added as friends some real friends I had close to me at that moment. Also, I added some work colleagues, not thinking first, what if they know about… whatever, It doesn’t matter. Also I started looking for people who I knew in the past. I have lived in a few different places along my life. It is always hard to move to another place and more so if you lose contact with people who at that point in your life was important to you for any reason. Old friends, old girlfriends, old crushes… old things generally speaking. I think everybody using this social networks have added at some point this kind of old people. Why? I don’t know, maybe you still have hope to continue things were you left them, maybe you are just curious about their lives, possibly you are a secret stalker. And lastly, I added some family to the mix. That would work right, I though…

Now a bit of culture shock. When I first knew about Facebook, I was living in Spain. Maybe its the weather, maybe its the people, I have no clear idea what it is, but people there is quite different. I know it sounds stereotype, but it’s that way. In three years living here I have met some people from different places, and there are some clear differences. Being myself Spanish, I know there are things, or ways of being and behave here, that I still don’t get. And I’m not talking about just being more introverted or extroverted. In fact, I am more the former. But I care about simple things like saying good morning or asking about the weekend, things that most of my colleagues at work just seem to ignore. Just a tiny example, a tiny detail that can drive a Spanish guy completely crazy. Here it looks much more difficult to know about someone in an informal conversation. You may end thinking that everybody ignores you, or that everybody is quite reserved, as the stereotype says. Everything can change in a pub though, under some alcohol influence. Then you really start knowing people. More so, if you manage to understand a word of what they say, a skill not taught in English schools in Spain.

And there is another place where people here seem to expose themselves really well, which is… Facebook. People here disclose all sorts of personal issues using Facebook. You know about birthdays, holidays, divorces, engagements, weddings, births, all sort of mental health issues, political and religious views (another kind of mental health issues), etc…, more from reading your wall than from real conversations with people. And it looks perfectly normal. To me, it doesn’t. It is not that I am not interested in those things. It is the way I get to know about them, reading a website, and not with a coffee (or tea, or beer) at hand listening to a real person in front of me. I find something weird about this kind of social interaction.

While these facebook/twitter/whatever sessions it is like entering into Matrix. You escape from the real world to the world of disclosed thoughts and musings in a website. And it is al-right. The wrong part for me comes when that becomes the only way of interaction with them. And in a foreign place, given the usual language and cultural differences, that can happen quite easily.

Hey, you are writing about some personal things in your blog! Yes I do but I find posting things in a blog a bit different. I am not forcing anyone to read them.  And as far as I now, none of my followers knows me in real life (well, that may not be strictly true) . And what this blog is most about is pictures I’ve taken. It clearly says that in the title, top left corner. I write about things that maybe are interesting to people but I don’t expect much in exchange. And I write here because I enjoy having conversations with my imaginary friends… 😉

Choose your enemies carefully, ’cause they will define you
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friends

– Cedars Of Lebanon, U2

The end of the summer.

I missed again posting on time. This should have been for yesterday. Fridays are a great day for rants and musings. No, the summer hasn’t ended yet. In fact, I’m not even sure if spring hasn’t even started. But I don’t want to talk again about the weather. What I mean is that feeling of sudden realization of the end of something good, and how that triggers a change in some behaviours. It is something that always comes to my mind. I will always remember having this feeling in some summers during my teenage days. What is curious is that I can recognize when this is happening. Then it is like if something pulls me out telling me, hey, your time is ending! Hurry up!

The question that immediately appears is: hurry up, for what? And why my time is ending? I’ll explain this better with an example. It is something that I’m sure everybody has lived at some point in their lives. I’ll go back to that summer holidays, when you were a teenager. You arrive to a new place, with your family. That place is familiar, because maybe  you have spent the last few summers already there. Maybe even it is starting to get boring. It is not the first time you go there, and you would like that next summer was in another place, just for a change. Of course, you don’t have friends there. Each summer, you only manage to meet a few people, teenagers in the same situation as you, that who knows if you will see any other time in your life. Precisely because of that, you don’t try it too hard to find friends or engage with them. You just don’t want to get attached to anyone, just in case. Just in case of what? Well, when you are a teenager, you can find loads of answers for that question. And the thing gets much worse if you are a bit introverted. So you  spend most of your summer doing nothing. You shouldn’t do nothing anyway! You are on holidays! Yes, that’s true. What I mean is, somehow not enjoying it too much those holidays. Not having all the fun you could have had. You think, I don’t care, I will come here next year. Also, because you are having such a boring holiday, you are all the day complaining. Complaining to your parents because you don’t like the place. Complaining to your summer friends because you think the place is boring. Even complaining to yourself, because you think you deserve something better and you hope for the next holiday to be much better.

Summer gets to its end, maybe in a few weeks, and then your parents say: We wont come here again. We are going to move to another country. Things will be better there. Maybe that’s what they say to you, but actually, what it could be happening is just that there are some economic issues at home, say your father has lost his job, or something like that. Your parents wont tell you that, they don’t want to worry you too much. They know that you already worry too much for everything, so better leave that way. What happens next is a very interesting thing. You try hard to enjoy the last days as if it was the end of the world, your last night on earth. You know you may not see these people any time soon, maybe never again. You talk to everyone. You tell things to people you could never thought you were going to be able to tell. Every hour is precious. And all that, feels weird and great at the same time. It feels weird because you realize how much of your precious time you have wasted. And you notice that this sudden extraversion phase is not natural in you although it is great, because you feel more connected, more engaged to people. At the same time, you realize about how absurd all your complains were. So much whining and moaning.

And this has happened to me lots of times. Apart from lots of summers. In recent years, it has happened when I have decided to move to another place with my family. Or when I decided to change job. Or even at some late Saturday nights. Only at the end I have found that I enjoy the most of it. And now, I’m feeling the same. I think the end of something is coming, and I might be starting to already miss it. We’ll see.