Gazing into that mix of water and oil puddled on the street, I stood motionless against the backdrop of hundreds navigating the stone alleyways of the Jaffa flea market that Friday afternoon. Where decaying antique shops once stood in fading obscurity, trendy chic restaurants now played host to a mix of hipsters, artists, fashionistas and foreigners.
Traveling and shooting frequently these last years, I was no stranger to the occasional snide remark, as I chased the perfect shot with far less grace than a contortionist. But this was different. A more forgiving feeling pervaded. As I stood over that puddle, waiting for the perfect moment, I could sense the occasional passerby stopping behind me and peering over my shoulder, attempting to understand my intrigue. What great mystery had I unearthed from within the ruins of this six-thousand year old port city, they certainly wondered.
Minutes passed, the shutter released. I lifted my eyes from the viewfinder, finding a lone man standing awkwardly close to me. The sense of bewilderment on his face was readily apparent. Without uttering a word, I eased him into the exact location I stood moments earlier. He gazed down, raised his head, and muttered these profound words - “All I saw was a puddle of dirty water, thank you.”
Traversing city streets with cameras in hand, often times I am asked “are you a photographer?” It may seem coy, but my response is simply “I take pictures”. In earnest, I picked up a professional camera only a few years back, with little consideration of motive or intent. It was my first foray into a rather expensive hobby, but one that has allowed me to see the world from ever-changing perspectives, and has forced me to be more thoughtful in formulating impressions.
Early on, every opportunity to explore nature had me shooting wide, capturing breathtaking landscapes. Stepping back into everyday life, I saw the world through that very same lens, an attempt to capture all of what stood before me in a single frame. It was overwhelming, that realization of being so insignificant in a world increasingly plagued by colossal ills. In recent months, I began shooting macro. Walking along that familiar path, but stopping to take notice of newfound treasures - a flower growing out from the crack of a stone wall, a droplet of morning dew sitting perched upon a leaf, a bee in search of a fix of nectar. The realization that every photo was the aggregate of so many distinct beautiful elements, and all in constant flux, became an inescapable reality.
Today, accepting new realities and parting ways with old ones, forces reflection. The feelings I wrestle with feel all-consuming, traumatic and unnerving. In the context of all the years of my life, and in who I ultimately become, these may seem inconsequential. But today, self-deprecating feelings blur my self-image. Only new revelations and understandings will allow it to come into focus. As I strive to reconcile the inner turmoil - to find forgiveness in betrayal, to find compassion in suffering, to find love in indifference - it is the process alone that provides relief.
Both the greatest weakness and greatest strength of humanity is to remain devoted to the perpetual pursuit of genuine love, despite the pain so often experienced in its wake. But complacency does nothing to heal or promote growth. I have embraced that pain to force change, to formulate a new perspective, to compose a new picture. The resilience to do so has led me to understand how much we all can endure, when we simply stop creating expectations and open ourselves to different perspectives.
Today, I am again looking beyond the murky waters, to seek whatever mysteries lay below the surface.
"Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that’s all there is: love and its duty, sorrow and its truth. In the end that’s all we have - to hold on tight until the dawn.” - Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts