“Do you know what intelligence is? It is the capacity, surely, to think freely, without fear, without a formula, so that you begin to discover for yourself what is real, what is true; but if you are frightened, you will never be intelligent.” – Krishnamurti
I’m settling back into New York and not sure what to make of myself. A good trip does that, I suppose. I’m not sure what to make of the images and thoughts from the trip, either. Anything? I’ve a strong desire to let it all go. What do I do this for?
Something else pushes me toward working with the Kalon girls material. I’ve been drawn toward them since July. I’m not inspired to write out, day by day, the highlights and events of the trip as I’d attempted and intended to along the way. In some ways, the trip can be boiled down to three points. The first: I no longer want to be a full-time photographer. I knew this. Now I know better. Now I know and I don’t mind, don’t think I’m giving up something I shouldn’t.
I set up shoots with NGOs because I wanted a connection and purpose in Central Asia, especially in Almaty, because I intended to scout it out as a place to live. I wanted to insure that I’d do something other than visit Guka and depend on her for the connection. Well, that took an interesting turn when I learned that Guka, who works for an NGO, knew someone at every organization I’d planned to work with. What happened with Guka in Almaty was, if not complicated, than too long a story and unrelated to my point (I don’t want to be a photographer) to go into here.
There were a few places I ended up working with in Kazakhstan, and the work is decent but not brilliant. I realized that if I don’t really get to know a subject and click, I’m not really interested and can’t be bothered to carry the lenses, the flashes, the heavy stuff. My external flash broke anyway, which meant a lot of slow sync indoors (the intentionally blurry indoor photos you’ve seen. The alternative, basic full on flash, is just miserable). Oddly enough, I didn’t much care. I was emotionally invested with a project in Bukhara and wanted to work on it, but couldn’t cancel the rest of the trip and go back. What if something wonderful and new awaited? What kind of traveler would call off the places she hadn’t been for a place she had, many times? So, I walked through the rest of my planned itinerary, making the shoots that came through (many didn’t, thanks to the scratchy NGO world and their August vacations). In the end, I did leave Almaty a bit early to go back to Bukhara.
If I am not emotionally invested in a project, I don’t want to shoot it.
This is no way to make a living. Not in photography anyway, as I am not emotionally invested in auto adverts or underfed girls with fake boobs.
The second: I’ve a new understanding of human connection and can now feel cultural difference, rather than simply understand the theoretical concept of it. This was quite a revelation, which made me happy I didn’t pursue anthropology. Culture, on some level, must be FELT (the big signifiers of culture—language, foods, many customs, etc.—are, after all, usually the responsibility of the women to pass down. Forgive, please, my suggestion that women feel more than men) and this doesn’t translate well, if at all, to academics. However much I enjoy theories, I now don’t believe culture can honestly or accurately be jammed into them. I’m not saying they shouldn’t be, it’s just not for me.
This clicked for me in the mountains outside Almaty, after I’d been a few weeks staying with three, very different, Central Asian families. This I will write about.