second flurries so as not to cause a scene. I mostly managed and felt more free to waltz with my emotions once I was walking about downtown. My tears came more freely, exaggerated by the steam of my breath under my smoke mask. The steam wasn’t too overwhelming, mostly because for the past couple days, the sun had been blocked by the smoke, creating a false winter that emerged seemingly out of nowhere. I walked quickly to warm myself and distract myself.
I had an urgent and clear realization. I had to listen to a certain song — “Forgotten” by TV on the Radio. I hadn’t listened to that song in years. But snippets of lyrics popped inmy head, and fragments of instrumentation chilled me. I realized that this song, with it’s bleak and ominous tone, felt exactly how the bay area, and maybe the entire world, felt to me at the moment.
“…burning of plastic”
“Beverly Hills, nuclear winter
What should we wear and who’s for dinner?
In the summer
For the summer”
“It’s writing its name in the sky
And I’ll stop and stare
We’ll fade away into the night”
There’s a certain austerity to these lyrics that have always struck me and they hit with even more clarity last week. The juxtaposition of environmental destruction and celebriity delusion, confusion and ephemerality, all came together in a perfect soup of feeling.
I was taking photographs in my neighborhood as I was thinking about this. I was also walking with my earbuds in and decided to turn my music up on my phone. I clicked the volume button on the side of my phone, expecting the volume increase, naturally. But since I still had the camera open, it took pictures instead. This didn’t occur to me until a few seconds later, when I noticed the volume hadn’t changed. From there, I checked my photos to see what I had accidentally taken a block ago.
As she always does, when you need it the most and expect it the least.
These pictures I took were blurred, streaked, dark, hazy, manic, scattered — just how I was feeling as I paced restlessly through my neighborhood. Just as I had been feeling for the past few months, but without the time or space to fully process that. In that moment there on the sidewalk, TV on the Radio coursing into my ears, I saw myself in my photographs, speaking with me, acknowledging me, and comforting me.
Seeing the emotion from myself, but outside of myself was urgently cathartic — an exorcism of sorts. As an artist, seeing yourself in your work is a marker of success, that you’re following the right path creatively speaking. So to feel that from these wholly accidental images was massive. Especially in a year like 2020, where so far it has never felt more difficult to connect with myself in a creatively generative and meaningful way.
From there, I had to strike while the iron was hot. I was listening to TV on the Radio’s “Satellite” from their Young Liars EP (which is older, more aggressive, and raw than “Forgotten”). The rest of the walk was solely about capturing my feeling with the camera I had on me. As a studied photographer, sometimes I feel a bit of guilt when an idea strikes when I only have a phone camera on me. But, in moments like this, it reminds me that the camera does not the picture make — it’s the photographer and chance. Nothing else really matters. So with chance in mind, and a desire to part from my typical shooting style, I shifted my approach. Flash, low exposure,
motion blur, and shooting from the hip. All of this felt foreign to me. It almost felt like I was stealing. All of these factors work collectively against the control of the photographer. Normally I don’t like to shoot this way. I prefer control. I prefer to decide and orchestrate what elements come into play for my camera and when. But it felt freeing — purposeful and needed — to intentionally break from my regular approach. On a camera phone, with these parameters in place, there is a delay from when you click the shutter and when the camera actually fires — about half a second or so. This was perfect. This way I truly never knew what I was getting as it was happening. It became a ceremony of Me, dancing with myself, popping hazy light into my neighborhood in early evening.