When we visit another country we wish to think of ourselves as travelers. Definitely not tourists. We want to blend in. To see and not be seen. To observe, learn, understand.
But make no mistake, we are noticed, we are watched. Usually just a noted oddity; possibly a potential opportunity for needed income, or a source of amusement.
I have heard mzungu (Swahili), paradēśī (Hindi), sādā byakti (Bengali) and, of course, gringo, as I pass by. Translating as foreigner, white person, etc. Always in a curious, friendly way, so far, at least.
We live in a world that has narrowed into a neighborhood before it has broadened into a brotherhood.
___Lyndon B. Johnson
The most professional of these observers take their jobs seriously. They post themselves where they have an unobstructed field of view. The most prized positions are second floor balconies, it seems. And they devote their full attention to their task. We may see them as busy bodies or simply watching their world go by.
Really! But aren’t we, the travelers, the photographers, the real voyeurs here.
The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world ‘picturesque.
― Susan Sontag, On Photography
Aren’t we all the same? Inquisitive, people watchers, each from our own perspective. We travelers being curious about the places we visit. Isn’t it the very essence of travel? The locals just as interested in we foreigners, interlopers, who pass, usually too briefly, through their neighborhoods.
In my case, photography gave me the possibility to “draw” without using pen and paper – and make a living out of it. The camera gives me the opportunity to express myself artistically and observe the world through the lens. I am and have always been a voyeur, a “spy”
The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box.
In the mazes of loitering people, the watchful and furtive, The shadows of tree-trunks and shadows of leaves, In the drowse of the sunlight, among the low voices, I suddenly face you,
I have a nagging creative spirit and I find it needs an outlet. While I don’t think of myself as an artist, my camera allows me to nurture that spirit. I also have an insatiable curiosity about other peoples and places. The way others live, their culture, their beliefs. Fascinating!
That’s what it’s all about. Travel and photography – my yin and my yang.
I travel to lose myself. I travel to find myself.