Distant Relations

It's only natural to make a lot of photos when travelling. This past trip has seen me chewing through two to four hundred shots a day. More on some days. Let's see, that's something like 3000 shots or around 85 rolls, about six or seven rolls per day. Surprising to me, it's not a lot more than I might have shot without the digital camera (the Contax only got used for about four rolls, total — though it's a joy to handle compared to the lunking Canon).

When the trip is rushed it's especially true that you're likely to see the things most typical, or most different from those at home. They stand out as obvious. The stone tanukis, the tricycle cabs, the massive portraits of Mao. And on occasion the things surprisingly transplanted or morphed where you'd least expect them: the subtitled Korn tracks in the Karaoke machine, the Cadillac Fleetwoods negotiating slowly through the streets of Shinjuku, the Beijing DQ store. There's simply not a lot of time for contemplation. Bang off the shot and move, you've got other places to go.

A resolution I'd made some months ago had been to try approaching Santa Clara with the same eye that I usually bear when travelling. It's tough — Santa Clara is suburban and automobile-dominated, as opposed to cities like London (or San Francisco, just an hour away) which still have a large amount of pedestrian traffic and businesses. And this past summer has been demanding with a lot of non-photo activities and time demands.

An interesting effect, however, and one I've experienced before, is that on my return America seems almost as alien and distant as the places I've just been. The attributes of American character are suddenly in sharper outline than they had been before. The places and the people, strange or familiar, are vivid and mysteriously new, as if they'd somehow been replaced by more colorful doppelgangers while I was gone.

September 23, 2004

 

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