When I examine my days carefully, looking for moments of peace, of clarity, of calm and reflective processes, I realize that almost always, these are moments of being alone. I remember in my early twenties when I went to India for the first time and tried out a month long silence, the most surprising result of that was the realization that we are never really alone. So much goes on in our minds and faculty when we are alone, that we find ourselves able to understand ourselves so much better and to stand under the reality of our situation at any given moment. A day spent without any ‘me’ time is a day not enjoyed fully. I do not exaggerate when I say that I rarely ever feel lonely when I am alone. There is a huge difference between the 2 states. What is loneliness really? Could it be the fear of getting to know ourselves? I love my own company and have loved it since I was a young child. This makes me value time with others in a different way and in turn makes me more selective of who I share time with. It is such a valuable commodity in a most certainly mortal life.
One of my favorite things about big cities is movement. People moving, going places, coming from places, going up stairs, crossing roads, cycling, running, walking and playing a part in rotating the great metropolis wheel. It’s the urban magic waiting for us photographers on every corner.
Visiting the city we called home for almost 12 years is nothing short of strange at first. But within a day or two I felt the streets call me back with their charm, unique flair and warmth of the people. So little of the old city is left as the large construction projects drive forward leaving bits and pieces of the beautiful old alleys around the city. As I walk around and find huge empty lots and big buildings on the sites of my favorite alleys, I realize that all my photography over the years in Shanghai has been about recording history and vanishing alleys that are never to come back again…
There is a certain mystery and flair that is unique to Asia. It inspires and begs investigating. I created this image by merging these 2 photos: a statue from Angkor Wat in Cambodia and a girl in the rain in Shanghai, China. Their frequencies were similar and I was curious to see if they were complimentary.
In Hongkou, part of the old city of Shanghai, was a set of grey narrow alleys that were a maze of tiny streets containing 2 or 3 story homes stacked side by side in a most claustrophobic manner. Hundreds of tangled electric wires dangled between walls that were decorated with phone numbers advertising services for those who needed them. Water flowed down the streets and bikes and colorful laundry colored the otherwise shabby surroundings. In those sad alleys I met some very happy people. Their smiles instantly appeared when we met and stories were told that I only understood partly because of my poor grasp of Shanghainese but laughter was the largest part of the conversation. I just loved that place and I kept going back again and again to photograph until one day the residents announced that their neighborhood is condemned to demolition like so many other old Shanghai alleys. The last time I visited there were metal foundations of giant about to rise from the stories of these lovely people. I had to fight back tears seeing the ghosts of what used to be there and is no longer…
If we were asked to recall the events of the last 5 minutes, we can play them back in our minds where they are recorded almost perfectly. Then if we were asked that same question a year later, all details become blurry and most of the story is lost. Why is that? Why do memories fade? Is it by design? Or did something go wrong along our line of evolution?
We get so busy with life that we ignore death. We celebrate distractions, the things that make us avoid the question of our own mortality on this planet and all the time treating something as natural as death as we would an avoidable inconvenience.
I wonder if this great fear stems from our lack of education, our inability to handle the unknown, not coming to terms with the inevitable, or the way our lives are more and more based in materialism.
Day 43 of 365~
Images taken somewhere on the Shanghai underground
From the mega metropolis of 30 million to a quiet German neighborhood, from the 16th floor of a high-rise building to the lone house and garden, from the green polluted sky of shanghai to the intoxicatingly fresh air of the countryside… we find ourselves in a whole new ecosystem.
We took in a few fish to live in our small pond last week and since then they have been hiding as they get used to the new environment. We are not so different. I feel the urge to settle in and find my way in my new ecosystem.
Despite of all the change, something inside me is dancing in joy and wellbeing. Thank you Germany for the chance to be well and happy as we get ready to call you home.
I grew up in Lebanon, moved to New York City at the age of 20, have lived since in Boston, Miami, Germany, shanghai and now moving to Germany again. Like most expatriates I find myself at a loss of knowing where 'home' really is or if it exists at all…the age of 20, have lived since in Boston, Miami, Germany, shanghai and now moving to Germany again. Like most expatriates I find myself at a loss of knowing where 'home' really is or if it exists at all…