Disabled man using only his hands to travel, crosses a street in San Luis Potosi
There is only one thing I am afraid of. Unlike most people I am not afraid of vanishing from this earth and leave nothing behind. To me life is while I live it and after Im gone, Im just that, gone. But while I live there is one thing that I am afraid of and that is only one thing I ever remember being afraid of. Going blind.
I have often thought about it during the years what I considered to be the worst that could happen to me. I always came to the same conclusion. Not being able to take pictures was the answer to almost all my thoughts on the matter. Through out my life I have been compulsive about any thing and every thing that has to do with photography. Somewhere along the line I had been told that I would never reach the age of 50. I don't know when, where or why, but it did not matter to me at all. So long as I would until then keep my sight clear and be able to leave this world with a camera in hand.
It seems at the moment that I am going to break that curse of not becoming 50 years old. That is if it is a curse. I have now two months to reach that goal and according to my doctor Im feeling fine and dandy and beside a bad habit of smoking I am in good shape if we take in account the milage of this body.
But this was not the case some three and a half year ago. That is when the shit hit the fan in Iceland and my biggest fear of all became true to a degree. I became immobile and unable to work on my images and concentrate on taking pictures.
I missed most of the downfall of Iceland's economy. I was out in the world doing what I loved the most. Taking pictures and traveling but I was heading home and did not at all expect what was coming. As I soon realized after returning to Iceland that things where not the way we had been told and things where shaky. My plans where buildt on sand it suddenly seemed. I had taken on a job as a carpenter to finance my studies in tourism and guiding and secure money for publishing of my upcoming books. Suddenly those jobs vanished and a company that a year earlier had up to 50 carpenters working was now left with nothing.
As I had my camera and my photography I thought nothing of it even though by leaving Iceland for more than two years meant that I had left all my clients in the hands of others. I was sure and secure that I would manage some how and would have to change plans from being a amateur photographer to become pro again. It was all fine and dandy even though it meant hard times as the economy collapsed and usually the first thing that goes out the window in the advertising world is photography.
A long side my studies I started documenting the trouble that was in Icelandic economy and the protests of people that grew larger and larger louder and louder until everything boiled over on 22th of January 2009. It was a difficult decision for me to make. I wanted to participate in the protest but felt that I either had to participate or I had to document it. I could not do both and be true to photography. Of course photography won so I had to take good care of not being biased in my photography and do it in as neutral way as I possibly could. It was the firs revolution in Iceland for years and the Kitchenware revolution was being born. A mostly peaceful revolution.
On January 22 2009 I was on my way to school in the university of Iceland, and was to give a lecture on protests in Iceland along with other classmates. I wanted to get some fresh images into my work before presenting them in class. So I headed down to the center for the rally there and realized that things had heated up considerably. There was massive amount of people outside the congress. An people where angry.
Being me I thought of nothing but to get as good pictures as I could and of course that means like Capa said, get closer. Well it did kill him and we can say it did kill me to. That day the police found it necessary to remove the media as much as possible by pepper spraying photographers. And as I was in the front line trying to get images of the clash between police and protestors. I got picked out (along with others) but I got some extra amount of pepper spray. I not only got a small amount but was bathed and almost drowned in it.
In normal situations, when pepper spray is sprayed in the eye of some one from a small canister the effect will not be lasting long even though it hurts as hell. In my case it was not so. As the amount was so ridiculous it caused all kinds of problems for my eyes as the share power of the spraying hammered on my eyes with such a force that I lost the ability to work. I lost the ability to drive a car and for months it was impossible for me to back a car. Worst of all I could not take pictures any more with out it hurting me badly and I could not work on a computer for more than two hours at a time with out starting to cry. Sunshine that has not been a problem for me became now my worst enemy and i could not stand strong light. And my horizontal line in my images started to lean more to the side beside me having trouble reading colors. Some thing I could do so easily before.
For me this was the end of the road and I figured I would never ever work as a photographer again. I could not trust my self to deliver the best of quality to clients. This led to a shock and a nervous breakdown followed by deep deep dark depression.
I got lucky in a way as I found a temporary job in Norway in Fylkesarkivet in Sogn og Fjordane working with old photographs scanning and working on them and printing and more. I left Iceland and the family and headed to Norway. As I was in charge of my self I could divide my days such that it did not affect my now disability of working long time in front of the computer. As this was a stand in for the person running the photography division it was only for a year and then I took on a project to that lasted a half year. After that I took on a digitizing job up in Mo i Rana until I finally was reunited with my wife in Bergen.
The only thing that happened joyful in Mo in Rana, beside meeting some extra ordinary good people, is that my eyes started to get better. Problem though was I did not have the courage any more to start on my own again as I did not trust my self to deliver the best so I started to search for a jobs with in my field of expertise and specially with in the government sector and archives. It turns out that nobody wants to hire a 50 year old photographer. Despite months of trial talking to people and trying to better my cv nothing has happened.
This of course could only end one way. Gradually with out noticing this time I slid into the deepest depression I have ever felt in my life. And this time I was afraid of it. In fact I was terrified, but most of all I was confused. Suddenly I was there, searching for a job and new future, and after 4 years my sight was back to normal and my health perfect according to the doctor at the same time as I was struggling to get job and find a new path in life while working on my photography book called the way I see it Mexico. Now the question was could I do it again or could I not. This question remains to be answered. I don know. I am still looking for job. I did not expect it to take such a long time. After all it is me we are talking about and I am great. At least some times I feel so. When I remember what I can do and can not do. Who would not think of him self as the perfect candidate.
Photography has left me with nothing but headache but I am a photographer and there is nothing I do better than being a photographer and I cant imagine my life with out photography and I am on my way back into photography, at least as an artist expression. OR so I thought. Until yesterday that I took the big decision. Im divorcing Photography. Sorry photography but that is the fact. I am filing for divorce. I hope we can still be friends but I can not live with you any more.
These where my thoughts during yesterdays blogpost that took me 5 hours to write. The thought had been in my head since 22nd of january 2009, but at that time it was not my decision and I could not imagine life with out photography. It was me and I was it.
Today, when I woke up, I felt relieved. It was like I had broken out of jail or a bad marriage. I feel free and best of all it was my decision. Not a decision I had to take because I was forced to do it. I got back in a way and up to a point where I can take pictures. And I will take pictures in the future. I may divorce photography, but photography is still my best friend. It just wont run my life any more. It will not be in control of me any more. I will do it to enjoy life and enjoy looking at life. I will do it because I want to not because I have to. And I will stop because I can but do not have to.
And if that time comes that my biggest fear becomes true and I will go blind. Its ok. People can live and do lot of things even though they are blind. I have seen the world. Or at least part of it. I have seen so many things and I can survive blind or not. One could say that I killed my passion, but I killed my biggest fear to and I slaughtered my compulsion that clouded every thing else. Now I have nothing left to fear and just life to enjoy. Now I just have to find me a new job so I can treat my best friend well in the future.