infinity on repeat

"It is the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality. It seems, in the last analysis, to have something to do with our self-preservation; and that, no doubt, is why the expression of it, the sound of its words, helps us to live our lives.”

Tag: Puerto Morelos

“every way of seeing is also a way of not seeing”

I am what I see.

I become every detail of my surroundings—looking closer constantly, obsessively searching for patterns, meditating on the curvature of peeling paint, morphing objects by changing angles.  I like how billions of people inhabit this earth and if time stopped for just one second, every single one of those people would have a different image in their visual scan. I like how no one can own the thing being looked upon.

I am hyper-aware the materials around me, and even more so when I travel. Some of the hyper-awareness comes from my unfamiliarity with the place & from paying extra attention so I don’t get lost… but mainly it is the sheer freedom to indulge in my gaze, to revel in the feeling of floating anonymously, almost invisible. It is pure ecstasy to wander alone through a strange city and feel yourself slowly disintegrate.

Loving to see also means loving the limitations of seeing. I know I will never capture the air condensing, and I know I will never capture the essence of a person in an image. I am starting to understand why some people believe taking a photograph of a person is an attempt to steal a part of their soul… photographing a stranger without asking is robbing them of their self-definition, because whatever story that photo will go on to tell will be the photographer’s story, not the subject’s. Telling a true, whole, human story is the spirit of making films, so as a filmmaker I have to take constant care to avoid voyeur. This is even more dangerous in still photography… I’ve noticed that in the past months, faces have appeared less and less in my photographs. Of course, I will take pictures of my friends and family, but we use pictures of our loved ones to celebrate our histories together, not to trap them in space and time.

But people love to take pictures of other people. A part of me wonders why that has become such a common practice, especially in tourism. Tourists take pictures of locals as if they are statues in museums. I really hate it. When I took the above photo, I had been filming the waves wash in on the shore of Puerto Morelos. The two girls approached me and started asking me questions in Spanish. I love kids so I liked talking to them even though we really couldn’t understand each other. They wanted me to take their picture… I pretty much always do whatever a kid tells me to do, but I felt vaguely guilty about the situation. I asked them what their names were, but I didn’t have anything to write with and I have already forgotten what they were. So now, like tons of other tourists, I own a picture of a face for which I have no name.

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hola, wtf r u doing here?

I spent most of my flight to Cancun reading about this Cohen guy’s categories of tourists… and a lot of literature on tourism is super critical of tourists, especially of mass tourists… Who are the types to stay in big resorts. So as I finished my reading, they were finally getting to the back of the plane with drinks. I asked for coffee, but then the older couple next to me ordered bloody marys and I realized that was a much better idea… So we had our bloody marys and began talking. They were en route to Cancun because they won an all‐expense paid vacation. They’d be staying in an all‐inclusive resort and doing the whole retired‐n‐chillin thing, but they’d been to Cancun several times before. I asked if they’d ever traveled outside of Cancun or gone anywhere else in Mexico, and they said no. They were about my parents’ age, which seems to be the lead generation of mass tourism. My generation seems to lean towards the whole staying‐in‐a‐hostel‐gives‐me‐the‐right‐to‐bitch‐about‐tourism‐even‐though‐I’m‐still‐sort‐of‐being‐a‐tourist thing.

So………. we didn’t stay in Cancun (gracias a dios), but drove about 45 minutes out of the city to Puerto Morelos. It is a tiny town, and obviously a port town, so there is a really interesting mix of people. Most of the stores and restaurants seemed to be geared toward tourism, but we saw very few tourists or foreigners. When we would get into a conversation with someone, we always heard the same thing—we were the first Mississippians anyone had ever seen here, and not many tourists from the states come here at all. Most are from Germany or France. Some from California. I did meet a family from California one night, and they were really wonderful. They were definitely not of the mass tourist persuasion…. more of the Woodstock persuasion.  Jeje 😉