The Hardest Thing About Traveling

This is why once you’ve traveled for the first time all you want to do is leave again. They call it the travel bug, but really it’s the effort to return to a place where you are surrounded by people who speak the same language as you. Not English or Spanish or Mandarin or Portuguese, but that language where others know what it’s like to leave, change, grow, experience, learn, then go home again and feel more lost in your hometown then you did in the most foreign place you visited.

This is the hardest part about traveling, and it’s the very reason why we all run away again.

Kellie Donnelley.

I wanted to store this piece that talks of the hardest part of traveling.  I need to think about it. 

Travel changes a person or, perhaps, in my case, it turned me into someone I recognised.  I was always curious, I love meeting new people, learning how they live, hearing their stories ... out here in the world I wander, I get to meet others like me. 

I read this quote this morning, and thought ... really?

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

Simone Weil

I always give my attention.  I am curious, and genuinely interested in people.  Is this so special?

Then I remembered the phenomena of talking with political folk out at social events back in Belgium.  Their attention was on their phones, on checking out who else was in the room, and back to whoever they were talking with, and off again, round the room.

I felt like I was swimming with sharks, in some ways.  They were hunting.  Their attention was everywhere and nowhere.

But this sense of dislocation Kellie writes of ... I posted her piece over on Facebook and watched as various friends shared or liked it. 

Yes.  They all knew that feeling.

I haven't returned home, for longer than 5 weeks.  It is something I think about ... how that return would be.  Would a dog, and a beach or a lake somewhere close by ... old friends, and new, be enough. 

I don't know but anyway, I have located this article in a place where I can return to it when needed.

I Met This Man While At The Wedding In Norway ... this poet, this writer

We met after the wedding, as he photographed a particular gate there at the church.  He told me the story of the place where he and his wife were married, and how the gate reminded him of it.

I mentioned that he reminded me of someone. 

He suggested James Joyce. 

I said, 'Maybe', as I rummaged round in my memory for images of Joyce.

It turns out, everyone else said he was Elton John ... 20 years ago.  I didn't really look at Elton then but perhaps.  There is a story about a carriage full of people on the Tube, or a train, thinking precisely that about him.

You can decide.

But perhaps he is simply one of those people who allow you to feel like you've known him a long time, and you respond to that.

On the day after the wedding, I wandered over to his website, and found this poem.  I love it.

An extract, from Out of Shape Sonnet:

This is one of those tuneless songs of hope
A father scatters out into the universe
Because he wants the best for his child;
Independence,
Success of the non-material kind,
And, above all, happiness,
Happiness of the forever kind
.

And then, Ren had a copy of his book, Bee Bones.  You can buy a signed copy over here.

I read enough, between processing the wedding photographs, to know I'll find my own copy now that I'm back in the UK.  I reached that point where the father and son have just begun their journey ...

His book, Dead Men, was nominated for the Guardian First Book Award.  It's another to hunt down, sooner or later.

A review:
Washington Independent Review of Books, 18 June 2012
Who said literary works tend to be boring? This debut novel by Richard Pierce proves a poetically written narrative can also be riveting and engrossing.
This is not a lengthy novel and the author uses every word, sentence and verbal image to craft and layer his themes. This is a love story, a historical novel, a polar expedition and a ghostly tale. From an initial improbability, page after page draws the reader in.  As the author’s first effort at full-length fiction, it is a notable success. I highly recommend this novel.

Arthur Kerns.

You can read more on his website.

I met this man, and his wife, at the wedding and they are, so very kindly, allowing me to use the photographs I took of them.  

Richard Pierce was born in Doncaster in 1960.
 
He was educated in Germany, and at the University of Cambridge.

He now lives in Suffolk with Marianne and their four children.

Richard is a novelist, poet and painter, and administers two charities

He has a Youtube channel, and an Amazon author's page too, if you would like to know more.

And so it goes ...

I'm realising how extraordinarily privileged I am, in terms of people I know.  I have so many unplanned adventures gifted to me, like Norway.  And friends who simply step up next to me when they see I need help ... because I'm not good at asking.

When I head off on these adventures, I'm only packing my camera, my laptop and myself, nothing more usually.  And best of all, I get meet more marvelous people who often become new friends.

And so it goes.

These days in Norway have been spent on the edge of Ren and Egil's world, sharing the house with their lovely friends ... Becky and Japhet, Joshua & Jonah.   

And at their wedding I met some of the 'legends' I had heard stories about, people I was so glad to finally meet ... like Lydia Lápidus Radlow, who is as marvelous, or perhaps more marvelous, than I could have imagined.

I met and photographed Richard Pierce, the writer and poet, and count myself extraordinarily fortunate to have been introduced to his writing.  I have been dipping in and out of one his books, Bee Bones - 'sharing' it with Becky (whenever she puts it down) but will buy my own copy when I'm back home.

I met Richard while he was photographing an iron gate at the church and then photographed both he and his beautiful wife, more than a few times.

So many people met on this visit.  I had the luck to sit next to Kjetil and Sølve, with Odd, Marianne, and Kristin, making the dinner so very enjoyable.

And then there is Sissel, captured in the photograph at the top of this post.  Isn't she truly divine.  And her husband, that guy from Scotland, I adored him too, and his stories.

This morning, Marcelle messaged me, offering to pick me up from the airport when I return to England and I almost cried with gratitude.  I had mapped out my route, and was fine with it but to be picked up and taken home ...that's truly unexpected.   And so very very kind.

And so it goes ...

I Believe ...

I will have to make myself step outside today. Perhaps I'll walk down to the lake, putting aside my strong desire to process all of the wedding photographs before leaving on Wednesday. 

I have no problems with choosing to work through while in Norway.  I already know that, rather than explore the cultural institutions of each new country I visit, I prefer the experience of life lived on the inside ... lived with the people who invited me there.

I'll curl up on a couch, I'm happy to cook, clean or arrange flowers but I love ... absolutely love, being there, close to the heart of each story.

It turns out I'm not really a museums and art gallery kind of woman.

I loved Sagrada Familia but was so sad to know no one in Barcelona.  It was the first time that ever happened during these years when I wander the world a little.

I flew in to photograph a wedding in Madrid ... saw nothing of the city but lived an incredibly intense few days with the friends and family who had flown in from all over to celebrate with Kathleen and Manuel.  Opera singers and scientists, all kinds of larger than life, wonderful people.  I cried as I photographed the ceremony.

But I cried when I photographed that wedding in England.  Tears poured quietly down my face as I captured the pride and the love on Clare's Dad's face, as he walked his beautiful daughter down the aisle ... his goal, after a massive stroke turned life upside down, back home in Australia.

I do cry sometimes but my camera, my work ... they take me so close to the heart of everything.  Even this wedding, when the love is so strong, and so powerfully present ...  photographing the groom's speech, the bride's response, the son's speech too.  There were quiet tears, that I'm sure nobody saw as they worked with their own tears.

Photography, and the intensity of it, takes me beyond the every day.  I remember that time I spent in a local neighbourhood for the few days I was in Cairo, working with my client, as she sought out pieces for her Berlin exhibition.  It was only as my plane soared into the sky that I saw the pyramids and remembered ... 'oh, the pyramids'.

And even better, so many friendships from those journeys continue to this day.

And that's how I prefer it.  I love to step inside that bubble of family and friends, of locals.  It's the greatest privilege, the richest experience ...  and then to be allowed to attempt to capture the intimacy between people who really know one another, or who are living their everyday lives. There is nothing better.

This time, to stand here, on the edge of the love that Ren and Egil have for one another, to witness them making that public commitment, and to attempt to capture the love that flows out from them and over their family and friends ... who all give it back to them.  That has been almost overwhelming.

It has felt something like warming myself on a fire after time spent out in the cold.

And to be caught up in the hum and bustle of their home ... full of friends and strangers living together ... for me, that is always the best of travel.

As for my goal ... if I really think about it, it has always been about making an attempt to capture the reality of the emotion and the intimacy between family and friends when they come together to celebrate.

But it leaps over into public events too.  Strangers viewing art, unaware of my camera.  There is often a rawness when someone is unaware of the camera.  They are truly themselves, and perhaps that is the best a person can hope for.

I guess it's becoming clear that I have this idea that there is so much beauty to be found in capturing what is real.  I laugh when I tell people ... oh, I just want to capture something of your soul when I photograph you

People, when they show a little of their soul, are beautiful.  I strongly believe that Photoshop is no more than a tool, to be used in much the same way the darkroom was used.  It's not for improving someone .. not for ironing out wrinkles, softening their features, making them slimmer ... it's for cropping, when you didn't quite get close enough.  For adding light when there wasn't enough.  For straightening ... or that's my idea of it.

I believe ... mmm, I believe that these few days in Norway have been some of the best days.

As always

That Wedding in Norway ...

My beautiful friend was married yesterday, here in Norway. 

Her wedding was a wedding that reminded me of just how huge love can be.  Love was present in every single speech made, every performance given, every dance. 

There was the groom's speech ... the one that made me cry, despite the fact I didn't understand one word of Norwegian.  He undid so many of us, including his wife.

And the bride's speech, that overflowed with a beautiful humility and a massive love that, again, filled my eyes with tears.

Then the bridesmaid and the bride, who spoke so beautifully of their exquisite friendship ... and the son to his mother, and her new husband, another speech that almost made my poor little heart crack open.

And on it went.

But it wasn't just about the obvious.  My table for the evening was full of the kindest, funniest people.  I was so grateful to them for opening their circle to include me, and even more grateful for the laughter ... and the impromptu lessons in Norwegian.

As I sit here this morning, in this sun-filled house that quietly hums with family conversation and smells of good coffee, contemplating the 300+ photographs I'm about to process ... I'm happy.  Quietly peacefully happy.

It's been another truly grand adventure.

I'm here until Wednesday...

Reframing Life: a photography and journaling workshop, Norway 2016

Join Ren Powell and me in Stavanger, Norway from 24-26 June, 2016, on our photography & journaling workshop for women - looking outward, looking inward, and discovering new perspective via photography and writing.

Ren is a native Californian, who – over the last twenty years – has settled in Stavanger, on the west coast of Norway. This means we have an invaluable guide into the local culture and its secret places. This will be my second photography workshop in the city, and I highly recommend you come join us as we explore this beautiful place.

Ren is a poet and teaching artist, with a PhD in Creative Writing. She has a diploma in Yoga Teaching, and an education in Therapeutic Writing, and Guidance Counseling. She is looking forward to facilitating writing exercises to help women rediscover their simplest joys, discover new perspectives, and uncover personal potential.

Ren's has a special interest is exploring writing as a tool to help create The Good Life. She is a strong believer in an integrated mind/body, and in moving beautifully through the world with good food, good thoughts, and many perspectives. You can read more about Ren over here.

I love working with her; you will too.

I'm Di Mackey, a professional photographer from New Zealand, but like Ren, I've been living for many years in countries not my own. 

My experience as a photographer is long and varied. I’ve worked as a documentary photographer in Berlin, a wedding photographer in England, Spain, Germany, and France, and as a portrait artist in various countries. Most of my freelance work has been done in Belgium.  I love the challenge of arriving and discovering each new location, getting to know each unique family, and finding a new way to frame each event.

In these workshops, I invite women to explore and own their particular way of seeing and capturing the world via their cameras, while breaking down the technicalities so they see how simple photography is. Ren will be focusing on facilitating the use of personal journaling as a tool for “reframing” personal narratives.

Highlights of the weekend will be touring Stavanger with a local poet who knows it intimately, visiting the oldest building in town, eating in the best places: making note of our experiences and working on our photography as we wander.  We're intent on taking you behind-the-scenes in this beautiful Norwegian town.

The program will include a facilitated discussion about mindfulness and the good life, a little meditation & mindfulness instruction, and hands-on exercises to reframe our experiences of people and places.

I bring a blank notebook where you can make notes, stick photographs, store memories - although feel free to bring your own book too.

Cost: £1,400

Included in the price:

  • Accommodation - 3 nights in an exquisite Norwegian B&B located in the old part of the city.

  • All meals unless otherwise stated.

  • A dinner at the best restaurant in Stavanger.

  • Pre-workshop materials

  • All learning materials and tuition during the workshop

Not included:

  • Personal travel and transfers to and from Stavanger, Norway

  • Travel insurance

  • Wine, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, during or outside meals unless otherwise stated.

Also:

Bring a laptop to transfer your photographs.  if you have a photo-editing program, that's great.  If not, I can introduce you to some free online websites where you can get a sense of what can be done to your images.  Other points.  We will be walking so bring comfortable shoes, and rain clothes too.  Just in case.

Prices include all taxes.

Please join us for good food, interesting discussions and work exercises and a weekend of creative exploration in Stavanger!

Email us via the workshop form here.