Hello. Week 5 of lockdown. At least for me. The only time it all becomes real is when I visit a supermarket and see the queues and the masks. The promenade is normal. My social distancing is normal as ever. My disconnection from friends is normal. I don’t have people I regularly hang out with so in many ways life is normal.
That said. Twitch has become my favourite thing. I follow a few people now. I even stream myself playing games or editing photos. The community there reminds me of IRC 20 years ago when I used to idle in 20 channels and play Quake 3 every day. My wife and I’s favourite comedian (John Robertson) streams most nights. Monday is a chilled out night. Wednesday is D&D like RPG that he DMs. Thursday is games with mates and Friday is his live action show ‘The Dark Room’ that he normally tours. Sunday is lunch with ‘divorced Aussie dad’ aka D.A.D. It’s all silly fun and it has become our routine. We see the same names in the chat. We make silly jokes. I absolutely love it.
So while I was social distancing as a life style choice before all this I do appreciate the desire for community. I have missed having connections like these. I don’t work so well in meatspace. My anxieties create a persona of someone who is quiet or shy. I’m withdrawn. I appreciate it’s just how life is for me as an autistic person but when I compare myself, and I shouldn’t, to my wife then it is night and day. She is chatty and good with people. I am when I’m doing a portrait because it’s an act but at social events I’m in the corner playing with my phone.
I tried to do a project discussing this nearly 10 years ago called ‘Rezzd’. It looked at how my iPhone allows me to socialise and talk to people through photography yet if you saw me at a social event I might just be staring at the screen. The twist is that on that screen I might be socialising with other people at the event just in a more accessible way. I did not know at the time that I was living with an invisible disability and I need to revisit the work to from this new perspective.
I am finding all of this interesting. The way society has moved to my way of thinking to some degree and has found community there. Even a local photography gallery now has a Discord server. What does that mean in the future? Will I attend exhibition openings, stand in the corner and chat on Discord to the attendees because it’s more accessible for me? Will I just look socially distant to everyone else?
I can only assume that once the world returns to normal these more accessible ways of life will be forgotten. They’ve been around for 30 years and people are only using them now out of necessity not because they wanted to connect. I’m catasrophising as usual. I know, I know. Its just that it feels like everyone is adapting to my way of living but not by choice and while I’m enjoying being able to connect with people I couldn’t before I cannot see them staying here. Why would they? If someone took away your disability would you ask for it back?
I need to reevaluate my ‘Rezzd’ work and upload it. For now if you want to learn more about my Rezzd project the slides from a talk I did are still online. The press release is still up and a selection of images are on Behance.
New York, 2016. Shot on a Hasselblad 501 with Portra 400 colour film and Ilford XP2 black and white film.
Trigger warning. Suicide / depression.
I read my own obituary today but it was for Robert Herman. He was a street photographer in New York. His death was tragic. He walked out his 16th floor apartment window at the end of March 2020.
I last saw Robert ten days before his passing, in the TriBeCa neighborhood he called home. We spent between 30 minutes and an hour on the sidewalk discussing some of our usual subjects: the difficulties and dilemmas of getting by as artists, the ways New York has and hasn’t changed since our heyday in the 80’s, and the love we both had for the medium’s endless magical possibilities. Robert was a truly gifted and ambitious man, determined to have his work respected, but he was also a stalwart supporter of others, always ready to offer advice on self-publishing and the ins and outs of the photo world. I saw him at the vast majority of photo show openings I ever went to in the city, and he was always friendly and encouraging to all. To be sure, Robert could be quite intense, and that made getting close to him difficult at times.
I can’t help but read that paragraph and see it as a description of me, just without the “truly gifted” part. I’m “ok”.
It’s hard not to look at his death and identify with it. 2 weeks ago I was stuck in a permanent state of anxiety and I knew I had to find a way out or something bad might happen. I can’t help but see a similarity here. His death was my fear. It is still my fear. I remember reading about Bob Carlos-Clarke and how he left hospital and walked in front of a train. I looked at his life to try and figure out how to avoid his death. I found no answers 10 years ago. I find no real answers with Robert Herman’s death. I just have to live with the fact that depression is actively trying to kill me. It is a stupid stupid pathetic illness and it is very real.
There are photographers who work in similar ways to me, who see the world in similar ways to me and who are more successful than me that are ending their lives. They have friends, family, connections, and community. What do they have to be depressed about? Nothing? What do you have to be cancered about? Nothing? These things happen to you and you just have to live with it. Cancer isn’t personal and it tries to kill you. Depression isn’t personal and it tries to kill you. Fuck them both.
Fuck them. Easy words to type. Hard words to live by.
I absolutely hate that I’m discovering his work now. It’s great work. He was great. Better than me for sure. I’m saddened that I can’t buy his book.
- Robert Herman – The New Yorkers
- Best Street Photography of New York in the 70s and 80s
- New York City, Lower Manhattan, 1980s — Janet Delaney
- New York: Photographing the City • Magnum Photos
- Funny Shots from the Archives of Iconic Photographer Martin Parr – VICE