I realized one day that I had ceased to appear in photographs. Naturally, when you are traveling alone it’s difficult to set your camera down, frame a photo properly, and rush to pose before the timer sets the shutter off. Of course too there’s the worry that someone may run off with your camera once you’ve set it down. But if you can get beyond all that — and after all you’re traveling in lands strange to you, which should indicate that you have accepted a certain amount of risk in your life and besides, it’s just a camera, right? — if you can get beyond all that, why not just ask a passer-by to take your photo? It seems simple enough, but somehow out of my reach. So I instead have albums worth of photos of inanimate objects and environments, few containing me.
Many of these settings are lovely in their own right. Inside the terminal at Abu Dhabi International, for instance, with the glittered tile in greens and blues, and yellow flecks that remind you of the desert outside and the gold of your mother’s jewelry. There the curve of the pillars, built in 1982, almost speaks to you as you sip espresso to wake up after an overnight flight. The flight attendants, happier to be on the ground than in the sky (unexpected, but understandable), pulling their personal luggage trolleys from gate to gate. All these things in a location as mundane as an airport! Small wonder that I focused on my surroundings and forgo to include myself in the picture.
But was it really that? I began to disbelieve it the more I considered. Where had I gone and why was I never there? It seemed a strange thing to choose not to be present, but that was in fact what I had done. I was playing a part in my own disappearance from the earth, from memory including my own. Worse still, such behavior made me dangerous. I began connecting unrelated ideas and theories and grew bitter.