We got a letter from a friend of ours yesterday who we know from our years living in Prague, and that had me looking through the pictures I made from the time I lived there on my own. I spent a fortune in those days, going through film after film in my Practica, with its temperamental controls. With a limited understanding of how cameras worked, and a camera with a limited understanding of how it should work, I walked those streets making images most days. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know what I was looking for either, really. And, yet, looking at them now, they present something coherent, whole, and technically correct. But that’s editing for you. Because as beautiful as those years were, and as close as those pictures come to representing that, this was still the place where the shadows pulled closer than they ever had before. The first time I turned a corner in my mind and saw the words waiting for me. You don’t have to go on. There’s a way out. And most days since that’s a thought that is there somewhere.
So whilst I enjoy the images from those years, and remember the friends, places and drinking – the better things in life – there’s the memory of other as well. Walks to classes down icy streets, retching through nerves. Eating the same meal every day for 30 days because it was all I could afford. A quiet pint with a friend on a midweek night ending five hours later with the spirits out, fear of the next day blotted out for a few hours more.
Does any of this show through in the images? Probably not. But it’s all there for me. Which is how it should be, because we all read into an image what we want to. One man’s souvenirs of a cultured and fairly cushy three years in Central Europe are another’s reminders of a growing mental crisis.
But a post about my years in Prague shouldn’t end on a negative. Many a day, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.