"I am the cine-eye, I am a mechanical eye. I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it." DZIGA VERTOV, “We: Variant of a Manifesto”
My approach to autoethnography and autobiography in this work began with two personal journeys. The first was finding myself in a faraway city, London, and the second was my interest in what academics have come to define as Visual Anthropology. With time, the two journeys connected and I designed a project that allowed me to live my personal journey while analyzing it as a visual anthropologist.
Once in London, I moved through the overwhelming spaces searching for clues that would help me understand and enjoy the city. The simplest approach was to build my own space with a camera. The lens allowed me to bridge the gap between the “insider perspective” and the “nonparticipant observer”. In this way, I began to outline a topography of my daily memories as a means to rebuild even if summarily) what it means to be ‘English’ or a “Londoner”; a way of living with which I had to interact. Each of these images represented a snapshot of how things happened before my eyes. They made it possible to establish a relationship between the “I was there” and “this is how it is”.
I began by documenting places where I felt less comfortable until they became part of my daily routine. I was interested in the landscape and the body language of extravagant characters that provided some respite to the city’s gray monotony. I began exploring night hours and night-bus travel routes when the city became uninhibited with all excesses seemingly permitted. The night hours allowed me to move freely and study desolate places where I could be the only interlocutor. As I began to feel more comfortable, the scope of the documentary expanded. Everything I thought, felt, or experienced rapidly transformed itself into a snapshot — my living room window after an unexpected blizzard, the night after a long day of work, a sunny day after weeks of rain — any place or situation became a stage of my daily life.
While discovering and introducing myself to the city, I began creating self-portraits in an intimate space where my room and laptop became my shelter and served as the only witnesses to my existence.
As I photographed myself, images of public spaces mixed with how I looked and felt in each of those moments. Sitting in front of my laptop, I acted out the present as if it were already part of the past or my memories. Through these acts, I expressed and saved my saddest and happiest moments, my feelings of frustration and incomprehension, as well as moments of calm and satisfaction. In my room, time passed at a different pace. Rational time became emotional time. Later, during dead time in front of the computer screen, I began to see my self-portraits like stamps in a collector’s book. I saw how I was changing from month to month. I wondered if these images really had something to say about how I felt in those moments, or if I was remembering fragments of what had happened in some distant past.
When I decided to leave that experience behind and head back home, I had to take a different journey. I had to reconcile the two perspectives – the autographical and the authoethnographic- while trying to understand my whole journey from a distance. To accomplish this, I assumed an almost archeological perspective as I identified the different layers of my experience and put together images, dates and memories. I perceived the volatility of my moods, the way I understood time and space, and the emotional burden behind those images. I became aware of the parallel existence of time and space and the way I saw them according to my different moods. It became clear to me, although my images did talk about my personal journey, there was a limit to the way in which they represented the experience as a whole. It was then that I decided to include a new layer over what had already become sedimented. To ensure that time would not erase the emotions behind the pictures; I decided to add some text to accompany and reinforce them.