OF WHAT REMAINS
It’s odd, isn't it, how we always seem to know when we're being watched whilst our backs are turned to those who are looking at us?
But I'll come back to that.
It's raining here in South Aston, perhaps it always is though, if only metaphorically of course; as the clouds grow darker and a fine mist falls against the leaves above me making a sound like a looped last breath, being exhaled slowly out into the world.
I love this light, as it fades and grows darker and as the sun behind heavy clouds is still able to touch the dark green trees and grey landscape around me, with its dying glow. Whilst the bright saturated colours of cars stream through and beyond this scene.
I've been hiding here, seeking shelter under a tree, for awhile now, accompanied by a motley crew of pigeons who are doing the same not too far away.
All day I've watched the sky being slowly consumed by the clouds, watching them grow fatter until they couldn't hold their rain any more. All the time walking around South Aston looking through a viewfinder at a world that isn't mine. Waiting to see something that means something, to me at least and then to capture it in a way that says something about my time here.
Photography is an impotent tool at times though - is it not?
It alludes to and makes grand gestures but it cannot speak truthfully about what it sees and it cannot really tell you what I saw and felt upon finding an empty suitcase with its discarded contents of clothes and a toothbrush which had been left in a walkway between two rows of houses.
Photography cannot answer the question of what happened here, to the person who ventured through this walkway before me. Or can it tell us of what misfortune befell this person whose yellow and white toothbrush is scattered on the floor with a red blouse that reeks of sadness.
But what story do the contents of this suitcase tell us of those who once owned them?
These once carefully folded clothes, now cast asunder, from a riffled through suitcase that lays abandoned in the rain. I know that whoever they are that they lost something more here than just their possessions; they perhaps lost a little faith in human nature and in those who live amongst them.
But that’s just how it goes...right?
Shit happens or maybe that’s just what we like to tell ourselves so that other peoples’ pain can’t touch us; which leads me back to hiding from the rain.
I'm still under the tree as the last frame of the day is taken and as the tension of the winding film loosens I turn to see a figure in a navy blue hoodie staring down at me in the rain from the top of the hill behind me.
We look at each other, and then away again, at the same time, within a choreographed interchange which could grace Strictly Come Dancing. Both of us pretending that all is well here, and that our covers haven't just been blown even though we know that they have – as a blip appears on both of our radars.
I'd seen him earlier in the day, this man on the hill, he'd turned around a corner and then back again into the walkway where the suitcase was, as if looking for someone and here he is again sending my mind to a world called self preservation, and yes, to thoughts of self defence - as I collapse my tripod into the size of a baseball bat.
There's nothing like a punch in the face to remind you of what sad creatures human beings are or a kick in the head whilst someone tells you that they're going to kill you, to question human nature and the benefits of staying positive. I guess if you've never been there though you'll never know. But violence is always there in the city - even when you think you're safe - just ask the owner of the suitcase and they'll tell you - if they can.
Anyway, I pull my backpack on and turn to see that he's still standing there watching me in the rain - this young heavy-set man in his twenties. He's not turning away anymore and I hear him say something to me, menacingly, I think, as I turn and slowly walk away, down the path from under the trees and into the rain again. I don't look back - fuck that and fuck him - I won't give him that pleasure. But if he follows me I'll turn and face him as I'm too old to run and besides there's nowhere to hide here.
Did I mention what sad creatures human beings are?
It's just how it goes, I think, whilst pulling the hood of my coat up and feeling the cold spots of rain on my face as I wait to cross the road to get a coffee in the distance of the Barton Arms, just watching the saturated colours of cars slip along in front of me, on this boundary line between here and there, and between the future to come and the last five minutes.
It's just how it goes.
That sometimes we look and yet cannot see and are unable to make our photographs tell the stories that we want them to.
It's just how it goes.
That the clouds will form and the rain will fall until the clouds part again and the blue skies are seen once more.