In Venezia, Italy
The city of forlorn escape, a hideaway. A rare display of the capability of man to create seemingly impossible yet poised and beautiful solutions to imminent dilemmas fueled by fear. The cultivation of an entire culture that stands with pride today over a thousand years later despite its humble and afraid beginnings. The bittersweet ending of my own version of an escape from reality engulfed in fear, this fear rooted in the same uncertainty for the outcome of my life. Today I’m not running from the ravenous conquests of the Barbarians that sought to destroy the certainty of life of people millennia before me but rather I have temporarily escaped the impending constructed requirement of the purpose for my limited existence. I have escaped the building dissonance of agreeing with two conflicting sides to appease my logical doubt and the blind faith based confidence of my family, and I have escaped the rejection of my coordinated future I failed to come to terms with. This escape was temporary, I knew this at the start, but it’s deceptively sweet and impossible to let go. What escape is left when I am thrown back into the brunt end of the calamity I left behind? Whose footsteps am I to follow after, the Venetians never had to go back, why must I? But even escape is deceitful. It’s the facade of beauty and stability hoisted on a sinking world of fabricated foundation and security. Escape is a fallible ruse that I blindly fell for.
A World Alone
In Cinque Terre, Italy
It’s the fade out, the slow death of redundant calamity. The transcendental ascension above the noise that corrupts an already conflicted mind. The escape from the consensual routine nothingness of mundanity, to a safe haven where vibrant thoughts are liberated from their cages of conscious restraint and meaningless ones vanish. This is the beauty of this place. With every agonizing step towards the elusive 5th terre, the physical pain and earthly issues succumb to a divine purification sourced from its beauty. This is cleansing. It’s a boastful curation of unfair colors recklessly scattered across the impossible slopes of these hills, the juxtaposed man-made geometric terraces, and the land consuming clouds that divide me further from reality. This is a world alone. This is true reflection. Though I’m surrounded by countless other short winded dishevelled corpses, I am alone with myself for the first time. I experience an utter destruction of fluffed thought as well as a necessary change of pace to forcefully halt the fabricated need of a rushed life. I am small. The world is beautiful. I am nothing, yet my life is everything I know to be true. I am in pain but I will continue because I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t. Peak, pure bliss. Wordless conversation, we glance at each other and know that we’ve never seen anything more beautiful. Descent, the world gradually grows louder, the colors turn dull, my existence becomes heavier, and my fears regain consciousness. I am no longer alone, and the world is stripped of its solitude.
In Sienna, Italy
I find myself in the crossroads. An eerie and unfamiliar inbetween intersection of devout religion and apathetic abhorrence of its faith based phenomena. This trip is ironically the first time I’ve been able to escape the looming presence of religion that has shrouded my mundane life, fleeing the pious demands of my mother and comfort-intended advice of friends. The same trip to a country that is the effortless host of the same inevitable religion, and the same one that supplied me with the cacophonous cluster of questions that sought to find the purpose of my existence if it contradicted everything I believed in. I have no explanations addressing the creation of the world, the meaning of life, or even why I exist, but the inner conflicting dialogue of logical rationalization versus curiosity and fear of death means I can never fully commit to either side.
It was difficult viewing Duccio’s panel pieces from a wholly neutral perspective because of the distant reminder of the time I was wholeheartedly believed in them. Yet, it was refreshing to discover that they hadn’t even been considered art at the time of their creation, like most early religious pieces, but solely depictions of biblical scenes for the easy understanding of illiterate commoners. These pieces were selfless attempts to accurately portray the gospel with a substantially limited knowledge of what is now considered art. They were revolutionary in their ability to begin grasping the idea of accurately portraying 3-dimensional spaces on to 2-dimensional planes. They weren’t showy displays of a profound understanding of technical skills, but rather a truly religious intent to bring people closer to God.
When did religion become show? A boastful display of intricate and lavished decor that supposedly brings people closer to God rather than distance them from her. A building that blatantly compares its grandeur to its subordinates and labels exactly how much they fall short. When did money become holy? When did Jesus become hateful? When did I stop believing?
In Pompeii, Italy
Fuck you. Fuck you for your absence of an infinitesimal amount of any sort of sentiment. How do you have the face to strip away the remaining humanity petrified in a concrete cast of a face confronted by their final moments of mortality? Was the pure terror of their imminent death entertaining enough for you to find the need to place yourself next to it? Hey look, I was here. I saw them. I know, see? Maybe it’s a melodramatic overreaction I’ve been prone to one too many times in the past, but I have an issue with your decision to photograph yourself in front of their casts of men, women, children, people buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash that were forcibly frozen in time to become a spectacle for the world in their least idealized, most raw and vulnerable state. Seeing their broken bodies is what manifested an authentic connection to my modern humanity with that of 2,000 years before me. I saw them and I was amazed just as you were, yet I chose to respect them. Seeing my floating head with their concrete corpse in the same frame distances us miles more than it does connect us. Inevitably, there will be thousands more of you, shitting on their illusive opportunity to receive any sort of funeral. I couldn’t come close to destroying enough selfie sticks to be able to make you feel something rather than fabricating a sense of connection. All that I ask of you is that once you’re done taking your emotionless selfie, feel something instead of blankly looking at it.
In Rome, Italy
Rome, you are spectacular. You’re a chaotic fusion of an ancient past in a modern world. The effortless host of an entire world religion, with an ornate exploitation of its beauty and atrocities. You’re a myriad of cigarette butts accumulating on cold wet paved streets, in a city lined with pedestrians crossing congested roads at times that would kill them anywhere else. You’re the unbearable and inexplicable smell of human feces on a metro train, the constant rejection faced by impoverished illegal street vendors, the arena where bodies were once viciously mutilated in the exchange of an uproar cast by a crowd of 80,000. You are a city full of life that is conscious of the death of its past. The source of my numerous facile dissociations with reality, and my muse. I chose to photograph you in a raw and unidealized way so that I may never forget you. Where my words falter and have been barricaded, my photographs communicate to and about you. I photograph you so that my laughably deficient memory has the visual aid of my unhindered perspective of you and your people in the years and decades ahead where I look back on my time with you in reminiscent nostalgia. But you are incredibly overwhelming. I constantly find myself in necessary moments of motionless awe where all I choose to do is look at you, so that I may only have that single solitary moment with you for the rest of my mortal life, rather than an attempted preservation of the emotion I felt in that time for you. But at times, to be frank, you’re a bitch. Your beauty is double-sided; I fear it’s familiarity which raises the question of my possible subconscious blindside to the beauty in my own hometown. Is your unfamiliarity fabricating my sense admiration for you, or are you inherently beautiful? How long will it take for me to hate you?
Ode to Antinous
In Tivoli, Italy
My love, my sweet supple raw tender violet love. The world hath no mercy that it selfishly consumed you. Every waking second of every day, I wish that it had been my last breath, that my lungs had filled with that vicious God’s fluid, and that my flesh slowly descended to the depths at the mercy of the Nile where the riches, power, and fabricated manifestation of importance would fade away, and I would stare into you for one final moment. But you are selfless. You dared to preserve me; the whispers became cacophonous to you. You couldn’t bear the thought of my name living in infamy; that my inability to yield children carrying my name with my faceless wife would become my legacy, and that I would be remembered as the sodomite who loved his lowly servant. It boasted the tolerance of the people, but below the veil of class you were my equal, my counterpart tethered by transcendental emotional understanding. I became you just the same as you became me, yet you chose to preserve me. You offered your pure flesh as a sacrifice so that I may live on as the God people first made me out to be, rather than the emasculate fool I slowly became in their same eyes. And for that I love you impossibly more. Your death will only be of flesh, for you will forever live on in me and as the God your spirit became. The same people that tore us apart will love you the way I once did.