All dougKIM photography Essays Leica

If My Only Destination Is Here

There are moments where I get confused and am no longer sure where I am.

I might be asleep.
I might be dreaming.

Or I might be in the back of a cab, turning my head to the side too quickly, getting dizzy and disoriented for a moment, everything is just urban motion blur and exhaust and a CD hanging from the rear mirror.

I might be in a cafe, a newsstand, a crosswalk.
I might be on a bridge, in a spa, watching a game of chess in a park under shade trees.

I might be lost, but then again, if my only destination is here, then what does lost mean again?

Cairo, Some Street, Definitely in the Past and not the Future, Leica MP 0.72, 35mm Summilux, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Cairo, Some Street, Definitely in the Past and not the Future, Leica MP 0.72, 35mm Summilux, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

When I travel and shoot, I have no agenda, no plan, no desired outcome, no goal. I just open my door in the morning, pausing to meter the light on my camera, then I pick a point on the compass and start walking. Everything is left to chance and whim and discovery. This can result in hours of walking through desolate shipyards and abandoned factories. Or it could lead to a funeral in the hills above the Mekong River, a game among teens with drinking cups tied to their heads in Manilla, a melancholy girl practicing her flute in a conservatory in Budapest.

You never know. You have to be open to walking miles under the sun, hours without exposing a frame of film, for the chance to be invited to tea and biscuits with a Matriarch in the Atlas mountains.

Shanghai, Leica MP 0.72, 35mm Summilux, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Shanghai, Leica MP 0.72, 35mm Summilux, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

I might be in your neighborhood.
I might be in mine.

Or I might be in some sandy, dusty walkway in Alexandria where the children are playing marbles, the old men chain smoke, and two of the dogs are blind.

I might have been there before.
I might never have been here at all.

Or I might be here right now.

I have been confused before. Mystified by a street and the clusters of people and the trees and the shoppers and the low light of a late afternoon.

Have I been here before? Where was I where it was just like this? The stone and wood benches, the youths in their track suits and trainers, the stylish Japanese tourist couple, that sycamore looking tree, the clang of utensils against bowls, the chatter of the women shopping, the smell of the chain smoking men. A flash of light from a passing car crosses my eyes and blinds me and I shut my eyes and it doesn’t matter where I am.

These are all one and the same, these streets, these people, these flavors of a late afternoon.

I might just be experiencing deja vu.
I might have just seen so many streets that I can no longer distinguish a city or a country or even a continent anymore.

Or I might have stepped into the convergence of all possible futures and all possible pasts where there is no tomorrow and no yesterday, only the present moment and this patch of street.

Sarah at the Getty, Los Angeles, Leica MP 0.72, 35mm Summilux, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Sarah at the Getty, Los Angeles, Leica MP 0.72, 35mm Summilux, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

I catch these fragments, these shards of my days, and I cannot place them but that is no matter, because I still can see them clearly for what they were and how I felt and why they were beautiful and tragic and bittersweet and fleeting in their mayfly quality.

The tiny young boy with no coins in the arcade who stood on his tippy toes to hold the joystick and press the buttons even though the game was just displaying loops and high scores. And I had no local currency to give but I took his wide eyed wonder and clean innocent joy at the sound and fury of the screen, I took that with me and it makes me sad and astonished every time I see him again.

The woman with the stick thin legs and black leather jacket in the back alley of bars somewhere in Dublin (Galway?), you alone among the crowd, smoking and drinking, you alone were the one to face me with your palatial cheekbones and wild fro, and I snapped a photo from afar and your gaze kept locked on me until I passed out of sight.

The gypsy who came into view and sang a line from a song into the air, the Romanian morning already bright and brittle and hot, bouncing off the hard surfaces of the city. And a woman’s voice — his lover, his wife? — came from the city with the answering line, like she was singing to the sky itself. He walked past me, paying me no heed, and sang the next line back to her. And her voice rang out again such mouth wide joy, just a few syllables, but enough heartbreak for a lifetime.

And there was no response, no answering call. He had already turned the corner, to the west, and was out of sight and out of hearing, swallowed by the day.

And I sat alone with my shoulder bag and my camera and I did not know what to do, nor where to go.

Roma, Bucharest, Leica MP 0.72, 35mm Summilux, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

Roma, Bucharest, Leica MP 0.72, 35mm Summilux, Kodak Tri-X © Doug Kim

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