Heart shapes floating on the top of flat whites. Rain. Things are bright and pink here. Steel doors rolled back as downtown Sydney wakes one hour later than yesterday. A weekend. The chef is different too. This one a bit hungover as the brekkie isn’t quite as put together as yesterday but I don’t care. It’s all about caloric intake. Line them up and I will knock them down. Up at 4am. Write. Yoga. Eat. Walk to cafe. Eat again. Back in my room I consume a box of gluten free chocolate cookies. Grover has nothing on me. Who is this man in my room? The consumer? Gluttony is a sin. Maybe my shoes are too small because my feet are getting fat?
Day two of the event and my calendar already sees conflicts of heart and duty. I need to be in two or three places at once. Something will give. I’ve tried to shake the voice of responsibility for years but I’ve never had any luck. I sit here wondering how to make this trip as successful as possible. The company pays me to be here, so there needs to be a return. Those dreaded three letters. R-O-I. I like looking at myself as simply a cog in the wheel of capitalism. At least at times. I’m not human during these moments. I’m just paper and coin. Sugar. Coffee or some other traded commodity. I’m a risk. A gamble. A pawn in a much larger game. I like the cruelty of it all. It’s cut and dry and everything a human being isn’t.
My 180 degree front window on the 12th floor offers an interesting view, obscured by semi-translucent curtains. From where I sit I cannot see another living creature. Alone in a city of millions. Watching the clock. Much on tap. Man the booth. Give a talk. Man the booth. Attend an opening. Try to make a dinner. Then retreat back to the isolation of room 22.
A man with twelve pineapples stands on the escalator, turns around and stares at me. We are different. I have no need for that many of anything, but I’m intrigued. Inches apart yet lives that couldn’t be more different. Race, culture, age, wants and needs. Riddles. All of us. Even to ourselves. What would happen if the inner dialogue was ever made public? Social is the closest we have come and it isn’t pretty. Let’s just keep it between us then.
Back home mom looks for a new car. Out goes the old Prius and in comes the small 4×4. She lives where one needs this sort of thing. I get the play-by-play. “This might be my last car,” she says. Nothing like a little morbid humor to ease the sale. “Maybe,” I say. “Just remember your favorite child when you kick the bucket,” I add.
Midday I leave to give a presentation with Ron. We recap both the photographic and publishing stories of The Lost Rolls. The project has received great press since being in Sydney and the opening is Tuesday night. These projects are living things. They ebb and flow but also need constant sustenance. Like me apparently. Later in the day I walk through the city to another Head On opening party which has taken over the top floor of a mall type space. There are many exhibitions. There are many people.
I have a chance to have real conversations with real photographers about the state of affairs in the modern, professional industry. In short, it’s a fluid time. Viscous. There are opportunities but the gamble is compromise. How far are you willing to go to get the work that pays the bills? This might seem like a trivial question but your entire career rests upon your answer. “The path to salvation is as thin as a razor’s edge.” Old Somerset gave us this little gem in 1943 and it’s more true today than ever before. Think about it. You can’t ever, ever go back.
The festival is humming now. There are photographers from all over the world here. Shipping containers scattered throughout Sydney with work inside. Prints on wall. Projections. Books, magazines, etc. Like a volcano of visual lava. Ready to blow.