I smell of goats. (To be explained another time)
Today we visited the nearest town. Besa informed me it had a violent history. Around 1997 the gang culture and violence was rife. Apparently you’d lose your tyres if you parked there for more than 15 minutes. But once we arrived I found this hard to believe. We entered what felt like a sleepy and chilled suburban community. It reminded me of a small town in Romania but brimming with teenagers. She parked up and we said our farewells for the day as I promised I’d keep checking in with my 90’s Nokia toy phone.
Like a magnet I fell straight into the high school playground and started chatting to a large group of teens basking in the sun. They were playful and cheeky; irritating, but at times warm and polite. I honed in on my connector. She had braces and spoke perfect English. She didn’t control the group but seemed to allow our communication to drown out the noise. I shot from the distance, aware that singling people out would cause chaos. Besides, the light was harsh and it was 1 pm.
A lanky teen draped in headphone wires and phone chargers entered my bubble consistently. His cap was swung backwards revealing a peak of gelled hair and he proudly sported a small fluffy beard. He was loud and pushy. He relentlessly asked me if I had a boyfriend, I replied saying I was married…did I have any single friends? No. Are you sure? Very. After finally convincing him I did not hold the key to his search for love he gave me some space. One by one, eager eyes peered down through my viewfinder as I shared the wonder of my magical camera. They were excited and all spoke at once when I asked them about where they liked to hang out, what they were studying… I said a few thank yous and slid away trying to escape inconspicuously to hit the streets in search of the unknown.
I weaved my way through the back streets. Following my nose I arrived at a ledge overlooking a group of old crumbling communist blocks. A few trucks and a disused old police van were parked up and the area was pretty dead. Pockets of life were revealed in hanging washing and the occasional resident strolling through.
I wandered down and passed an old man closely who held my gaze with suspicion; his eyes grey and fierce. I nodded a smile letting him pass and then swung around to spy on him. I watched him pace the ground, looking for something.
Elevated, I held my focus on him; prempting he might look back, he didn’t. He drifted between the blocks and I shot a frame wondering what he was looking for, wondering what I was looking for.
I walked to the right of the block. I needed to stay, unsure why. I spotted a young boy and asked to shoot his portrait. I knew it wouldn’t make a great picture but he looked eager for some interaction and excited at the sight of someone so clearly alien. As we thanked each other and he parted I began focussing my lens on the blocks again. Suddenly a man exited the flats shouting, held firmly in cuffs and being dragged by two officers. Within an instant they threw him into the police wagon. I raised my camera and shot stunned. It was my last frame, who knows if I got a picture but it felt exhilarating to randomly witness such a narrative. A few seconds later his wife came out in silence but my film was gone. What had he done? Who was he? Who was she…the mystery fulfilled my curious imagination for the proceeding hours whilst I strolled. OAO x