I think it’s time I shared about one of my more “out there” self-portraits and add some context to the image. I shot this one a couple of years ago on a very foggy morning when I grabbed my gear, coat, and a hat (not a style I wear often) and headed out to the rocky shore near where I live in Southern Spain. I had hopes of getting some interesting shots in the fog but didn’t really have a specific concept in mind when I started out.
(Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF24-70mm f/2.8L; Shot at: f/11, 1/125 sec, ISO 100, focal length 32mm)
As I walked down to the shore and observed the driftwood and other debris from the Mediterranean littering the rocks, a piece of bright orange rope caught my eye. At the same time, my mind wandered to the human “debris” (as viewed by some, myself excluded) that regularly washes up on this same shore in the form of immigrants making their way from Africa to Europe. Many of them have come to a point in their lives where their homeland has little or nothing to offer them in the form of economic and/or physical security. They are people like you and me, searching for a way to offer their families some form of sustenance and hope for the future. At the same time they are forced to sacrifice much of their own cultural identity and family relationships in order make it in their new surroundings. I feel a certain kinship as I too am an immigrant and know what it is like to live far from home. The main difference is that I freely made this choice because of my own interests and not out of financial or physical hardship. For me it was also a much easier legal process because of my nationality, which is nothing of my own doing but rather the luck of being born into a certain family with a certain citizenship.
Anyways, back to the orange rope! With various thoughts swirling in my head about the difficulties of life as an immigrant, the one that came to the forefront was the feeling of not being able to fully express oneself. This due in part to language, but more prominently caused by the difficulty of understanding the complexities of cultural nuances. Take for example humor. It turns out to be one of the more difficult things to pick up in an adopted culture because of it’s deep connection to historical and situational context. No matter how well I learn the language (those who know me will agree that my Spanish is not bad), there will always be things that fly over my head. This in turn limits my ability to connect on a deeper level. Perhaps for me this is more of an issue than for some, but I think many immigrants struggle in this area. Thus for me, the orange rope came to symbolize the feeling of be restricted or constrained; the difficulty of expressing how I truly feel or think in my adopted culture.
Well, that’s it in a nutshell. Regardless of my struggles, I still feel blessed because I have options. I feel saddened for those who find themselves in similar situations but don’t have the same options; to visit family often or even to pick up and move back to their home culture when and if the time is right.