I'm not inclined to put pictures of myself up here at all, as I find it a bit vain to be honest. Blogs are not Facebook profiles. But I was looking through some old pictures earlier, and was thinking of how most of them never really represent the experience you were having at the time when the photo was taken.
For me, things like songs, sounds and smells are far more visceral in terms of reminding me of a certain time. To this day, if I smell Physio Sport anti-perspirant I am instantly transported to the back of a Landrover travelling along bumpy roads in Kenya in 1999, as that was my choice of deodorant for a trip there. Listening to certain songs from Ash's '1977' album reminds me of being miserable on a French exchange trip, nursing my first broken heart as I tried to figure out why everyone there kept speaking French to me and asking if I wanted to eat 'the crap' (I later discovered what a 'crepe' was).
Yet I found one photo that, above all others, captures the essence of a moment beautifully.
Would you like to see it?
That's me in Seoul, South Korea where I taught on a one month contract in January 2006. Given how I was only there for a short time I decided it would be best if I went out every single night and sampled as much Korean culture as possible by eating and drinking anything I knew the Korean word for, indulging wildly in karaoke, smoking (because you could) in weird little private cinemas which only accommodate 2 or 4 people, and telling taxi-drivers I was a swedish popstar. I also worked 9-5 six days a week and had a 2 and a half hour round trip to work so sleep wasn't really a high priority. There's only so long one can sustain that kind of tempo and for me it was about two and a half weeks before my body crashed. I coughed violently all the time and found myself unable to stomach the school lunches of rice, octopus, fucked-up miso soup, more octopus and kimchi (the national Korean dish, best summarised as pickled fermented cabbage). Which meant there was nothing to eat. Other colleagues also fell ill around the same time, and the school weren't best pleased with them needing time off so I had no choice but to work through it. I recall one class where the 6 year-olds I was teaching reading to would calmly take it in turns to read out loud before waking me politely at the end of each round.
This photo was taken on my worst day, and that's why it encapsulates the experience so well. I look like a piece of boiled shit, completely lost in a surreal country and yet giving enough of a smile to betray that I was loving every minute anyway. The way the kids turned out blurred just heightens the effect.
I still prefer to have other triggers to important memories in life but I'd love to think that everyone would have at least one photo that captures a complicated feeling in the way this one does for me.