SINE QUA NON
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I found this phrase in a book I’ve been reading recently: Towards a Psychology of Being by Abraham Maslow. For anyone that's taken Psych 100, yes that's the man responsible for the Hierarchy Of Needs, and the theory of self-actualization. In Latin it translates to “Without which, not.”
A bit nonsensical, but it just means: “without (object, concept), there is no (subject)”.
In other words, what is essential to you being you?
The voice beckoning forth from your chest in laughter at a well-placed joke, the manner of walking you inherited from your father? How you’ve chosen to dress yourself—from a kaleidoscope containing pieces of the Internet, your idols, your friends? A certain skill set you’ve attained pertaining to your career? Or is it what you choose to do on a lonesome weekend afternoon with no plans but to recline and get away from your job?
All of that is uniquely yours, and nobody should say otherwise. For me, I’ve tried searching for my photographic voice or style for years—exploring different formats, interplay with lighting… just to find my own way of expressing appreciation for the world. And yet, it was only once I looked back that I saw something cohesive. A structured paragraph in an otherwise disjointed essay.
The page you write for yourself, however, keeps on trudging forward in our narrow view of the present. Even so, it’s worthwhile to take a glance at where you’ve been. Either you cringe at your past leanings, or you learn to take yourself a bit more lightly. If you peer into the past long enough and deeply enough, there’s always a tinge of regret no matter if your memories were good or bad. That’s certainly how I felt digging through negatives for this show. If it was good, you wish it lasted longer; If it was bad, you try to cover it up and move on:
“I should’ve moved sooner.”
You think about how the circumstances you found yourself in didn’t allow for something to be done so hastily. You weighed your options slightly lengthier than ideal, and it all ended up being over as soon as it came to light, then receding into shadow.
“I wish I told them how I felt.”
There was someone else in the picture or you were too much of a coward to let them know. Your friends tell you hey, they’re not married–what’s the worst that could happen? You didn’t want to lose them as a friend either, though.
“I didn’t know what I wanted at the time.”
Then you think to yourself, do I know now? How much more do I know compared to then? To others?
Nobody’s really to blame; it’s just what you were at the moment. And that’s the process of Becoming. Those little sequences piling up, distilling to every litre of whoever you are now. Photos are a definite, tangible reminder of that. Besides the reactionary catharsis I get from composing and contorting myself for the retinal pleasure of a photo—akin to fitting together pieces to an almost-complete puzzle—they reflect a fraction of a second of who I once was, of who I associated myself with, of where I want to be going.
Looking, really looking, at these images and nitpicking each piece of dust, every hue of sky, was an exploration of some of my dearest memories. I was able to learn about the world and its inhabitants, found comrades, and fell in love behind a camera. This show is my humble reflection and snapshot confessionary of the past seven years I’ve spent on this earth, condensed in ten images.
A hundredth of a second here, a hundredth of a second there… even if you put them end to end they still only add up to one, two, perhaps three seconds snatched from eternity. - Robert Doisneau