Time of sleepless nights, fearing the film rolls are empty, is over. No more fantasizing about accidental masterpieces either. Here they are. They survived all the security checks x-ray machines, the cold and the dust: my hasselblad afghan portraits. And all memories overwhelm me finally again. Feelings of a strange dream transform in clear images. Not just on glossy paper. Memories of sounds, temperatures and smells are all here. It's like I confined my feelings into the rolls (as a protection?) and now, as rubbing Aladin's lamp, they magically return intact and unaffected. Pure. And I LOVE photography more then everything else. Not for it's memorizing role. For being what it is. Only images in the end. Bidimensional notes about a short moment, trying to record a relationship, a tension. And here we are sitting in Phoveas office, three around a table, sipping some beers (very strange, yes) and rearranging clichés to form a series. Our expressions like the ones chess players must have: waiting for the turn to make a move. Displacing one photo, putting it next to another; exclude a face, bring in a glance and everything gets a new meaning. I longed for so long and wanted so much this moment when we would be editing work toghether as a team. And even if our website is still not ready to be online, I am already now very proud of Phovea. Secretly proud of myself having found the power to start this for real. And of course lucky having found friends crazy enough for following and still not letting go. No doubts this days about being a photographer! Great assignments ahead. Great feeling. And total faith.
When I opened my backpack once at home, for a moment I brought one univers into another. It was so much stronger then showing images. It was the smell. Eventually the stinking of my clothes, yes, but more... a smell of far away. It happened at my parents place in my room I have since kid. It's great to change worlds. Not easy. But strong and important.
I am really impressed noticing that still a number of persons visit this blog daily. So I feel a pressure keeping on writing something, despite the fact I was thinking of the blog more as a letter for family and friends whilst abroad. And it would be nice having a couple of interactions, I am very courious about some reported signals from brazil or the states... who's out there? :)
Fortunately I got my visa in a couple of days and could fly away from Kabul without any further complications. Really appreciated a night at the hotel in Dubai after a month of washing myself with only little, gas boiled, water inside my room. Finally had a whisky. But it wasn't that amazing experience. When you change universe it feels like you never left. Like you were in Dubai the day before. And the big Kabul experience first gets compressed to a couple of images. But very blured. Strange. When I am inside an airplane, also it feels like yesterday the last time. Same for getting back to the office or the pub. Wich makes me a bit sad. And wich reminds me of my paranoia and the WHY I need to take pictures or wright notes. But arriving in Milano I understud seeing my mom's happy smile that I have been away more than a couple of days. I realized everyone at home really was worrying about me in the dangerous country they had on evening news on tv. At a point I almost started to believe I did something dangerous and heroic but instantly bringing reality back and knowing exactly what I have experienced. I still am completely unable to answer to people when asked how it was. It's like "what you expect me to say?" I don't have any war story. But when I just start telling some funny things from the daily life I realize it do has been a very special experience in a country where not everyone is willing to go.
It does feel good being here. The sun shines. It's spring. Nature is awesome. I allready got some assignments and it feels like really good being back. It's great going away also for appreciating this universe here. Until you can't stand it anymore and it litterally pulls you far again. But I am enjoying seeing my friends, and looking at normal things here like at great luxury... sometimes on the other hand you look at other's luxury, you listen to other's fears and you surprise yourself not even getting upset anymore. It makes you almost smile. Don't know how long this feeling will last. Wish could keep it alive. It's exactly this wich makes it unpossible for me to settle in one specific place. I need to be on a sort of move constantly. And hope this job of mine... wich I decide to keep on persisting with... will give me this possibility. It seems allready mid april I'll be on a plane for a very long flight!! I am so happy. But since it's an assignment I am not allowed to wright about.
© Reto Albertalli / phovea
By now I thought I would be sitting at the Pub back home, proudly sipping a fresh Guinness and listening to some heavy rock. My mom would have picked me up from the airport, happy his son is back home, she would have been preparing great stuff for dinner and my dad would have found a good bottle of local red wine. Only then I would have gone home to my place in Geneva. Well all this images had to be postponed, as at the airport some angry uniformed men teared my ticket in two halfs, after discovering my visa is expired. I frankly believed that I would have to pay a fine for every day. But that sounded to them more as bribery. So once surrounded by more and more angry cops I choose to back down to the check-in aera, hoping getting my backpack back, called the cab and returned to the centre. Watching out of the car's window. Everything looked hostile to me. Barbed wires, security walls, burkas, weapons, mud, dirt... grey. In the morning I was out at the bazar with a guy from the centre. It was strangely te first time I was out so much walking in the middle of the crowd, in one same place. I took pictures like knowing not coming back very soon. My friend had my digital cam and I hoped he could record some movie sequences of me, as a document. Well we must have looked strange because we got stopped several times by the police and once even by some secret civilians. Not fun at all when you know your visa expired, you have a plane to catch later, and little courious crowds surround you more and more. I can feel a change since the world known accident. It's more of a public thing. Each person is obviously nice and kind, but you can feel the potential of the crowd. At least I did. We know the mind can trick us easily in dark thoughts. And if you feel fear, well you are doomed. So sitting there in the cab back from the airport, I was forcing myself to get back to the original confidence and loving everything like it is. Once back at the centre everyone was sorry but happy to see me. They had a huge dancing party as the winter program is over. So I found myself dancing in the middle of clapping and shouting kids and the world couldn't have been betther. Another great adventure was then going to the passport office. Wich is fortunately not far from where I stay. There was an incredible crowd. Security guys pushing through it like moving sheeps. A loudspeaker shouting something from a green police pick-up. I wanted to cry. But convinced the translating guy with me, to try and ask. So we could move on. We were checked. I wasn't allowed to take pictures and of course the light was perfect and the scenes awesome. Lines and lines of watiting people, in the mud, between broken walls, squeezed one againts the other. Again the feeling I would never leave the country. But again asked and moved on to an office with only few foreigners. A guy in uniform sitting at a desk. Says ok, bring this this and this and we get you a 6 day visa for leaving. Back to centre. Then back to office. Ok now you need this and this. You pay 20 dollars and that's it. Want to give him cash. Says no to bank. Fortunately here at the centre they decided to send an experienced person paying for me. But since I should bring passport in the morning to get it back in the evening it's way to late and I'll "loose" another day. But it's ok unless I can go home. Wrote all this to a very good friend knowing Afghanistan way to well. He answered I'm an Idiot. You are in a country at war and expect to leave with an expired visa and even try to bribe officers. Weeeell... this are nice stories to tell at the pub, sipping a fresh Guinness very soon. No? I would be lying if I didn't admit feeling strange before falling asleep, alone with my thoughts, the window glasses trembling briefly as two helicopters fly low over us. But truly I feel in super security and very confident!