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  • Writer's pictureClotaire Mandel

Modern blindness

Far from having seen everything, in the frenzy of scanning the world, one can suddenly become blind.

Well, my eyes work, but my camera doesn't. A sort of modern blindness.

The camera was slowly showing some weaknesses, when I was trying to take portraits of faces in the effort. For a few days slightly struggling, then finally when shotting these colourful women who were waiting in the shelter of the roadside. One wonders what all these people are waiting for, so far from everything. Waiting at the side of a road where it seems that nothing ever passes.

But the scene was aesthetic. The camera could not pay tribute to the composition. To their complete selflessness.

A few more pictures, time to push the bike to the top of the small village above our head. We spent the night there, in a kind of improvised hotel. The kind of place that seems to be both always prepared to welcome people, and always surprised to see an unfamiliar face.

A house that must be collectively designated by the village to carry the burden of housing the weary cyclists who occasionally pass through the area.

It was a lovely evening, and in the morning I wanted to put everyone's faces on the same photo, proudly lined up as they were. I can hardly read this photo again.

It was the beginning of the end for the camera.

This is perhaps the most frustrating thing, to understand why we take so many photos. To understand the fear of forgetting. Not to be forgotten by others, but to forget that we have lived. That all this is real and that it is visually inscribed in front of us as soon as we struggle to imagine it again and again.

Maybe we wear out our memories by thinking about them too much. Photos don't wear out from being looked at too much.

Thanks for having us. I can't remember your names, and I need a map to remember the name of your village. Your faces are a pixelated chaos.

But I protect you from forgetting, in my memory. That is all I have left. I think of you from time to time, so that all this does not fade away.

The dirt of your village has not stuck to my wheels for a long time now. No more dust remains elsewhere.

You are the ephemeral. You are the main substance of the long-distance traveller. You defile. And perhaps I care for you even more since you are threatened with extinction.

But we had to keep going.

And we climbed up the switchbacks to the town of Ghorka, in central Nepal. In the early morning, on the ridges, the clouds could not rise high enough to cover the whole of these high and majestic peaks.

I looked at Sien and said, "I'm not unhappy that it's covered. It would have been very frustrating to have a great view and not be able to take any pictures.

She rebuked me sharply, and rightly so. It was silly, it just came out.

I thought I was stupid actually, so I let her go on for a bit to ponder my stupidity.

Here I am, a child of my time, happy that some of the highest mountains in the world are hidden away simply because I can't take a good picture of them.

I stand there, sad that I am not able to appreciate things for what they are, but more for what they can be later.

I learn a lot, every day. I make mistakes, I fall, I stand up again. And I'm trying to regain my sight too. Nepal. September 2022.


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