By Christopher Squier
Throughout the research and experimentation phase of the project, I made a selection of a number of photographs that have inspired me.
I’ve been considering a photograph of a snake—an image I like for the way the snake seems to be slithering from the area of focus in the photograph out to the unfocused and shifting space in the foreground. I’m drawn to this image as a metaphor for the traveler’s experience (and, to a further extreme, the expat’s) of deliberately moving into unknown regions and—while not going blindly—still feeling one’s way along by trust alone. In the photo, the snake’s body and tail are in sharp focus, but its head is already blurred by its trajectory, velocity, or mobility. The traveler’s experience also seems close to the snake’s in another way, as the unfocused surfaces at the margins of the photo are not only difficult to visualize, but are desert sand: particulates which shift and change their appearance as the snake moves. As a result, the terrain itself is physically mobile, in flux as well as out of focus.
There are other photographs. One series depicts a set of flowers identified as orchids (at first, I thought they might be lilies), in which the lighting dramatically changes their appearance, casting shadows against the background of vibrant yellow window screens (EAC 1.0068.2.11 V310). The scene is cinematic and theatrical, while the subject matter is commonplace. The photo caption claims the orchids won first place in a local competition.
Other photographs show images of oil rigs and humid landscapes, interrupted by degradation and decay marks on the surface of the photos—likely from the itinerant life of their caretakers before entering the Archive. Considering vision and sensory deprivation (in which I was interested in my first blog post), these photos with deteriorating surfaces seem to mirror the sensory overload of a traveler encountering foreign lands and people—or even the pathogens and microscopic dangers of a new place.
All photographs were from the Expatriate Archive Centre: EAC 1.0068.