Behind the Lens (of Longing)

29 Mar 2024 category


Introduced by a mutual friend, I met her at the time of the Black Summer fires in Sydney. It was a warm October evening; the mosquitoes were biting incessantly; and our eyes locked as we sat at my friend’s picnic table. Long, buttery hair cascaded down her shoulders, and the dancing embers of a nearby fire flickered in her pale blue eyes.

As we sat spooning gelato, her adventurous nature revealed itself as she divulged her plan to travel around Australia in a campervan. Her enthusiasm permeated every word; even as she talked of working in the city to save money, the tone of each syllable swelled like an orchestra in crescendo.

A few weeks after our first meeting, I saw her again. This time, however, we met at the beach, and after a walk along the promenade, I took her to a hillside golf club that offered a panoramic view of the cliffs. Playfully, we hurried to the course boundary, traversing two large rock precipices before reaching the cliff's edge, and sat side by side, our legs hanging pendulously over the ledge, the sun gradually setting behind us. My gaze lingered over the Pacific as it glistened in the dimming light, the sapphire hue and gentle, rhythmic waves moving me, and suddenly, overwhelmed by an inner warmth, I turned towards her. She epitomised beauty: the elegant slope of her nose, the radiating kindness of her eyes, the gentle blush of her cheeks when she smiled, and the intricate contours and creases around her lips, which became more pronounced as she spoke. At that moment, as the sea broke beneath me, my heart surged with longing. 

Black Summer

Unfortunately, her travel plans were shattered after her apartment was burglarised; even the money she diligently saved for the campervan was stolen.

In the subsequent days, ash and smoke from uncontrolled fires ravaging the surrounding wilderness were carried to the city by strong offshore winds. The air thickened with the scent of charred eucalyptus, and the midday sun transformed into an orange globe behind a mask of yellow haze. Lying on the rocks near the beach and gazing at the sky, I observed a dense smoke cloud looming above me like an anvil, pressing against a stubborn sea breeze. A few weeks later, she announced her departure.

We stayed in contact in the typical ways: phone calls and messages. However, as a canvas for my quiet perspicacity, I also sent her handwritten letters, allowing me to express the nuances and details I admired about her without explicitly confessing how I felt. Every letter I wrote was meticulously crafted, and using a ruler, I ensured each line was perfectly symmetrical. But, beneath this veneer of perfectionism, my carefully selected words carried an openness and emotional vulnerability—a subtle invitation for her to draw nearer, to peel back the layers, and to be seen.

She finally acknowledged my feelings during a video call, but when she explained that she did not reciprocate, it felt like a block of ice against my chest. The silence echoed as I tried to conceal my tears; the whole earth stood still, waiting in anticipation for my response, so when she proposed ending the call, I reluctantly agreed.

Ultimately, she suggested parting ways completely; she found it too difficult to maintain a friendship given my romantic feelings.

Philosophical Reflection

Three years since our last conversation, and the ache of missing her remains. Being separated from someone you love is confusing and complex; it can make you feel cut off, and incomplete. That is, when the person you love becomes unavailable, the aspects of us that grew and developed out of love for that person may feel in danger of being lost or destroyed forever. 

Philosophers argue that this is because the self is relational and that our identities are largely constructed by those we love. We discover our most basic sense of self during intimate relationships; they reveal our unmet needs and vulnerabilities, leaving us susceptible to wounding, but they also greatly contribute to our personal development and flourishing. 

Artistic Expression 

In my artistic endeavours, I strive to encapsulate her significance to me and articulate the profound aspects of myself that often elude written or verbal expression. Soaring above the Earth with my lens focused on the landscape below, I am driven by her persistent memory to capture natural features that evoke her distinct beauty and personality, also seeking to incorporate my enduring emptiness into the shots.

Post-expedition, after scrupulously analysing each image and only selecting those that meet my excellent standards of quality and composition for display, I compile a highly curated collection that communicates my affection, attachment, and admiration for someone who is no longer relationally available to me.

My collection, saturated with meaning, provides a glimpse into the pain and sadness of unrequited love; the images showcase the intricacies of this often devastating, wholly human experience. In Broken Moon, devouring loneliness and isolation are evident in the empty expanse, while the soft blue tidal bands in Lament and the bifurcation of water in Dissociate convey feelings of tearful sorrow and emotional detachment after losing hope and succumbing to the painful ache of longing. In Nausea, the sickness of loss—a visceral aversion to reality—is visually depicted; solace is found in the tranquillity and solitude of Still; and the hope of restoration is embodied in the delicate flowering of Germinate.

Love and loss are interwoven throughout my work as I integrate emotion with the vast landscapes below me, permitting me to navigate my feelings and simultaneously capture the world and human life in the most authentic sense.

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