Retro Slovenia and Some Thoughts About Why I Take Pictures

I was recently faced with several people who, upon hearing that I like to take pictures, looked at me with a friendly smile teetering between pity and condescension: you see, they never take pictures, like, never. It has never crossed their mind to buy a camera, and they don’t even use their phone to snap anything, even when travelling. Because, you see, they love to live in the moment, and taking a picture would diminish the nowness of the now. 

At the other end of the spectrum there are those who return from their travels laden with dozens of identical shots of identical looking streets, monuments and landscapes. These people are also strangely inadequate at framing and getting the horizon straight, but that’s not their major problem. The problem is they love to share their shots with you- and blessings to social media for allowing a remote sharing possibility, as I still shudder to think of those prehistoric times when these people would invite you over for a display of their exasperating loot.

In an unusual instance of moderation, I like to think I’m halfway in between, and very thankful for that. Case in point, I’ve recently unearthed an album of six year old snaps from a long weekend trip we took to Slovenia in mid-June and this made me incredibly happy. While I do recognize the importance of savouring the now, the major problem is that the now has the annoying tendency to become the past. A memory, and as we all know, memory fades.

I am occasionally irked by the fact that in spite of not being particularly ancient, places I have visited several years ago seem to try and make an escape into the unknown- that is, places which I visited before becoming conjoined to a camera. Browsing through my albums thus becomes somewhat of a mental workout and immediately brings back snippets of time I thought I’d lost forever. And it’s not the moment of the picture itself I remember, there is no need for that, because I see it right in front of me. Instead, I start to make connections and all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place to bring forth the bigger picture with sharp edges and full contrast.

There are the peaks of the Julian Alps, as I glanced them for the first time on the road which takes you from Ljubljana to Bled. There is the restaurant on the banks of the Ljubljanica where I had a pasta dish which was unchanged the second time I visited years later. The father of our hotel’s owner, who peeked out with interest at the newcomers and was delighted to find that some of us spoke some sort of Yugoslav tongue. Looking for Tito’s villa in the shrubbery beside the lake, and taking wild guesses at which one might be it. (Google took all the fun out of that- the place is now clearly marked on your map and has no mystery anymore.)

Waking up in the morning to the echo of all of Bled’s church bells tolling, much to the dismay of the blog’s industrious co-photographer. Finding a book in Finnish on the hotel’s exchange shelf, and attempting a go at it, only to find confirmation that Slavic languages invariably mess with my knowledge of Finnish, as if part of a ridiculous personal feud. Buying fragrant and delicious goat cheese after the descent from the Savica waterfall, and then eating it compulsively over the next days lest it go bad. A bar close to the edge of the lake where we drank a number of Beam Me Up Scotty cocktails which were uncountable even at the time. We have also tried to replicate the majesty of the concoction ever since, and invariably failed. 

Some people say that photography is essentially our attempt to stop time, but for me it’s more an attempt to make time, even time past, matter. It might not matter forever, or to everyone, but at least I get the chance to sit in front of my screen, six years later, and smile at the thought of the obstinate Slovenian moggy who would not look at my camera for the life of him.

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