02 April, 2006

Photo shopped

I haven't been abroad since 1994, but in the past five weeks I know I've already been round the world several times.

I'm not indulging in some pseud-talk here, about how mentally I've journeyed to a thousand places thanks to the sights and sounds of unfamiliar global cultures. No, it's simply that since I moved to London I can't help but notice how many backs of photos I've found myself wandering in to.

It only really applies in the city centre, of course, but that still counts for most days since the end of February. It's not like I'm deliberately contriving to step into somebody's viewfinder or seeking out unsuspecting tourists for a bit of photographical hi-jacking. Far from it. I started off doing my best to avoid getting in somebody's way, but pretty soon it proved impossible to get where you wanted to go in an reasonably straight and direct line without passing behind a tourist or two posing for a commemorative snap.

Given my route to and from work involves walking through one of the most tourist-saturated parts of London - Leicester Square, Shaftesbury Avenue and Piccadilly - this is a situation which probably afflicts me more than most. And seeing as I've already documented my aversion to being caught on camera, you must understand this isn't something I look forward with keen enthusiasm. Yet it happens, and it will go on happening, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm not going to wait half an hour for a band of tourists to complete their business and get out the way just so I can walk from A to B.

Hence my likeness and image is, I know for a fact, already captured in the background of any number of international visitors' lensmanship, which in turn will already have been processed or uploaded or printed or emailed right around the globe to nestle unsuspectingly in the inboxes or photo albums of people in faraway places of which I know little.

It's an odd thought, that you try and do so much to control and preserve the course and pattern of your life, only subjecting yourself to unknown elements and external forces when you choose to do so, yet fragments of who you are get scattered around the planet every day and there's nothing you can do about it. My likeness, no doubt settled into an uncompromising grimace, could well be gracing the coffee tables of folk in Moscow, Mexico City, Sydney and Los Angeles.

So much for globalisation. They've got a part of me, but I've got no clue about them.


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