I’ve always been comfortably confident that not one single hoarding gene hides within my DNA. I am fastidious, tidy, and minimalist — perhaps even to a fault (should you choose to subpoena the opinions of an ex or two).
I have a strict one-in / one-out rule — if something new comes into the condo, something old goes out. It’s why I’ve owned hundreds of synthesizers in my lifetime, but rarely have more than a half-dozen in my studio. It couples nicely with my “if I haven’t used it in a year, then I don’t need it” policy — which does, admittedly, sometimes result in the premature disposal of some actually useful items. But such is the price one pays for being a hoardless horseman.
To date, the only physical evidence of a possible hoarding compulsion is my camera cabinet — which I acknowledge has far more old film cameras than any one person needs. However, my willingness to sell rarely-used gear coupled with the discipline to occasionally purge the shelves of inoperable junk seems to refute that possibility.
But just this month, after decades of minimalist smugness, I’ve uncovered evidence to suggest that I might indeed suffer from a hoarding disorder — hiding (as disorders often do) in plain site.
Yes, my name is Egor, and I hoard snapshots of Tokyo.
Later this month, I’ll be travelling back to Japan — where a mere 57 weeks after my last trip, I will spend 14 days snacking my way through dozens of different neighbourhoods while snapping photos with near reckless abandon.
To a ‘normal’ person, this probably doesn’t seem like aberrant behaviour. But in light of the fact I’m one of the world’s most parsimonious photographers, it stands out as a glaring anomaly. Under non-Tokyo conditions, it can easily take me two months to spool a roll of film through a camera — and that’s if I carry it every day! Even shooting digitally, my totals rarely exceed 50 shots in a month.
But Tokyo? I still have unscanned slides from my 1995 visit, un-catalogued shots from my 2015 visit, and un-viewed photos from 2018. Yet here I am — going again with the singularly specific goal of collecting even more photographs from the streets of Tokyo.
But, as anxious as the local chapter of Hoarder’s Anonymous is to receive its membership dues, I’m not yet prepared to pull out my chequebook. Maybe it’s not a hoarding foible at all, but one of my other many foibles cleverly masquerading as hoarding?
A likely candidate would simply be Newton’s Second Law of Travel, which states that “the very act of being in an environment distinct from one’s own wakes the eye and triggers the shutter finger, thus resulting in a mountain of crappy photos.”
But if this were the case, any trip I take beyond Vancouver’s city limits should result in a marked increase in photographs — yet it doesn’t. It’s only Tokyo. Besides, I’m not sure I’d classify my Tokyo photos as crappy. You might. You probably even do. But I don’t.
So maybe it’s not a case of becoming ‘less selective’ when I press the shutter. Maybe it’s just that Tokyo actually speaks to the same subliminal instincts that motivate all my photographs. I rarely take photos of things that interest my eye — I take photos of things that trigger some sort of instinctual je ne sais quoi that stirs a feeling deep within.
In spite of being a very visual person and photography being an obviously visual medium, when I look at my own photos, I’m not affected by them through the usual process in which an image triggers a memory. Rather, viewing my photos kindles the identical amalgamation of thoughts, instincts and emotions that drove me to take the photo in the first place. My best photos do not act as second-hand reminders, but as first-hand stimulants.
I’ve always said that photographers should photograph themselves. Not literally — like some Instagrammer run amok in a quest for more “likes” — but figuratively. And the fact I see myself woven into the very fabric of Tokyo is probably what causes the outpouring of photos taken there. I am practicing what I preach — I am photographing myself.
Granted, maybe I’m just trying to rationalize my way out of the horrific realization that my DNA isn’t hoarding-free. Or perhaps I’m just attempting to justify another self-indulgent trip of snack ‘n’ snap happy wandering around my favourite city. More likely than not, these (and not hoarding) are the real foibles facing me… well, these and an egotistical need to make all my photos be ‘self portraits.’
©2019 grEGORy simpson
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