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Matt Willen Matt Willen | Monday 11. May 2009

Loosening up

I've deliberately been slow about getting the camera out, mostly to allow myself time to orient to the town. I took it out with me yesterday afternoon and used the opportunity to loosen up a bit, begin to look at things in the ways that I tend to look at things. So I focused largely on geometry and elements of perspective in scenes around Isafjöður. Few people, as it has been raining and few people are out. Later, Gústi and I went out for a couple of hours after dinner as the light was fading, and did some shooting on the streets. Then I stayed up till late processing photographs.

I came in from shooting around 10:30, and sat before working and talked to a couple of exchange students coming through town. One a Canadian guy and the other a young Lithuanian woman, who were studying in Reykjavik and hitchhiking for a couple of days around the Westfjords. She was smart, articulate, beautiful, and seemed rather worldly. He was less so, on all accounts. They seemed to have little good to say about Isafjöður and the people in the Westfjords, almost in similar sense to the way Americans from the northeast tend to talk about the residents of West Virginia or Kentucky, and they were anxious to get on the road out of town. I listened with great interest: "It is a beautiful place, but there is nothing to do here.´´ ´´The people are weird, they won´t even look you in the eye.´´ ´´We went to a movie in town and it was like the biggest thing that the kids had ever done. How can you grow up living in a place where going to a movie is a big event.´´ ´´How can someone live here? What is there to do? You either work in the hospital, or a school, or in a shop, or maybe you fish. Why would anyone want to stay?‘'

 

It is a different experience than mine, and I had to wonder what is at the basis of the difference: Do we have different assumptions about what is necessary in life? Am I being something of a romantic about what it means to live here, a simple life (I don't want to)? Or are they being indifferent to differences to the way people live? I struggle often with these kinds of questions-how do you listen to someone whose perspective is so different from your own, and yet try to understand the way of seeing things, the world view, that gives rise to that perspective, that gives it some legitimacy.

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