The questionnaire
10 August, 2023

When I was fourteen, fifteen years old, I used to spend my pocket money on British magazines like Smash Hits, Just Seventeen, I-D, The Face, etc. Some of them had a section where celebrities or just passers by were asked about the last book they had read, what they were wearing, their favourite movie or band, things they loved, liked or hated. Similarily, I made my own lists to fill out. The first conscious act of trying to define myself, and see myself in the light of others. Not only was filling in a simple questionnaire enough to provide a sense of self, it was also quite satisfying to see it in writing. The lists became a daily journal, recording the mundane events in the life of a teenager who never quite fit in. I kept this journal until much later, when the need to write had faded away for no particular reason. But the need for a story remained. I think everyone needs a story about themselves. To tell others, but mostly to oneself. And the journal became a narrative, a life boiled down to a few dominating storylines. I never liked my narrative as much as I liked my lists, or the person that emerged from it. And now, in my mid-fifties, I feel that I’m better off without one. A narrative has a tendency to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s hard to escape from ideas that you keep telling yourself over and over again, and that you use to explain your life. That may have served a purpose, call it self-insight, but more often than not it feels like a burden. These worn-out ideas, not untrue I’m sure, are unproductive, and their explanatory power is no longer wanted.

And now I feel I should make a clever crossover to photography, since that’s what this blog is about after all, but there isn’t one. Adding a self-portrait feels appropriate though. It’s not much of a stretch to see self-portraiture as just another way of recording one’s self, but I feel that my half hearted efforts in the field are more about the challenge of exposing myself, of being seen. It's fair to say that I don’t do self-portraiture, I never know how to pull it off, and I find the whole process somewhat saddening. So there’s the occasional snapshot, without thinking much, not planning anything, seizing the moment. In this case: in a hotel room in Dax, France, on a warm summer morning in 2022, while waiting for my turn in the showers.