I am not a good photographer. I get nervous and embarrassed and rush the process. I hate taking up space, stopping, being seen seeing something. So I rely heavily on other people, watch them take a photo, and then stand in the exact same spot and try to take the exact same picture. It’s probably a sort of plagiarism. Except that mine usually end up out of focus and off kilter. I kept walking, but slowly now. My strides shortening, wondering if I was missing out on something. Was this a thing? Taking pictures upon landing? I reached for my phone, pulled it out, considered stopping and joining the crowds. The pressure to conform is heavy. Maybe they knew something I didn’t. Instead, I just texted my friend. Made it.
Turns out this is a thing. At least a thing in Kiruna. My friend, living there for the year with support from the same grant as me, travels in and out of that airport regularly. And there’s always someone taking a picture at the airport. Maybe it’s the northern latitude. There aren’t a whole lot of people living so far north. Maybe it’s the appeal of the margins. The periphery where few people have ever been. A thing to take back home and say look, look at where I’ve been. The outskirts of civilization as we pretend to know it. Ignoring, of course, the history that has endured so far north.
|Those doors remained closed to the likes of me. |
You can't just wander through the Ice Hotel.
And I took plenty of pictures. Bad ones. But pictures. They’ll sit on my computer in a folder and pop up every now and again when my computer tries to sleep, my screensaver reminding me of the places I’ve been. The places I’ll go.
There is also an airport. It is small, nondescript, and filled with tourists heading to the Ice Hotel. There will not be a picture of an airport on my computer screen. I resisted the crowds. I’m my own man.
Welcome to Sweden. And peer pressure.