the terror of reason

I'm from a pragmatic family, rarely ever has anyone spelled out their emotions over an alphabet soup at the dinner table. I'm not sure if that's something innate to who we are, or whether we've just learnt that over generations. From what I remember, emotional outbursts were few and far between. My family name is German, and at home, there's always been a subtle kind of identification with the order, rationality and systematic thinking that Germans are stereotyped into. We would analyze, discuss, weight the various options and choose what the rationale dictated. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a cold-hearted environment, but emotions just weren't something we dealt with very skillfully at home. I mean, you get the picture. 

In my early twenties, this cranial attitude that I proudly nourished in my teens really fucking backfired. I emotionally imploded. Kind of like a balloon that you've been blowing up for years and then it slipped out of your fingers and flew mindlessly around the room until it landed on the floor, all mushy and wet from the spit you've blown into it. To make up for this deflated existence of mine, I started carrying a camera around. It was only then that I started to get the picture myself. I'd photograph anything that caught my attention, indiscriminately, and faster than my brain managed to put itself in the way. That's still how I shoot now. I suppose the photographs should reflect how I feel at the time of pressing the shutter. A lot of the times, in attempts to understand what's actually going on, I tell myself that it gives me access to the feelings I'm incompetent at verbalizing and how I'm slowly chipping away at my own unconscious mind. How I'm bringing the inner self to light in the process. How, on the rare occasion that I feel like I got a reasonably good photo, I can recognize a whole array of emotions reflective of my own experience. In reality though, I hardly ever manage to shoot well when I find myself in the middle of a fit of rage or an exercise for my capacity for grief. Or when I've just jumped head-first into a pool of self-loathing. Emotional gymnastics aren't my expertise – I usually ride on the wave of any feeling that bubbles up to the surface a bit longer than someone who's more efficient at dealing with their sentiments. It plays in my cards as well, I can be a maniac and shoot like I'm bowling for Columbine, but that only happens if I just got caught up in a mutually reinforcing loop of excitement and vigilance that keeps me on my toes, curious and hungry for more stimuli. 

The tendency to suppress emotion under the reign of reason repeatedly results in those inwardly-oriented bursts of intensity. I guess what's changed over time is how I perceive those little implosions, as I've learnt to be more tolerant of their presence in my life. It's definitely related to the fact that I know it helps me shoot well when I'm high on top of that wave of excitement. If it didn't, I'd probably still be trying as hard as I used to to terrorize those sentiments with reason. The mechanisms between positive and negative emotions operate in a similar manner, so getting carried away with one also means I get swept off my feet with the other. I try and allow that for now. If I didn't, I'd probably end up like the kids in Michael Haneke's movie White Ribbon – all that restraint and control in the lives of early 20th century German youth, and what happens? Hitler explodes in their face two decades later.

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