I’m not even 18 years old and I’m so far away from my parents. It’s the first time that I’ve gone this far. I’m two-thousand kilometres away from home, in Barcelona. I’m wandering the streets with a couple of friends, unable to concentrate on them and our conversation because I’m completely enchanted by everything I see. It feels like this huge, beautiful city is hugging me, while I smile at everyone and everything: people, buildings, trees, and cars. Everything looks so much better than it does back home. Everything seems idyllic, seems just right.
I have recently acquired my first digital camera. And when I manage to snap out of the delirium, I take photos of pretty much everything – because everything seems worth capturing, everything seems freakin’ amazing!
All of a sudden, my friends notice a large underwear boutique, and they all want to go in. I join them and try not to yawn while looking at bras that’ll never fit me. Instead, I find myself listening to the sounds floating into the shop from outside. Among the traffic, the footfall, the voices, I’m sure that I can hear a familiar refrain: “Our house, in the middle of our street…” coming from afar. The song is getting closer, getting louder, and it’s followed by the sound of whistles and people’s voices. No, I’m not imagining, it’s real.
I rush out of the store and confused salesladies look at me as if I must have stolen something. As I step into the street, I can see a huge crowd of people walking, jumping and dancing, all gathered around a big platform. And the song coming from the platform is now almost too loud and more real than ever: “Our mum she’s so house-proud, nothing ever slows her down, and a mess is not allowed…” With my eyes (and mouth) wide open, I watch at the colorful crowd before me, and it feels like the song that pulled me outside in the first place is now all over me. I can hardly believe my eyes. Along with the seemingly happy mood, there’s a definite dose of seriousness and determination coming from the crowd, from every single person in it.
After what seems like an eternity, the procession passes by. My friends find me and wonder when and why I disappeared. I wasn’t able to explain. I was carried away by “Madness.” We start walking and shortly after I see another group. This time, there’s a huge crowd of people drumming and walking down the street. Still under the spell of the carnival atmosphere, I walk into the nearest store and ask a salesman what the heck is going on. He tells me that people are protesting because of high rents and real estate prices, which are forcing people out of their homes. “Our house in the middle of our street.” Now I get it.
It’s been 12 years since then. I have many, many photos and videos from that trip. I mean, you can imagine just how many photos a teenager takes after getting her first digital camera and traveling so far for the first time. I often look at those photos and videos. The images are there, I remember the events, but so many impressions and emotions have faded away. On the other hand, I don’t have a single photo of that protest. And yet, whenever I hear “Our House,” I relive my insane rush through the underwear store and remember how captivated I was by the people, colors, sounds, and mood. After so many years, all it takes is a song to bring back the strongest impression from the city which enchanted me so much. The city in which, while I was just discovering digital photography, I took a gazillion “touristy” photos that don’t stir a single emotion in me today.
I’m 29 today, and photography has become a hobby to which I have devoted myself. But knowing that there’s a feeling inside of me that, from a memory forged 12 years ago, that only one song can resurrect, can reignite, has taught me something. You really don’t need to photograph everything. Sometimes, you are better to stop, put away your camera, open your eyes, sharpen your senses, and to allow yourself to be completely carried away by the moment you’re living. Sometimes there’s no camera that can capture it, and no photo that can bring that feeling back.