Since I was a child, I always heard that your life passes before your eyes like a film strip right before you die. This thought always stuck in my mind so I spent a lot of time looking at my family’s film strips imagining what I am going to see and what images are going to fill my film strip right before my time comes. However, all the images in my film strip always seemed blurry. This obsession was one of the main reasons why I decided to study film.
Two weeks ago, three people and I were sent by the World Youth Alliance Middle East(WYAME) to be part of the Lebanese team of the Erasmus project taking place in Georgia. In this project, we were 36 people along with the organizers from eight different countries; Italy, Spain, Romania, Poland, Czech Republic, Georgia, and my country Lebanon. All 36 people met in Tbilisi at Freedom Square and we all embarked on an 8-hour mini bus ride and watched as civilization started to fade away. The further we got into the mountains, the more I started to remember statements my WYAME Internship Supervisor Nicholas told me about Georgia “Being in Georgia is like being in a window’s screensaver, it’s that beautiful!” and when we got to our destination, the scenery rendered me speechless!
We reached the province of Svaneti around 7 PM, set up the tents, prepared dinner, and were seated to hear one of the organizers telling us about our schedule for the next two weeks. It was on this evening that I decided to put what I have learned in university to good use and volunteered to document the project through taking photographs and videos. However, this decision was my main challenge in the project and proved to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I was doing something I am really passionate about; taking spontaneous pictures of participants in different moments (Petting a dog, cooking in nature, enjoying the view, playing guitar, relaxing on a hammock, sitting around the fire). On the other hand, I was feeling frustrated because while taking pictures of the scene, I felt that I wanted to be part of it as well. The moment that really frustrated me most was during the Spanish cultural night when Jaime, a participant from Spain, was teaching us how to dance flamenco. I felt torn in two because I love to dance and wanted to learn flamenco and I wanted to document the fun way he was teaching it at the same time.
Fast forward to today when I was sitting with Ikbal, my Erasmus project teammate, sharing some photos of the photos that I took with her. While looking at the pictures together, I noticed something every time she clicked “next.” I noticed that with every picture of Georgia that came on the screen, another image popped into my head. It was as if the things that I remember clearly were not available in my 90GB file of photographs and videos. That triggered a question in my mind. What was the reason behind taking all of these photos if the picture in my mind is different? Is it a fault in my mental ability to translate the pictures in my head to something more concrete or was it because I was not part of the moments in the photos that I was taking? Or is there a hidden factor that I am not aware of at all?
Then I realized that the clearest and the most vivid memory in my mind was not on all those days in which I had been taking pictures, but on the day my camera battery had died. We were ascending on a forest path and the higher we got, the lesser the trees got and the more mist there was surrounding us. At a certain point, the fog opened up and revealed to us a place made up of hills covered with flowers of various colors; lemon yellow, purple, lilac, pineapple yellow, and deep sky blue. These flowers had drops of water on their petals waiting for the sun to break through the clouds so they could shine. It was as if both were playing a game of hide and seek. In the end, I was certain about two things. One is that no matter how many photos I captured, capture, and will capture, they are only fragments of a picture that can never be whole. Two, none of this matters since one of the images on my film strip is no longer blurry.
Written by Gloria Tauk, a current intern from Lebanon at the WYA Middle East office.