Lessen the Dream with Ed Thomas.
Lessen the Dream.
by Ed Thomas
There’s something about memories inside photography. There’s something about time, and holding on to what’s real. There’s a philosophy inside a camera.
The best memories are of home - Wales. This is where I first explored the world before moving to London and Tokyo as an adult. In cities I was surrounded by people, rushing. But home is much quieter, more wild.
Living in Japan I discovered cameras. I’d always taken snaps on phones for easy upload to social media, to keep in touch with family and friends. The internet binge of information has made a digital world crammed full of imagery. But while social media are supposed to bring people together, and travel abroad widens experience, I was switching off and disconnecting. I was conscious of a growing separation from the world around me - it was dream. The stream of faces - time itself - was rushing by, untouched by me. I had nothing to hold onto. I discovered cameras.
I found them in cheap, junky used stores: my Ricoh Shotmaster, my Canon Autoboy, my Canon ML, a Fujifilm X20. Each camera allowed me to hold on, just a little. Making an image lessened the dream. Making a record of what I’d seen deepened my memory, and memories are what make us real. This was the philosophy, coming to me frame by frame.
Passing strangers and street photography became my first focus. Rather than moving through crowds without connecting, I could record moments and relive time which was already gone. “I am here” I was yelling with every shot. In looking at other people, I wanted to be seen. In noticing the world, the world would notice me. It was a way to become real. It lessened the dream.
Later I developed portraiture and began bridging the space between photographer and subject, between “them” and “me”. The camera allowed me to have a dialogue, record a moment between two thinking beings. Thinking… “is it real?”
All the time I was away, memories of home were rushing to me: unrecorded photographs inside my head. Here I was walking through woods, hearing birds, catching sight of an animal, continuing down to a rocky cove, running with the wind by the waves… There’s a quote “Even in a crowd, you are alone inside your own head.” This feeling of being amongst people and being apart was growing and growing. Life was increasingly busy, the industry in which I worked held less and less appeal. I had cameras. I wanted to come home. I wanted to lessen the dream.
This Spring I returned to Wales after 4 years in Japan and 5 in London, working in journalism and academia. Colleagues had felt proud, I had felt lost. I just explored nature again.
I returned to the places in my memory. I went back in time, with a camera in my hands. My hoard had expanded - now there were full-frame DSLRs and medium-format film bodies, 35mm rangefinders, digital point-and-shoots, a Polaroid 636. Japan was full of discarded junk, and I had loved it all.
I’d never photographed my homeland. I’d never celebrated its beauty. I could only glimpse it in memory, drifting through a city’s busy streets far far away. Now for hours I look at the play of the light through leaves, the movement of clouds. I roam with animals, sit under trees. I breathe and it’s real. I take pictures and I feel. Connecting with the elements lessens the dream. I’m no longer falling through a stream but I can hold on.
I am home and I am real.