Whenever I spend time people watching, I always like to imagine what their lives are like. What are they doing? Where are they going? Do they have many friends? Are they lonely? In certain situations, I inevitably end up feeling sad. Not because I feel like my life is so much more grand than theirs, but because I understand that everybody exists living with some degree of hopelessness, and I feel theirs, just as I sometimes feel mine. Their lives, or whatever story I create in my mind, unfold before me, and they disappear from my life just as quickly as they’ve entered it. I think it’s an inevitable outcome for anyone who enjoys photographing strangers, but it seems necessary to me.
I love looking through old photos and noticing aspects that never caught my eye before, like how many layers of people there actually are. When I first looked at it, I was transfixed on the couple sunning themselves, but as I looked deeper, I started noticing little groups here and there. It took a while just to notice the two boys directly behind them. For some reason, they just never stood out to me. Even now, it takes me a bit to really notice them. For me, this is a reminder that just because you’re looking, doesn’t mean you see everything, and sometimes it’s the little things that end up making the larger picture worthwhile.
Despite all the political turmoil, Ukraine is an enchanting place to visit. Down on the coast of the Black Sea is a little resort town called Foros. Its cat-filled narrow alleys give way to sandy beaches, filled with people from all over the Eastern Bloc. The smell of borscht carries out from the eateries lining the coast, tempting people as they pass by. The water, a mixture of cold and warm, makes it pleasant on hot days, but chilly when the weather turns south. Early in the morning, it’s quiet, but as the day moves on, the beaches fill with children running around while their parents lay out, basking in the sun.
Ukraine was a lot of things, but this is how I choose to remember it.
Simferopol, Ukraine - If you’ve ever sat in a park or a cafe and just observed what’s going on, you’ll notice that almost every person is on their cellphone. If they’re not directly interacting with someone in the vicinity, they’re glued to their screens. Why is this? What sort of habit has this become? It seems that more than ever before, we’ve become disconnected with our surroundings, never looking up to enjoy ourselves. I’m guilty of this just like the next person, but every once in a while, I’ll step out and just watch. This is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. Observing my surroundings and taking everything in. Often times, I don’t ever see anything I want, and it just becomes a practice in patience, but every once in a while, the stars align and a scene slowly moves together.
In this shot, I watched as subject after subject walked by. I photographed a few other people, but it wasn’t until this kid came by on his phone that I felt like I got something that I really liked. I’m not 100% sure what it is I like about it. It could have been his positioning, or because he was on his phone, but after I photographed him, I felt like I could move on.
Foros, Ukraine - I remember my dad taking me and my siblings fishing at an early age, maybe 6 or 7. Venturing out into the wilderness of Teton Valley, we’d drive for what seemed like forever down winding roads, through valleys, over mountain passes, until the pavement ended. The sound of gravel crunching beneath our tires was an indicator that we were almost there. Soon after, he’d pull over and we’d rush out, running about like feral children.
Following him to the creek, we’d grab the night crawlers that he’d purchased at the gas station, giggling and squirming as we slid the worms onto the hook. Whether or not we caught anything is up for debate, but I'm pretty sure we all had a good time. I don’t think I’ve fished since that age, however I still look back fondly at those times spent sitting in the grass next to a fishing hole, waiting for the bobber to disappear below the surface.
While in Ukraine, I watched this man participate in a similar ritual. There weren’t any bobbers or kids running around, but It seemed to be all the same.
A couple’s words float by on the wind for only metal and stone to hear. Deep silence washes over the two, as they stroll out on the pier. Waves crash around them, seagulls sound above. The reverence between the two is deafening. Standing apart, connected by space and time. Experiences that they’ve shared span the gulf between the long drawn out pauses. They watch the sea push against the shore for a minute. A minute that feels like an eternity.
Foros, Ukraine - A woman sits alone on an empty beach, kept company by only her thoughts. The sound of waves rolling over small stones crackle and hiss as the water recedes back into the sea, reflecting the evening light back into the sky. Birds hover overhead, suspended in time, their heads shift about surveying the landscape. The breeze is cool, coming in off the ocean while the sun sets. Simpler times on the Crimean coast.
Simferopol, Ukraine- After spending a couple weeks filming rock climbing in Ukraine, I was able to take a day or two for myself and wander around Simferopol, one of the larger cities on the Crimean peninsula. The lackadaisical people floating in the sea were replaced with anxious workers scurrying about, trying to find a means to an end. The cool breeze coming off the sea was replaced with a smoggy feeling of desperation, perpetrated by industry and the old Russian cars clogging the streets.
In a quiet square tucked away from the mayhem of the city, a few people walk by heading to work. As they pass, their long shadows extend toward a large statue built by the old empire. Continuing, they cross the square until reaching a massive building looming overhead. Quickly ascending the stairs, they disappear inside, away from the traffic and haze of a city desperate for change.
Foros, Ukraine- The sun sets on the Black Sea. Tan bodies sprawled over beach towels quickly gather their things and trek back to their cars as the sea breeze pushes inland. The sun moves further beyond the horizon and the night air cools off. The beach is empty except for a few people combing the rocks for souvenirs. A pair of lovers walking hand in hand, telling secrets only meant for each other, walk past me, their whispers fading as the distance grows. They make their way out on an old unfinished retaining wall. An older couple sits under them, completely oblivious to the wonder and sentiments shared above them.