Some photographs you just love for the stories that surround them and not merely for the ones within the frame. This is one of those. It was taken in Douz, Tunisia, on the northern edge of the Sahara.
It was taken in the midst of some frustration; my expectations had once again got in the way of my seeing things clearly and I wasn’t shooting with a clear mind or eye.
When I shot this I had no idea that the following night would be spent shivering in a French military-issue sleeping bag from WW2 while listening to the snoring and farting of my traveling companion and the camels outside the tent. I had lost my Moleskine notebook the day before, and the following morning I would be tossed unceremoniously off my camel.
I had no idea that two days later I would spend an evening searching out a hammam in Sfax only to be massaged and scrubbed so vigorously I would emerge with the turkish-bath equivalent of rug burn so bad it later scabbed over, and some emotional scarring from the incident.
Nor did I know that I would shrug off a helpful local’s warnings about “les maisons de tolerance” and wander into a one-way alley that comprised Sfax’s decidedly down-market red-light district. I discovered it was one-way only after walking the length of it and fending off the advances of the old, the ugly, and the cross-dressed, only to turn the corner, walk into a wall and have to turn around and run the gauntlet again. I can still feel a finger, wet with what I desperately hoped was saliva, being run across the back of my neck by a woman (I think it was a woman) with twice my age, weight, and facial hair. After a shower the whole thing become much funnier. Kind of.
But that’s the thing, isn’t it? We just never know. And while the photographs I take mean a great deal to me, they won’t ever be a replacement for the experiences that wrap around them and give them so much meaning for me. Don’t mistake photographing life for experiencing it.