Cue Sweden. Small bricks lining a small footpath. Each brick, five centimeters wide, ten long, inserted adjacent to two others, its sides meeting the top of the first. Sign, marine blue, small boy holding father’s hand, positioned perpendicular to curb, itself at a 90 degree arc hanging over: street, manicured deep dark asphalt, striped with ribbons of dark, finely textured reflective white paint. Zoom out. Dark clouds, pregnant with rain, hanging ominously, (not forebodingly), over vibrant green pasture, spotted: heavy green of mossy undergrowth, lighter green of blades of grass. In grass (suspended), the following: white dandelions; violet ferns. Pan left. One horse. White calves, brown-black mane. Five body parts jutting out of ground: Two hind legs. Two front legs. Upper head + neck. Powerful hindquarters. Sounds: constant wind, sometimes heavy. Occasional chirp. Fresh rubber tires peeling off asphalt at high speed in distance, harmonizing with healthy hum of sports wagon, preferably Volvo. Shiny. Temperature: moderate/cold, with moderate swings appearing warm in relation. Atmosphere: raw (fresh grass). Fresh (raw milk). Zoom out. Fade to white.
My home base in Tunisia is Hammamet, a popular hub for European tourists seeking sun and sand. A common sight in Hammamet is what Tunisians call “business,” or young men, often from the countryside, who immigrate to coastal cities during the tourist season to find a foreign woman (and sometimes a foreign man) with whom to have a fling, and from whom to extract discretionary income.
You could call business prostitutes, but they are less deliberate with their aims. They straddle the line between valuing relationships as a means to an end, and as an exploration of their own sexuality. Business target foreign tourists because they are relatively affluent and can fund their discretionary expenses. Business also target tourists because through them they can experience sexual intimacy, an area that is strictly taboo, pre-marriage, in the rural Tunisian villages which business call home.
Business in Tunisia are on the rise. A growing number of European tourists travel to Tunisia explicitly in search of business for a sexual escapade. Rural Tunisians are also increasingly turning to business, as an economy with high unemployment, coupled with an increasingly aggressive consumer culture, drives a thirst for easy money. To break the trend, Tunisia recently deployed anti-business police (no joke), trained by Moroccan security forces, who apparently have a proven track record of combating this shadow economy.
I wanted to capture an image of a business who I spotted on the side of the road while driving home after a late night out.
The road slick from the searing press of tires
His white branded shoes reflect dimly on the asphalt on which he walks
Stop, cigarette, lighter, puff
He sees the stamp of his sole on a nearby spill of dirt, and smiles.
Click click, click click, click click
Behind him, near him, beyond him
Past his legs runs a feral dog
Its paws nervously disconnecting from the ground
As it roves through a tangle of power lines
Ahmed hates it
Its tense muscles, its plastic smile
A worn ribcage propelled forward in search something
Always in search of something
A vivid and stubborn mirage
A prize without a claimant
Reward eludes another day.
The road is hard. Ahmed’s bones are heavy.
A fresh escapade launched while tourists were collecting beachtowels
Has yet to conclude long after tourists have slipped under bedsheets.
Strands of hair hardened by gel, eyelids squatting on a rocky nest of sleep
The cologne in his stiff denim jacket loses ground
To the fine yellow soot that adorns it early morning.
There are few sights sadder than that of a business
Traipsing in to a cafe at the crack of dawn
Pupils entangled in wispy veins of blood, cheeks flush with the stench of stale hope
Ahmed’s story is worn on his face.
As it was in the washroom mirror of the cafe he visited yesterday morning
In front of which he finds himself again today.
Everything is already recycled. Creation is a restatement. A fresh arrangement of old matter. Matter so old its years are counted in light.
The cycle of life as it pertains to the physical is something I managed to grasp early on. Take some vegetation, compost it, water it, and out it springs into new life. It’s an easy process to understand, partly because it gives itself away. Smell anything in the lifecycle of, say, a log, and it’s easy to trace it to its other forms. It’s the mossy freshness. The earthy funk.
What has been less clear to me is how the intangible is recycled. What is the process of recycling the human spirit? Where is the soul’s funk? For me that one’s a bit harder to sniff out, but every once in a while its essence bubbles to the surface. For me it’s hard to watch this video and not see a constant resonance across everyone captured in its lens. In the street performers I see the energy of a musician, as timeless, tattered, and true as the instruments they’ve worn down with their bodies. Young and old, black, brown, red, and white, they are the fresh arrangement of old matter. Their energy is the funk.
Judge for yourself:
Left to right, back and forth. Post-meeting hoppery in Philadelphia. Thanks to Audrey T for playing iPhone photographer.
From Jonathan Ive’s one-button iPhone, to Haiku poetry, I’m inspired by the beauty of, and intellect behind, simplicity.
In my mind simple is what you get when you boil down a product or an idea to its essential elements. It means stripping an interface (in the case of the iPhone), or a language (in the case of the Haiku) to its most basic form. It means relying on my audience to draw on its life experience to understand what it is that I’m trying to communicate. This is really, really hard, and somewhat risky. Hard: it requires a deep understanding of my audience. Risky: strip my idea / product down too far and nobody will know how to use my gadget / understand my advertisement. (Good example? Perfectly round hockey-puck mouse that came with the original iMac — I never knew which was way up!).
The reward for striking the right balance, however, is a concept that resonates deeply with those who engage it. Below is an example of a pretty complicated advertisement that saves itself with a really simple tagline (at 1’16”): She arrived as Ms K Mathieson, Executive VP of Sales. She departed as Kate.
Having worked in the corporate sector for a few years, I totally get it. Simple, powerful stuff and, was the rest of the advertisement even necessary?
Watch the ad: