Morocco ’88 Revisted: part one

In 1988 Sue and I visited friends of her’s in Morocco. My memories, to be frank, are not great: I’d never been abroard before, it was very different to anything I’d seen in my life, it was very hot, and I got food poisoning (the only time I was happy to get on an airplane and be presented with cardboard food processed to within an inch of it’s life was on the way home). But I took a lot of photos, which in the days of film meant less than it did now but definitely a fair few rolls of, I suspect, Kodacolour II.

These got sorted through and the best 80 put into a flip album of the trip: 80 being chosen because it’s the number of pockets in the album rather than for artistic or philosophical reasons. The rest went into a file box where they’ve sat for the past 31 years, and I doubt I’ve looked through the album more than half a dozen times. Quite often I get an old negative out and scan it to put it on my blog or Instagram, and I found myself wondering three things about the Morocco trip

  1. If I were picking now, would I pick the same images as the strongest?
  2. What do they look like scanned from the negatives and digitally processed rather than the somewhat bland prints from Supersnaps I got back in ’88?
  3. Back then I sequenced them chronologically, would I do that again now?

So I’ve taken them out of the album, numbering them in order so I know which were in the original sort, I want to put the album back as it was because it’s part of our history and also represents my photographic thinking thirty one years ago, though I’m pretty sure I wasn’t thinking like a photographer back then! I’ve mixed up the album photos with the spares for each town and picked out the ten or so images I think are the strongest, eh photo above shows the town of Meknes. The next step will be to take the ones I’ve picked for each location and pull them down to the forty strongest overall. I sense this is going to be tougher, but I’m following more or less the process I go through from a shoot now where I hammer through the images in Lightroom accepting or rejecting, then go through a process of making choices, doing some processing at which point I invariably decide some just are not working, then pulling out the small percentage of the originals to go here, or my website, or social media. I’ve already found something I’d hoped which is that I’m removed enough from the taking for them almost to seem like somebody else’s images rather than mine, though a lot do still make me absolutely remember taking the photo, and the circumstances around that. Lots of these don’t make it into what you might call the semi-finals as one thing I’ve learned is that just because it’s a massive memory jogger for me doesn’t (necessarily) make it a strong image which somebody else might enjoy.

But in a lot I’m catching a faint smell of heat and dust; of of Rick and Ilsa.

The End of the Digital Nomad?

We’ve all watched them, and probably follow them. The Youtube channels and the Instagram feeds from the people who have no fixed base and travel constantly, living in airB&Bs and running their digital busineses from laptops. They do great travel photography. They spend a month here taking amazing images of fantasic places before boarding a plane to somewhere else to do it again. They’re great, they’re informative and even though for most of us they’re not aspirational then we at least get to vicariously travel to these places with them. I’m not knocking any of this, I subscribe to loads of them.

But.

With the climate emergency, how much longer can this lifestyle last?

There is no doubt among pretty much everybody who isn’t a politician that the climate emergency is real, it’s clear, present and dangerous. The simple fact is that flying is about the most damaging single thing you can do for the climate. All that cycling to work and turning off the lights you’re not using gets pretty much wiped out in your annual return ticket to your holiday villa. The simple fact is that if you really, really want to do something about the climate emergency then don’t fly. So where does that leave the digital nomads? Their lifestyles rely on them flying, a lot. They have built lives and careers around jumping on a plane to somewhere to run a workshop, or speak at a conference, or go to an Influencer press event. To be blunt; their lifestyles are at the expense of the future of the planet. Now, to offset that they don’t own much so they only rent a car when they need to use one, and the airB&Bs are always studio apartment sized, so in many other ways they’re pretty low carbon. But all those air miles almost certainly exceed the savings.

So ultimately, how much longer, morally, can they continue with these lives in their current form? Should they be making their lives look so aspirational for the next generation, are ‘Could You be a Digital Nomad?’ videos socially acceptable now? Fairly soon are they going to have to settle down, or at least be nomadic within the confines of bus or rail travel? Are the (few) people who currently go on their photo workshops in Patagonia, or Iceland, or Vietnam just going to have to forgo that? Is that going to be a problem. Most people run digital business from offices somehwere. Most of the great photographers lived before cheap air travel, I think I’m right that Weston and Adams never left the American continent, Cartier-Bresson was solidly european, Bailey could have done equally well just in London, and Avdeon’s masterwork is The American West rather than People I met in Various Countries .

Is a life based around easy, fairly cheap, air travel not going to be an option much longer?