Objectivity is indicative of a decent war photographer, not necessarily of a decent person. But how to ignore the human instinct to act, to get involved when terror greets you from all directions? To properly document combat, you must maintain the position of a fly on the wall and you must get dirty. During this year’s Holi festivities, I did one of these things well enough to warrant a Pulitzer.
I once wrote about my year in 2011. In neat little paragraphs, I talked about what I did each month and what I learned in these thirty-day increments. In April 2011, Holi directly contributed to the musing, “perspective is your shit shield”, a lesson that I now live by. I once considered getting a tattoo of this on my right shoulder blade, but people I care about would be angry with me and I was a little drunk when I thought of it. I’m now thinking how I can condense the phrase onto a license plate, and I’m completely sober.
On this day, Sunday April 15th, 2012, Holi reentered my life, and I walk away with a different musing. Not better or worse than the last one, just different. And it’s as follows:
I was taking pictures at Holi exactly one year ago today. The weather was beautiful on both days, as well, and while the activities on these days were extremely different, I can still draw many similarities. This by no means indicates that I’m in a Liz-Lemon-esque rut, that my life lacks progress and evolution and that I’m stuck in a circle of dead-ends. As a person who’s forever on the move, who avoids planning and predictability when she can, and who’s never been homesick, I find solace in constants. While my world – and everyone else’s – is eternally subject to volatile change, I can count on the sun to rise and set, to find myself tripping on a shoelace in front of large groups of people, and choking on vitamins or medication larger than Tic-Tacs, just like I can count on Holi to greet me every year in the form of a fistful of neon orange powder to the face and airways. Things change, people change, people and things come and go. Hell, I change. Everyday for the better, I like to think. Change is good. But some things are immutable. Some things are reliable and everlasting and fixed. Should I find myself lost, waking up in Nairobi or Tashkent or Mogadishu or Perth or Jakarta, I at least know there will be sun. Should I find myself ever floating uncontrollably in a universe ruled by chaos and instability, there are certain constants that I can turn to as anchors of truth. Unlike people, youth, and opportunity, some things won’t and can’t go away within a second. Some things are here forever, as we know it. These are expectations that you’ll always see fulfilled, and these are the only expectations I ever have. As far as the bigger picture is concerned, there’s nothing more reassuring.
I don’t know what it is about Holi. I don’t know why I always walk in clean and ignorant, and then walk out wise and covered in rainbows. Do small, infrequent wisdoms find me, or do I go looking for them? Maybe that is just another thing I can count on. Once again, Holi has come and gone. I can only hope that I see this pattern of wisdom and color next April. I have a feeling I will.
Objectivity is the mark of a good war photographer. A fly on the wall who can still keep their head up after witnessing atrocities that can’t go unseen or undone. Someone who documents events as they come. Someone who doesn’t get involved. A good war photographer doesn’t get shot. All this means is that I’d be a shit war photographer.