Saturday, March 10, 2007

Travelling with Tewfic

"le film, c'est le traveling." Jean-luc Godard.

Being that it is Saturday, but I have been somewhat remiss in posting on this log over the past weeks, I feel that I ought to post something, but will let up on the heavy duty commentary! Saturdays have special significance for me, because those were days when my father would pack us up in the car and explore New York, travelling into its numerous subcultures guided by my his inconsumable interest in its many eccentric characters. That love of exploration deeply impressed me and pretty much accounts for why I find myself doing what it is I do.

So I thought it would be nice to commemorate the day with a nod toward the concept of travel, in its best sense, and bring to your attention one of the most enjoyable web logs that I have come across recently and which I regularly consult.

Tewfic El-Sawy's The Travel Photographer is a great example not only of a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable blog, but also of the very concept of travel -- not so much as a genre of photography, which in a sense provides merely the context for Tewfic's musings, but more as a general approach to writing, thinking, and living. Because through the medium of Tewfic's wideranging interest, his generous appreciation of his fellow travelers, his love of the endless variety of human life and culture, as well as his indefatigable energy, we are treated to a spectacle of global cultural expression that I find as nourishing as my daily breakfast and a lot tastier than Special K.

Travel photography is sometimes criticized for its being an adjunct of consumer culture, and I must admit that to the extent that it serves the tourist industry, it is an egregious and problematic genre; I live in a place that simultaneously benefits from and is inevitably damaged by tourism, so I am naturally ambivalent about its virtues. But Tewfic's take on travel is of a different nature altogether: he is not after cinematic adventure; exoticism is irrelevant, and the merely picturesque, the mainstay of many a travel rag, has no hold on his imagination. He is after something more modest and more profound -- human communication, pure and simple. Connecting with others and exploring their world views.

In the past week I have travelled with Tewfic to Turkey through the lens of the great Nuri Bilge Ceylan; to Afghanistan with Veronique de Viguerie; to Kashmir wth John Isaac; to India with Steve McCurry; to Havana with David Alan Harvey; as well as to the Kumbh Mela through Tewfic's own steady lens -- all without leaving the sheltering sky above me. It has been an exhilirating ride -- not for the distances covered but for the distances closed, the connections made, the communication effected. In the end, travel is a deeply personal and intellectual process whereby the enlightened reader -- and after all, seeing the world is a kind of reading, a perpetual search for signs and a puzzling over their meaning -- is compelled to test the limits of one's understanding, and the extent to which one manages to push away the comfortable envelope of our assumptions that cocoon our perceptions may well be the governing criterion separating the traveler from the mere tourist. Tewfic is decidedly working on behalf of the former.

I could go on, but let Tewfic be your guide from here on, as few people have ever been issued their credentials to better purpose.

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