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there is always something (why I shoot film)

There are maybe ten shots left on the roll. Outside the metro, a collection of pigeons sit on minuscule ledges above two old men. They talk as all old men do, with operatic waves of their hands, sour expressions, belly laughs, eventually scratching their chins as they stare off at nothing in particular. I am pretending to take pictures of something near them, then swing across when they are not looking to shoot a few frames. At one point I surrender to the afternoon and move on.

And now, the courtyard that leads to the film lab. A great old building rests here, a school of architecture where students mill around dressed in black sucking on cigarettes with giant portfolios tucked under their arms. A young man approaches me. I am ready to tell him I have no idea what he is saying, but he wants to know where the film lab is. I jut my chin, telling him the door is just beyond a few bushes. He nods his thanks.

There are screens set up in a jagged line, sheathed in filthy white plastic to …

running away with the circus (looking for dolphins)


There are three of them, a brazen woman with bright eyes and a big voice, a man going grey with a hop in his step and a younger woman who might be their daughter or their niece that twists her short hair into little tufts. They roam the hotel, sometimes in elaborate costumes, letting us know that there will be a secret dance party near the ballroom in an hour.

The older woman strolls in during dinner in a costume of blinking Christmas lights and exotic face paint. V stares up at her, convinced she is a princess or a fairy or maybe both. The next night, she is all in black, great horns wobbling on her head. She always has a pair of black Converse high tops on, as if they go with every costume or maybe they are the only shoes she owns.

The man is typically dressed as a pirate, in a striped shirt, maybe an eye patch. He is perfectly relaxed, like his limbs are made of silly straws. The younger woman is always smiling, her mouth a wall of metal braces and lip gloss. I imagine they sleep in a collection of magnificent hammocks - looking up at the stars before they close their eyes.

I see them on the beach one morning, all staring off into the horizon, halfway through the construction of a giant sand castle. They tell us that they see dolphins. This is their job, to "animate" - to have fun, and share in the process of dancing in the sand for reluctant guests. Sometimes I cannot tell if they are working, as they roam the hotel, or if they are just on their own private adventures. I wonder if this is as close as a person can get to running away with the circus. The glitter, the roar, the elbows raised in wild dance steps, it all seems like a perfect show to do anyplace, anywhere. They seem happy. Their laughs are real, heads tilted back, throats wide, echoing around each room and corridor.

Like any clown, I think I might not recognise them if I passed them on the street in Moscow, or New York. I can only see them when there are splashes of glitter on their cheeks, when they are appearing as if out of nowhere, lights blinking, eyelashes as long as a peacock's feathers.

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