As a Street View driver, I drove past schools and down hills until I reached the Gatwick airport to capture everything.
I captured the planes flying to Greece and Belgium. I captured the planes arriving from France.
The airport would fly people away to change their lives, either by starting or breaking them.
It broke mine.
I had to escape the memories each landscape the West Sussex brought every time I did this. I kept driving away and away till I reached Central London.
The roads are always filled with people there, there’s tourists and business men, women and kids. There’s big red buses with two floors and famous streets as well as a theater. People sing in the streets and ask for money, make a performance to earn a living.
I capture them fighting.
I capture them breathing.
I capture the instant of a moment that will never be recreated. The exact same moment where someone else in the world is giving birth, someone is crying their eyes out at 4 am and healing a black-eye while I drive at 2 pm eating some cheap sandwich from Tesco I bought between breaks.
Someone out there, is sitting in a classroom surrounded by people who they do not know, who know nothing of them in return.
These are stories I don’t get to capture.
Stories behind closed doors just like my own.
Driving has always been an escape for me, I used to take my brother and our friends on road trips all the way to Scotland. We never took the train no matter how fast the trip would have been instead.
The destination was never a matter of importance.
It was the trip.
The inside jokes.
To this day, driving is the only thing I can do that will keep me from making another mistake, it is an escape. It is my runaway.
When I had to drive past my old house to capture the streets. I had to keep myself from stopping the car and getting down just to knock on the door one last time.
I wouldn’t have been able to see his face again after what happened. So I kept driving.
This job has it’s hard parts.
I have to drive by streets that choke me to death in my sleep, they take over my nightmares and I swear I hallucinate our dog crossing the road one last time to get hit.
Hit by me.
But you wouldn’t know the story that went down this simple Oxford street.
How my brother and I used to play till the lights turned on in the roads you watch through your phone screen.
Or perhaps you know.
Perhaps you visit google maps before you go to sleep in search of your forgotten childhood home. In search of an old face, an old friend. Someone that died but still remains.
I search for him
in everything I do, everywhere I go, everyone I meet.
I keep driving.
I drive past a family in Eastbourne, they were setting down boxes from a truck. The father picked up his five year old daughter over his shoulders and swung her around as they laughed in ecstasy. The mother came out of the house not too long after and I watched her slung her arms around her family with a huge grin across her face through my rear-view mirror. It seemed like they were capable of claiming the sun whole for themselves only, like they could jump off cliffs’ edges holding each other and it would be alright, because they were together.
I captured the start of something great.
I would find out years later, after having driven by again for a re-shot of the streets of Eastbourne, that the little girl would be nowhere in sight. The father and mother would be having a garage sale this time, each one sitting six feet apart in fold-able chairs, their arms crossed as no words were to be spoken.
I would capture the end of this.
I see lives break and start, I see love arise and shatter.
I capture it for you to see in your distant 360º point of view from your couch.
Do you know the story of the biker that rode too close to the edges of Brighton? The story of the fisherman in Portsmouth and the lady who carried too many bags up a whole block in Crawley to pack her car?
Neither do I.
I like to make up stranger’s lives in my head. I can only assume how they begun and confined. How the movie played out.
And then again, I am just a Street View driver.
I would watch the start of a million lives as you watch stars. Unknowingly of how alive they really are.
I would stare at the end of the world like you stare at your computer screen in search of a new home.
Simply. All photographed for you to hold.
Every time I had to drive past the Gatwick airport, I wished to pull out my phone to take more personal pictures of each plane as they reminded me of my own brother.
He used to sit in our backyard past midnight just to fall asleep to the sounds of 50 planes taking off every hour from what used to be the busiest runway airport in the world.
When I laid down on the cold grass by his side, he asked me through a whisper, “How are you so brave?” his voice came out quivering, as if he feared the stars were to judge him for seeking comfort.
I told him, “I am not. I’m scared of everything, Ru.”
He shook his head and rolled over to look at me, “But you face your fears. You go through them like an airplane goes through a cloud.”
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, “A cloud to us from here can be a storm to them up there.” I opened my eyes and pulled him into a hug to reassure him I was here. I kissed his head, “Sometimes we have to act strong to hold someone’s hand through the turbulence, even if we carry the same fears.” now I was the one whispering.
And he nodded,
like he understood.