This is a photograph taken about 30 years ago when I was a student at Sussex University. I came across it today as I was reviewing some scans of aging prints that I made about five years ago.
It's a faded image of an undistinguished photograph taken with a cheap camera and developed without frills at the local chemist. Yet, looking at this photograph, I can recall, in considerable detail, the place, time, temperature, the wind, the feel of the sun, my mood and the thoughts that I was having when I took the picture.
These recollections are so old that they have a dreamlike quality to them. I took the photograph while walking alone around the hills that surround Sussex University at Falmer, England. It was getting on towards evening, on a warm, windy summer day. I was coming to the end of my time as a student, and the place was becoming precious to me as its impermanence became more pronounced. I may have even taken the photograph during the brief summer weeks I remained on campus after graduating.
I had no idea at all what I was going to do next with my life at this point. Not long after, I moved up to London to sublet a friend's flat and spent the rest of the year mostly unemployed with the exception of a job as an assistant mainframe computer operator for about six weeks that doubtless, had I remained in it, would have led to a radically different future than eventually transpired.
Getting back to the photograph, though. The dominant emotion of the time was fear. I was about to lose the grounding I had – and that was wobbly enough at college – and set out on something new. It led to a set of adventures but had no sense at all of the excitement of the adventurer. I would have been happier hiding under a blanket. Everything seemed so hard.
Considering I was only partially recovered from severe depression at the time, I am amazed that I functioned as well as I did in the end. I've been lucky in having a core or root of willpower that has moved me through the tough times. It's that rootedness, I sense, that allows me to revisit such times, be aware of what was, yet be perfectly content to be as I am today. It's amazing, really. Without it, I doubt if I could bear to think of those times at all.