This morning I was gathering together some photos to accompany an article I had written about walking across China. Just as I was about to send the pictures off to the magazine publisher, I came across one I didn't remember. Next to it was another I had no recollection of - not until I stared at it for nearly 30 seconds, wracking my brain for a memory hook. It's amazing how some of these experiences get away from us. I suppose that is one of the nice things about taking photos on a journey, and especially making a film of these types of expeditions - a visual memory bank, freezing a spot in time and space and capturing it as it was then and may never be again.
Before I knew it I'd spent the next couple of hours drifting off down memory lane, flicking through photographs. Lots of them made me smile, or shiver, or just bathe in the nostalgia, but what I always find time and time again is that the most evocative pictures are always those of people - the characters that really make these trips such wonderful and unique experiences.
Landscapes, city scenes, close up of blisters, 'selfies' (!) are all great...yet it's the faces of people I've met, people who took me in, looked after me, made me laugh - these are the pictures (and the experiences) I value the most. "Scenery is fine, but human nature is finer." So said John Keats. Who is going to argue with him? More than anything else, I've enjoyed my expeditions in recent years because of the social experiences I have had.
I thought I'd share with you a couple of images of my favourite characters from my trips through China and the Empty Quarter desert. They won't conjure up the same memories for you, alas, but I hope that maybe they will take you back to journeys of your own, characters you've met on your own trips. Treasure those. You may even be encouraged to head off to China, Mongolia, Oman, U.A.E - it's certainly all I can do to stop myself jumping on the first flight back....
To see more of how and when I met some of these folks, check out the 'Walking Home From Mongolia' TV series and the 'Into The Empty Quarter' feature film.