Finding Bohemia

Finding full-time work as a public servant; considering my future through a more conventional lens than before, is awkwardly taking me from the proverbial country of Bohemia, across the gentle frontier that marks of the land of conformity.

Or does it? I refer to the cultural movement rather than the historical kingdom. Is this bohemia a state of existence, or merely a state of mind? As much as one informs the other, I think it is both. I’ve got a steady and reputable job, but no fixed abode. I’ve got a camera, but no subject. Life is good, yet it is still directionless, like a meandering stream coiling this way and that until it meets a larger body of water and disappears in the superior current.

Wellington is a curious place to be when considering such notions. The hipster subculture grips the city like a stream punk earring. The hipsters use the aesthetics of the bohemians, but neglect the mental condition Oscar Wilde referred to as “playing gracefully with ideas.” To me the hipsters are garishly self centred. Others don’t get their dress sense, their compulsive need for unencumbered self expression. The tattoo joints ride a wave of economic success, and let it not be said that the results are always bad. The pink haired woman with the flowery sleeves, dark make-up, and heavy leather boots turns heads for a reason. Not necessarily a negative one.

When it comes to the quality of their minds I cannot hope to measure it. I am invisible to them — as many disabled people are to those they’d probably get on well with. That is what makes a physical impairment a social disability. As if we gave up our youth when we accepted the wheelchair. Do the hipsters play gracefully with ideas? Or are they completely lost in the crowd of individuals?

I have been wandering the streets of the city with my camera, as a silent witness, a shadow on the pavement, a wallflower. Among the beards and thick glasses are the homeless, the destitute, those safe in their flocks of friends, and those desperate for a place to go. I think Bohemia is all of it, and I hope that my two years as a public servant doesn’t rob me of the sense to perceive it.

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