TIAA #2: “Wake Me Up”

Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.

Fourth Avenue / Downtown Seattle / December 9, 2016
“Wake Me Up” / Fourth Avenue / Downtown Seattle / December 9, 2016

What can I say about the photograph above?

This one might be one of the most well-received images from my collection upon sharing it on my Flickr photostream and Twitter account in early 2017.

The photograph features a fellow walking alongside a railing that separates the sidewalk from the traffic of Fourth Avenue in downtown Seattle on a rainy night in December. Meanwhile, several vehicles, including two public transportation buses, whizz past the pedestrian. The colorful lights emanating from the vehicles are captured as light trails and motion blurs, causing — in my view –a brilliant and dazzling moment in time.

Alas, it’s time to share a bit of honesty — the image is a composite of two photographs. One image was a long exposure of 15 seconds to capture the light trails of the vehicles. The second image was a half-second to capture the fellow walking.

By the way, the fellow is your truly — not that I really wanted to be a part of the subject matter initially.

During a photography seminar several years previously, I had learned from a National Geographic photographer that a travel image or street image in almost any locale could command much more attention if a human element was featured. Her argument was human beings inherently like to see themselves in an image from which they can make a connection that resonates. Initially, I wasn’t keen on the notion, but after experimenting for many years, I discovered she was right in her recommendation. In retrospect, having a human element featured is up to the photographer. It also depends on the story the photographer wishes to share.

In this case, I wanted a human element. However, it was raining (evidenced by the heptagonal droplets in the lower-left corner of the image), and I wasn’t in the mood to ask strangers to pose for my temporary project. Another rule of thumb for photographers is that if you are unable to (or don’t want to) organically obtain a human element to feature, then you can use yourself. That’s what I did, and I think it worked out very well compared to there being an empty space on the sidewalk.

Let’s see. What else? Oh yes, the title.

Every so often, or simply by chance, the lyrics of a song, when heard for the very first time, can describe almost exactly how you’re feeling. It’s profound, powerful, and very personal.

The title of this article is borrowed from the title of a popular single by the late electronica artist, Avicii. (Of note, the vocalist of the song, Aloe Blacc, is very much alive thankfully). Typically with me, I discover songs many years after they were popular. Although “Wake Me Up” was a massive hit in 2013, I had only first heard it in late 2016, and I loved the lyrics. In fact, it was a mash-up of the song by the amazingly talented remixer Ben Liebrand that first got my attention. The mash-up was a mix of Avicii’s hit single, the Eurythmics’ “Sexcrime (1984)”, and UK electronic band Freez’s “I.O.U.” The mix is so cleverly composed that I’ve decided to share it below.

It’s the lyrics of the song that were going through my head while walking down Fourth Avenue in the featured photograph. I was very unhappy, frustrated, stressed, and fearful at the time the image was captured. Why? A month earlier, the United States had had a presidential election and, depending on your political point of view, the result — given the nationwide tension, violence, and ugliness leading up to it since the year before — was either historically phenomenal or historically abysmal.

I was not feeling optimistic for the country or for the world. It was just a surreal period in my life in which reality struck me a blow (like a jackhammer to the brain) that I had never truly foreseen or been properly prepared to withstand. As a result, photography would be my means of coerced escapism for some time to come.

Although Avicii’s entire song is a masterpiece, the lyrics of the chorus were essentially the contents of my mind that day and for several months thereafter.

"So wake me up when it's all over,
When I'm wiser and I'm older.
All this time I was finding myself,
and I didn't know I was lost…"

Three articles down for the TIAA challenge. 49 remain!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Kirk. says:

    I actually thought that this image was one that you captured after timing it perfectly (having the vehicles pass by just as you walked forward) but in actuality, it’s one image composed of TWO images you captured after timing each of them perfectly! Brilliant, Tosin. Kudos!

    1. Thanks, KD! There are instances when it’s impossible for me to have all the elements I want to display in a photo in one take or one exposure. Normally, I would probably ask a friend or someone I know to pose as the human element, but this consumes time, especially when the project is not planned in advance. This image came to me while walking down the the street in the rain, and you know the rest. Much appreciate, my friend.

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