A year ago

by juliakeil

A year ago today I was still living in London, England. I had just finished my Masters in photojournalism and spent my days ridding myself of the many possessions I had somehow accumulated over the past 7 years living there. It was only during this process that I realized just how much baggage I had and I wondered at how one suitcase had turned into a room of filled black bags full of stuff over the years. My separations were not just material but emotional as well and slowly I began saying my goodbyes to the life I had built there and the many people that made those years what they were. It seemed funny to me that after being there for so long and after spending all that time and energy building a so called “home” and a network for myself, that I suddenly felt the compulsion to deconstruct it and gradually reduce myself to a suitcase once again.

I was in no way unhappy in London, quite the contrary, I can honestly say, I loved it there and the farewell lay heavy in my heart for some time after. Yet still, for some reason, something inside of me was telling me to go. To move. To experience whatever would come next, somewhere else. Move I did, however, I didn’t move someplace completely new. Instead, I did something I’d never done before, I moved back. Back to a place on the other side of the globe which I once called home for 5 years of my life. Back to Hong Kong. I didn’t have family there, nor did I really know why exactly I wanted to go back, but it just…felt right.

When I’d tell people my plans, they would marvel at how brave I was being but to me it didn’t feel that way. As a matter of fact, it didn’t feel brave at all but rather…normal. I actually thought to myself, maybe I should be challenging myself more. Maybe what I SHOULD be doing is trying out a totally new and different country and keep following the pattern I was so used to growing up. Maybe then I would really learn something about myself. Really grow…because isn’t that what life is all about? Change and growth?

My time in Hong Kong started off as a blur and I spent a lot of the first few months in elation and limbo. When a routine started to form, something changed. Despite having a steady income, a space for myself and friends around, I felt empty. Like a whole chunk of myself was missing and that chunk was filled with doubt, insecurity, confusion and a certain melancholia. Being back in Hong Kong confronted me with my past and I found old insecurities, which I thought I’d put to rest, creeping back. For the first time in a long time I felt regret and dissatisfaction with my path.

I realise now that in going back to Hong Kong I uncovered that dusty drawer filled with teenage angst and anxieties, which I had filed away for some time. I spent a lot of what remained of last year reflecting on recent changes and digesting a past which in some way I believe was only possible by returning to this former home.

Sometimes going back to the old, reveals more about yourself than you would like to admit and facing the past that some of us spend a lot of time trying to move on from and forget, actually allows us to understand our present day perception to a fuller extent.

Now, it’s a new year and rather than worrying about having regressed, I feel a process is in motion which I like to believe is progression and that perhaps reawakening this past is a part of that process. But then perhaps it’s just called, growing up.

Whatever it is, this process is ongoing and every year brings with it new experiences which topple on top of the previous experiences. Although living in the present is in my eyes advisable, deconstructing the past and letting it air from time to time can help you discover what was already there.

As this post is rather self reflective, I thought I would accompany it with a few self-portraits I’ve accumulated over the past couple years and took at different stages throughout those years. Each photo is a product of a feeling of self I spontaneously wished to capture and visually express. A collection I’m sure, is in some way a mirror to this process and therefore also, ongoing.


dawn.england. 2013


habitat. england. 2013

Hong Kong052

magpie. hong kong. 2012


flight. england/germany. 2012


romanticise. london. 2012


this cities lights. hong kong. 2012 


the future. london. 2012


deer. london. 2012


dissolve. england. 2012


summer blur. hong kong. 2013


finding comfort. hong kong. 2013


the cloak. hong kong. 2013


stuck. hong kong. 2013


confinement . hong kong. 2013


the present. hong kong. 2013


self. hong kong. 2013


Some nights, focusing doesn’t come easy. hong kong. 2013


a common sight. hong kong. 2013December_self_2013_06returning home. hong kong. 2013

Some more self portraits scattered throughout my instagram.