We often fall into routines and patterns that dictate our movements. We follow the same paths to-and-from work. We find the quickest, easiest, and most direct routes home. More and more we rely on technology as our navigator, rather than our own intuition.
Have you ever deviated from your usual way home? Or maybe one day you decided to get lost on purpose? There was no where you needed to go, but you just went.
Not to be mistaken by the English word with the same spelling, dérive is the French word for "drifting."
According to French theorist Guy Debord, the dérive is a concept of letting go of one's "usual motives for movement and action, their relations, their work and leisure activities, and letting themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there."
In other words, there is no set route, and sometimes not even a destination in mind. This leads to places you may not be familiar with. You start wandering aimlessly; introducing yourself to unknown landscapes, people, and architectures.
While the term itself was introduced to me several years ago on my first trip to Sorata, Bolivia, it is something that I have been doing ever since I first started experimenting with photography.
My dad gave me his old Olympus OM-10 film camera when I was in high school. It was my first camera and probably the most frustrating one I have ever used. On the rare occasions when the batteries weren't dead or the shutter wasn't stuck, I learned how to photograph in my own backyard, as I searched for the stars.
Eventually I become bored with my own backyard, and decided to get lost in my Honda. I would pick a road and just keeping driving, knowing I would just have to figure out a way to get back home, even if the roads were unfamiliar.
I began to create internal maps of the random places I went. I noted landmarks and made impromptu decisions, as I continued on this psychogeographic adventure through winding New England roads. I began seeing parts of my hometown that I had never seen, despite living there for almost two decades.
Ever since that day, the dérive has stuck with me.
Whether I am in Philadelphia, Bolivia, or back home in Connecticut, it has became a key part of my photographic practice. I love getting lost, and I love having to figure out another way home, no matter where I am living.
I stumble upon strange landscapes or unique moments that I don't believe I could have planned, let alone recreate. I end up creating images that I would have never even thought about making. I encounter people I would never have met, and my perspectives change for better or worse. For me, these dérives add an element of spontaneity and surprise that I genuinely enjoy.
It is also a way to escape. There is no need to think about anything except what is right in front of my eyes or what is waiting around the corner. It adds variety to some of my daily-life structures, so I encourage you to go get lost on purpose. Allow your honest curiosity to dictate your movements.