The Soul Stealer
There are some cultures in the world that hold the belief that a photograph can steal your soul. Several years ago, while studying in Australia, I had the chance to witness firsthand the reactions of an old woman who still firmly believed in that outdated superstition.
I was taking pictures of a dilapidated old building when an old woman walking across my framed shot gave a shout of alarm, grabbed her son (or grandson, I’m not sure) by the arm and began dragging him away from me, all the while trying to cover her face with a leather handbag and mumbling something or other to herself. At the time, I had no idea what had happened and thought it was just some random thing.
Later, as I was packing up my gear to head back home, a man from the area came up to me and explained to me that the reason the old woman had beaten a hasty retreat was because she had been afraid I was going to imprison her soul in my camera. I quipped that there probably wasn’t enough room in my camera to hold her but my laughter withered and trailed off when the man stubbornly refused to acknowledge my brilliant wit.
After talking with the man at length about the superstition (anyone interested in it can wiki it or google it, since I can’t be bothered to provide a link) I began to appreciate just how much the old woman had feared me and my demonic contraption. Knowing about the old woman’s beliefs did give me a delicious thrill of power, and for a second there I really wished my camera could steal souls. Would have made for an awesome party trick, I wager.
Yesterday, while out for a coffee at West Park with two of my very best friends who were now working in Male’ after finishing their studies abroad, something happened that reminded me of that particular incident with the old woman and my soul-leeching camera.
We had just finished our coffees and were preparing to leave when my friend, who I will call “Marie” (hint hint, wink wink, nudge) got a call on her mobile phone. After the routine greetings, squeals of delight and how-dos she suddenly sat bolt upright with an incredulous look on her face.
“What?” she exclaimed. “Who uploaded it? How many pictures? With who?”
She hardly paused to hear the answers before firing off even more questions. After a few tension filled minutes she hung up and sat back, cradling her head in her hands and moaning, ‘oh no, oh no’.
Eventually, we got the story out of her. Someone had uploaded around 10 or so pictures of her onto some local online forum and now the same photos had appeared on a few Facebook groups too. Needless to say, she was taking it rather hard; fucking hysterical to be exact. To my abject surprise, my other friend “Fathun” nearly fell over herself in her eagerness to comfort Marie, sprouting such rubbish as, “Don’t worry, I know a Facebook admin. We’ll get the pictures removed!” and “We’ll get Ahmaddey to hack the forum and crash their fookin’ site!”
Now call me a fucking insensitive bitch, but I’m not really into feeding people’s hysteria, paranoia or even mollycoddling them with phony sympathy when I felt none was required. I tend to say what I feel and believe, and most times it’s hardly appreciated, although it should. And in this instance I drew the ire of two of my very best friends when I said: “So what? Let the pervs drool over your pix. No skin off your back, right?”
Apparently they were from some other sector of the universe for they paused long enough to spare me a look that spoke volumes about what they thought about the state of my mental health before one went back to sobbing and the other back to trying to comfort the former with highly impractical solutions. I really didn’t want to start an argument with them at a time like that and since it seemed to be a very sensitive issue (that I couldn’t even force myself to give a damn about) I decided not to press my luck with them and just leave it. But afterwards, I couldn’t help but wonder…
So someone uploaded her pictures on the big frikkin’ internet. Big fucking deal, so what? It’s not like she was naked in the pictures or bumping uglies with some ex or worse. It was just a few pictures of her walking on the road and some candid shots that she had uploaded on her Facebook account herself. I’ve had some of my own photos (and not flattering ones either) appear on local websites or Facebook groups after my brother’s laptop was stolen once, so I can tell you from personal experience that it’s really not an extinction level event. Sure I was pissed about the theft and felt sad for my brother since he had lost a lot of work, but when you really think about it the appearance of the stolen pictures on an internet forum frequented by lowlife creeps was absolutely the last thing I wanted to concern myself with.
Some years back when the local forums were just starting up and Facebook wasn’t even a random synapse firing off in some nerd’s brain, I could have understood it if a nuclear strike was ordered to vaporize the country after an embarrassing picture of our beloved dick-tator was leaked onto the net. Even a seminude shot of a Maldivian girl studying in Malaysia would make the rounds via email for months and every guy who got a hold of it probably gave it a special place in their private collection of digital porn, cleverly hiding it deep in some folder with an obscure and critical sounding name.
The point is that back then it was new and exciting, almost taboo, and your photo (usually naughty ones you’ve taken in your underwear for a private collection or for your boyfriend to drool over or more) would have provided some well-deserved exercise and a few minutes of accelerated heart-rate for a few pimply-faced pervs who had just found out what a big fucking treasure trove of porn the internet was.
But that was then, this is now. There’s a new homemade sex clip (usually shot on a mobile phone) leaked onto the net, or distributed via MMS and Bluetooth, almost on a daily basis. It’s almost impossible for a girl to walk down a street without some lousy creep taking a few snaps of her on his stolen mobile phone before she even gets to the corner of the block a few yards away from her house.
If a coronary hits every time a batch of your private photos gets leaked to some sleazy online forum, then obviously you’re living in the wrong century.
It’s a different matter of course if the photos in question are highly embarrassing ones, like those taken during a time in your life you seriously regret now. Then again, you should probably have thought it through before you posed naked for your sixth boyfriend in that many weeks, right? Being labeled a slut held no worries for you then so why fret when it’s confirmed.
The majority of the pictures of naked local girls found on local forums and websites seem to have been leaked by ex-boyfriends, or downloaded off stolen PCs or mobile phones. Personally, I can’t understand why any girl would allow herself to be photographed in the nude by her boyfriend unless she wanted the snaps to be seen by other people. Only a compleletly fucked up twit would believe that the photos would remain secure, private and safe in the hands of the “amateur photographer/current boyfriend” for any extended length of time, especially given the rate at which local teenagers change lovers. That’s just wishful thinking.
Hmmm, I seem to have gone off on a tangent there so let me get back to the matter of stealing souls. The way that my friends reacted to the incident of the stolen pictures, anyone would think that their immortal soul had been viciously seized, pulled out and repeatedly violated. I’m not even sure about how one would go about violating a soul but whatever. “It’s just a fucking picture!” I still want to scream at her and bitch-slap her until she saw some sense… or stars, whichever comes first.
Gawd! Some people just can’t get over themselves, even for a minute. They think the whole fucking world revolves around them when it’s clearly obvious that it revolves around me. Live with it.