There will be others who will write things more personal and heartfelt and poetic than I’ll ever be able to. There will be stories told over and over again and moments remembered with fondness and tears and the ache that accompanies memories of things lost. There will be eulogies and anecdotes from those who knew him well. And sadness for a while because that’s the first thing to fill such a large chasm in the world. There will be many things, now and later, as we try to make sense of his death and as we try to examine his life for clues and wonder if there was anything to fix or anyone to fix it before it became too late. And there will be others, perhaps, but perhaps no others like him.
I never met Anthony Bourdain, but I count him as a huge influence on my life and career. Bourdain didn’t just show people the world we live in, he showed us how to get along in it, how to travel in it, and how to embrace the different peoples and cultures and beliefs that exist in it. He taught us empathy and compassion and kindness while so many others taught us to fear the unknown. He showed us the world as chaotic and strange and beautiful and worth exploring. He was a champion of the downtrodden and offbeat. He was a voice for us all to heed, telling us to go outside and meet a stranger, walk in their shoes, eat from their bowls. To laugh with them and share a drink.
I’ve tried to model my photography career on his worldview. To show the cities and countries I visit not as clichés of themselves or as soundbites on an evening news channel, but as real places with real people–as living things that pulse with life and wonder. Anthony Bourdain is the reason I walk the streets and back alleys of every city I travel to. He’s the reason I’ll duck my head into any restaurant or food stall for a bite to eat. He’s the reason I smile at everyone I pass, hoping to strike up a conversation. The reason I’m curious about the world and the reason I seek out far away and forgotten corners of it.
So in his honor, here are some of my older photographs from Vietnam–a country we’ve both loved for a very long time. One of the most beautiful places in the world, for us both. These images are petty and small but they’re all I have. Anthony Bourdain and Vietnam taught me how to live outside of my comfort zone. They taught me how to be curious. How to embrace uncomfortable places and see that there were people worth meeting and listening to wherever I went. Bourdain taught me how not to be a dick. And though I fail at times, for that he lives on in all of us. So please, be kind and compassionate and go out and explore, even if it’s just a part of your own city. It’s a beautiful world, despite this great loss.