Saturday, February 28, 2009

Follow the dance!


In the sixth chapter of 'Pride and Prejudice' by Jane Austen, a conversation takes place between Sir William Lucas and Mr. Darcy.

Sir William - "What a charming amusement for young people this is, Mr. Darcy!- There is nothing like dancing after all.-I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies."

Mr. Darcy - "Certainly, Sir;-and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world.-Every savage can dance."

That passage always amused me, as with one simple statement of fact a rather pretentious bubble was burst.

In fact every society has its form of dance - indeed most societies have a multitude of dance forms.

Some folk even refer to the 'dance of life' just to describe normal daily activities.

That's cool - whatever floats their boat.

I guess life is a bit of a dance.  It has its movements, its pace changes, its rhythms and beats.

That's one of the reasons I love street photography and photojournalistic styles of photography.  Trying to capture the rhythm of life in a single instance. Attempting to convey a story in a single image or in just a few images.

This year it is one of my aims to produce a body of work around the theme of 'dance'.  The main way in which that will happen is in collaboration with the Cathy-Lea Academy of Performing Arts. 

For some time I've had a vague idea about working with such an academy and recently had talks with Cathy Lea.  There is a slight difference between this project and others that I have worked on in the past.

The main difference is that there is actually no defined outcome, no defined timeline and no formal project management in place!  Yep - I can hear you now shouting "Recipe for disaster!"

Maybe - maybe not.

Actually it is an intriguing concept for both parties.  It won't cost anything except some time and some petrol money - big deal.  As we see it, the project will actually take on a life of its own in a somewhat 'organic' way.

Basically it will be a visual diary, or a 'year in the life' type of project.  I'll visit the studios to observe classes, watch rehearsals, attend performances and record the minutiae of the workings of the academy. Paraphernalia, equipment, candid portraits, gestures, light, form and movement are what I want to capture.

Eventually we will no doubt get our heads together to try to decide what we will do with the images.  In the meantime hopefully a reasonable body of work will be compiled.

Should be interesting and I am certainly excited by the prospects.

Every now and then I'll post an image or two on this site. These images were made in the backstage area while the dancers were waiting for their stage time at an outdoor performance. I hope you will enjoy the work as it is revealed. As always, please feel free to leave your comments.

Please note that the images on the Cathy Lea Academy site are not my images. All credit and copyright for images currently on that site belong to other photographers.

Whatever your dance is - keep dancing!

Stay safe.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A new day's light.


Sometimes in life we need to look at things a little differently from the way in which we normally view them.

The image of the balloons here kind of sums that up.

I've seen balloon flights over my home town of Melbourne plenty of times. I've even ridden in an early morning balloon flight over Melbourne. On more than one occasion I have gotten an image of the balloons.

This time a few different elements came into play. I made this image when I was on the 24th floor of a large building. The info indicates it was 6.10 a.m. - I'm fairly well known among my associates as one who doesn't get too much sleep. I was up at around 4.15 or so, then a one hour drive into town etc. etc.

I was doing something else when I noticed the glow of the sunrise come into the office. Being what I am, I naturally had a camera with me. So the obvious thing to do was to make an image. I grabbed the camera, went to the window and what you see here is what greeted me. Serendipity.

Of course more than one image was made, but I prefer this one. It's a bit soft due to the very dirty windows, but sometimes there are things we can't change.

That doesn't matter to me because even if I was not the photographer, I would still love this shot because it clearly resonates with me as someone who loves living in Melbourne.

It has the Dandenong Ranges in the distance. It has the Melbourne Cricket Ground in the foreground. It has the Ferris Wheel that was in that location for a better part of a year. It has that glow that often bathes the city in the morning.

Any native of Melbourne would look at this shot and know the place.

I've watched the sunrise over Melbourne hundreds of times. I reckon this was one of my favourites.

Too often we take things for granted. It's good to remember that and to try to enjoy each day and each relationship while they last. It's always good to acknowledge those in your life who hold a special place.

In that spirit, here is a quick grab shot of my niece, Laura.

It was taken a while back and she was unaware I was taking the shot. It's not the world's greatest ever portrait, but nor does it pretend to be so. Just a quick shot at a party.

Without going into too much detail Laura and some other family members have been estranged.

Laura and I have always got on marvelously. Probably something to do with the fact that she has got the same sick sense of humour as I have. She is my niece and I am very fond of her. Indeed I love her as I do my own kids.

So I am glad that we are not estranged and that we still have open communication on a fairly regular basis even though we live hundreds of kilometers apart.

Perhaps one day she will be reconciled with the others. Who knows?

All I know in life is that tomorrow another sunrise happens. What we choose to do or what we choose to feel, how we choose to act or what we choose to say won't affect the sunrise at all. It will happen and the day will bring forth new joys and new challenges.

Whatever it brings, try to enjoy it.

Stay safe.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Return to beauty?


For all of you who place special importance on this date - February 14th - here's an image.

This was taken a few months back while I was engaged in my usual evening walk along the local beach.  I saw the young couple who appeared to be tourists from the Far East.  They walked out toward the water's edge and when they stopped I made the photo.

So, for all of you who are in love with that someone special, or who ever have been - this shot is for you.

In the previous post I touched on what I consider the importance of 'getting the shot'.  I mentioned that we are surrounded everyday by beautiful things as well as things that are not so beautiful.

Kinda gets one to thinking about beauty itself.

My dictionary defines it as "That quality or assemblage of qualities which gives the eye or the other senses intense pleasure; or that characteristic in a material object or an abstraction which gratifies the intellect or the moral feeling."

Does that mean that in the non-beautiful there is beauty if it gives intense pleasure? I don't know.

Perhaps the old adage is true - "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

One thing I do know is that each of us interprets it differently.  Reckon that may be a good thing.

For some, beauty is found in the face of their newborn child.  For others, a glorious sunset or other wonder of creation.  Yet others find their beauty in music, whether it be Mozart or Led Zeppelin.

All of those things bring some sort of joy and pleasure and I always enjoy anything that brings a smile because of some indefinable aesthetic, but for me the holy grail has always been and probably will always be the smile of a pretty woman.

I have known many beautiful women in my time. For each that came into my life in a meaningful way I can actually recall where we met and what I thought the first time I saw her - except for one who left me void of all conscious thought for about ten seconds (and we still laugh about that!)

The thing is, after a while you don't notice the physical beauty. It becomes secondary to their character. Tell me - isn't that a more important kind of beauty?
Then every now and again you might suddenly catch a pose or look or a glance which brings the beauty crashing back upon you.  

Kate Bush sang about "beauty's potency".  How right she was.

 It can be a powerful thing, whether in a person, in Art or in nature itself.

Me, I'll always been in awe of the beautiful things I come across or in the beautiful people I meet or know.  It's just the way it is.  

I guess photographers, along with other visual artists notice the everyday beauty more than those who are not inclined toward an artistic or creative way of thinking. 
 It may be that you simply notice the light.  Or perhaps some overgrown statue or figurine catches your eye. 

It could be the pattern that the receding tide makes in the sand. It could be anything at all.

That's why I love to carry a camera with me at all times.

Perhaps it is a passion - although I think it may have gone beyond that to become an addiction.

Perhaps my attempts at photography are nothing more that a vain attempt to capture it for all time, to prevent it leaving.

Or, perhaps, I am merely one of those whom Leonard Cohen described as being "oppressed by the figures of beauty".

Stay safe.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

You either do, or you don't!


I recently had a brief conversation with a friend who has a very keen interest in photography and a reasonable ability as a photographer.

We were at a picnic with a large circle of acquaintances. During the day another group of young individuals paraded up and down the nearby street, draped in the Australian flag and loudly and proudly extolling the virtues of being a good 'Aussie'.
It was easy to see that alcohol played a big part in their public bravado.
Before too long a couple of police vehicles arrived and the officers conducted a few breath tests on the youngsters. There was no trouble and after a while all parties went their separate ways.

I did take the chance however, to walk up to the group and make a couple of quick shots.

(one of them was a bit mouthy and suggested a little physical confrontation - easy to be a hero with mates around - he woulda lasted about five seconds had he tried anything).

After getting the shots, my young photographic acquaintance mentioned that he admired how I walked up and got the shots. I stressed to him that you either do - or you don't. You either get the shot or you don't. You either are a photographer - or you're not.

If in any situation there is a question on getting the shot or not - go for it.

You don't have to use it, sell it, display it or make it in anyway public if you have second thoughts. However - if you don't get the image - it's all a moot point. You can't do anything.

The same day another member of the picnic decided to take a dive into the water and ripped his head open on a submerged rock. When I got a couple of shots of him being bandaged prior to a trip to hospital - a couple of folk voiced displeasure that I would actually photograph it.

C'mon! You either do or you don't! Simple. Later that evening after his return and with the good news that there was no fracture, just a nasty gash requiring stitches, he asked for copies of the shots. He had no problem with it - why should others.

Last May I was visiting another friend who is a fairly good landscape photographer and who has a small gallery of work in Cheltenham, Victoria.

Also present were his son-in-law who runs a photo studio adjacent to the gallery, and another friend who is a keen photographer.

We noticed a train stopped across the level crossing. Someone said "trains broke".
I replied "Nah - it's a jumper. Someone's gone under it".

Sadly my comment was nearer the truth. A young lady (an actress from a popular Australian kid's TV show) had fallen onto the tracks and been hit by the train. Sadly for her, her family and friends, she did not survive.

Four of us there in the gallery/studio had cameras.

One of us walked over and made a few images. Sure that might stick in some folks throats. It might make some people as angry as all hell.
When I made the shots I got a lot of abuse from bystanders.
One nasty little fellow screamed at me saying I was obscene. I suggested he travel to Afghanistan if he really wanted to see something obscene. Those people couldn't see the hypocrisy of them rubber-necking for a better look and complaining about me getting the shot.

You either do - or you don't.

So - what's the point of all this?

We are surrounded everyday by beautiful things and things which are not so beautiful. Both are a fact of daily existence. You may choose to photograph whatever you desire. You may choose not to photograph something. Each is equally valid.

Whatever you choose, allow others to make the same choice. Non-judgmentally.

Some of the most memorable images ever made are actually of things we would prefer not to have happened. - Brady's images of the American Civil war. The execution of a Viet Cong member in Saigon. Countless other images from that war and a whole host of other conflicts.
Poverty - think the FSA images of the dust bowl era in the US. Famine - how many moving images have come out of Africa in the past 25 years?

The list goes on and on.

Did any of those images have an impact on any viewer so as to bring about any change? Of course they did. Countless millions have been raised in the almost futile fight against poverty. Public opinion in America helped finish the Vietnam war. Again the list goes on.

The few personal incidents I mentioned earlier won't bring about great change in anything. In fact the images are not in same league as the famous images mentioned. However, the attitude is the same.

You either do, or you don't.

Stay safe.