Friday, July 18, 2014


Gardener at Rest (Kuching Malaysia July 2014)

Okay, I know it's not been that long since I declared burnout. But, somehow things have changed and I feel a renewed sense of commitment to my work and to actually getting out there and sharing moments and making photographs.

We moved from Georgetown on Penang a couple of days ago and we are now settled into a hotel with a wonderful view of the Sarawak River in the city of Kuching, which is in the state of Sarawak. And Sarawak, friends, is on the third largest island in the world, Borneo. Imagine? I am on Borneo. Jungle, exotic river life, and orangutans (though we won't be seeing them due to the dodgy nature of the centers "caring" for them here. Seem to be just overhyped and tacky tourist ventures to us with no "rehabilitation" happening.

So, what have I been up to while I was on my little break from street photography? Well, to be completely honest, I have made a few street images here and there, in passing you might say. Mostly I've just been exploring and soaking up the vibe of where we are. I have made some photos of the temples we've visited. I rather like them (the temples and the photos), so maybe you will too. So, here are a few of them for your viewing enjoyment.

Oh, before I go. What makes me think I'm back? Well, just taking my camera out today as we went looking for lunch and then to the museum, I found myself "seeing" photographs all over the place. In the end, I only made one, and there it is above. Anyway, it's good to be back. Perhaps I will put together a post just devoted to the whole "having a break" idea. We'll see. So, here are a few of my temple images. Enjoy!

 Demon or Guardian?(Kek Loc Si Temple Penang Malaysia July 2014)

 Dharma Wheel and the Bodhisatva Deers (Kek Loc Si Temple Penang Malaysia July 2014)

Secular or Sacred (Georgetown Penang Malaysia July 2014)

 Guardian Tiger and Her Cub (on a temple door Georgetown Penang Malaysia July 2014

And for the last image, here is one of the street photos that leapt out and grabbed me even though I wasn't really thinking about street photography that day

 It's Rude to Point in Penang (Georgetown Penang Malaysia July 2014)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Eyes of the Elder (Georgetown Malaysia July 2014)

The faithful friends and others who read this blog will know that I am now in Malaysia. A few days ago I wrote a "Paul's Pictures is in Malaysia" post. In that post I wrote:
Stay tuned then for further updates on our Malaysian adventure. I intend to be busy while we are here; while I want to explore, and "be a traveller", I really want this to be a street photography trip. So, let's see how it goes!

And I have been busy so far. But, you know something? I have stopped wanting it to be a street photography trip. No, sorry, that's not quite right. I desperately want to spend all my days on the street photographing. But, despite being out and about a couple of times, I find I just can't. No matter, I thought; I will just catch up on some editing and completing photographs ready for sharing and putting up for sale. But, again, I just haven't been able to get going on this at all. I've done a bit, but not really much at all. Why?

To tell you the truth I think I am suffering from burnout. We have been travelling for eighteen months now, and I have been full on both working on the street wherever we happen to be, editing and posting, blog writing and posting, making slideshows. In other words I have been working harder than ever before, and I think I have, as they say, hit a wall.

So, here's what I've decided to do. I am a great believer in the Buddhist idea that the cause of suffering is desire, or clinging. And, as I said, I have been desperately wanting to be out there on the street making photographs.It is this desire coupled with my burnout or wall hittng that is causing me to feel bad. Therefore, I have decided now to not want to work (at least to aspire to not wanting to work). I have decided to devote myself more to being a traveler, to exploring this place with my partner. I have decided that even artists need a vacation, and a break from their work sometimes.

And it's not as if I am not thinking about my work, or not being open to new experiences, impressions, ideas and the rest. In fact, it just could be that a rest at this stage will lead directly to a new invigorated me with new and more ideas, better ways of working. Who can say?

How long will this vacation last? Well, I made these decisions yesterday and already today I told my partner that I was feeling better and ready to get back to work. She said, give yourself a chance, don't hurry. So, I won't. And I won't commit to any time frame either. 

Just like with my work itself, I will try to simply be in the moment, allow whatever is going to happen to unfold and I will try to just go with the flow. It might be days, or weeks. Or it could be that tomorrow I just won't be able to resist the urge to pick up the camera and get back to work. Like the actual work itself, the timing of when and where to photograph or not to photograph, is a thing to be decided by one's intuition and one's feelings for the time and the space, for the environment as well as one's mood and state of mind.

So, once again, stay tuned. 


Friday, July 4, 2014

Paul's Pictures Street Photographer is in Malaysia

Outside the Flower Shop (Kuala Lumpur Malaysia July 2014)

Yes friends, Paul's Pictures is in Malaysia, Georgetown on the island of Penang to be exact. We arrived here last night after spending three nights in the capital Kuala Lumpur, or as the locals call it KL.  KL is an extraordinary place. What I call a mega city. It is an eclectic mix of Victorian era shops, houses and assorted buildings and 21st Century skyscrapers that seem to me to actually be scraping the sky; they are massive! And all kinds of architectural styles too. I loved it.

But even more great is the multi-cultural make up of the city's population. There are people from everywhere here and each cultural group has really made its mark on the city; there are mosques that will blow your mind, lavishly decorated Hindu Temples that soar stories high and Taoist temples crammed with deities and ancestors (who are often the one and the same of course) and the smell of incense.

 Then of course there are the foods that each cultural group has brought to this huge metropolis. We're vegetarian and with the plethora of Indian and Chinese restaurants we didn't have a lot of trouble finding tasty and nourishing meals. Then there is the Chai. We love chai and it was one of the joys of this place that we were able pop over the road from our hotel to the Jai Hind restaurant and grab a real chai for only 50c.

But what of the streets? What of the photography? Well, to be honest, I didn't really have any street photography only outings; a couple of times I took my camera along as we explored. Having said that, I did make a few photographs; I did share a few moments with some very friendly and welcoming people. That's one thing I forgot to mention: in KL we had a lot of friendly encounters, met some nice people over meals in local cafes, shared some laughs and heard "Welcome to Malaysia" many many times.

Those three days were really a period of orientation and acclimatizing (from Melbourne's winter to KL's pre-monsoon heat and humidity is a teeny bit of an adjustment as you can imagine). But now  we are on Penang where we plan to spend the next three and a bit weeks. We may change those plans: already we have a list of other places in Malaysia that are beckoning to us).

So, at this stage it looks like Penang, or rather the city of Georgetown (the main city on the island) will be my main work place.  To tell you the truth I am very excited about being here: it is a vibrant, culturally diverse and all round great place to be.

Stay tuned then for further updates on our Malaysian adventure. I intend to be busy while we are here; while I want to explore and "be a traveller", I really want this to be a street photography trip. So, let's see how it goes!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Talking About Subjects & Objects in Street Photography

Run Don't Walk (Melbourne Australia June 2014)

I read yet another definition of Street Photography yesterday. And boy oh boy aren't there a lot of them around these days? But never mind that. What I want to talk about here is just a few words that really stood out for me. The writer was giving his definition and said something about "objects" in the street. At first I read on, then, suddenly, I realised he wasn't talking about the buildings, cars, buses or other inanimate things one sees on the street; he was actually referring to the people in the street as objects—as things.

People as things? I don't think so. But, as I read on, there it was again, and then again. This so-called "expert" on street photography was describing people as objects. Sorry, I know I'm repeating myself here, but I was and I still am just so flabbergasted at such an idea. And, just think how many people are going to read that article. Makes me shudder.

Anyway, it put me in mind of something a fellow Twitterer said to me a while ago. I forget what we were talking about, but I had used the word subject in a post, referring to the people I photograph in the street. Here's his reply:

I wouldn't even call them subjects. Sounds too clinical. I'd opt for collaborators. It's a partnership.
And he was right. Is right I should say.  Regular readers will know that I have been trying for a while now to start a conversation that will lead to a less aggressive, less acquisitive and gentler way of speaking about street photography (here's my blog post about language in street photography).

I have for some time talked about "people I photograph" rather than using the word subject. A change that has to do with my desire to change the language, but in truth prompted by my fellow Twitterer's comment quoted above.

As a street photographer, calling a person I photograph a subject really implies that that person is subject to, or in some way not on the same level, or holding the same power as me, simply because I am the one with the camera making a photograph of them. If anything I feel that the person being photographed is the one directing the process. By this I mean that they are the ones who invite or do not invite the photographer (that's me) to photograph them.
Of course for many this is all very esoteric and perhaps is even seen as complicating what some would argue is a very simple process. And of course, street photography when practised well is a very simple process.

How is it simple? Well, I don't mean simple as in easy: it's not always easy. No, I mean simple as in straightforward. We talk about being "in the zone" when on the street photographing. And when we are in the zone we are in touch with the feeling—the vibe if you like—on the street and in a deep way we are connected with the other people around us. In this way we just know if we are given "permission" to photograph them or not. Of course it's not at all spoken, this permission; it's more about the intuition of the photographer connecting with the flow of energies and feelings of others around her or him.

So, it is about language. But it is about more than the words we use to describe our activities as street photographers. It is about an attitude toward other people and the environment we are working in. It is about a willingness to be open to the sub-conscious wishes of others and just knowing at a deep intuitive level what is and what is not okay.

I talk a lot about sharing moments with the people I photograph. By this I mean a two-way sharing that takes place as I feel the rightness of making a photograph of a person or group of people. In this respect those other people are very much my partners (as in having an equal participation and 'investment'), collaborators with me in the process of creating a photograph that is then a true representation of that moment.

Street Photography really is a team effort isn't it?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

One Day You Will Remember Me: Street Photography & the Truth on the Street

One Day You Will Remember Me (Melbourne Australia June 2014)

Allow me to introduce you to Elias. I met him on the street in Melbourne a few days ago. I'd spotted him out the corner of my eye, and as is my habit when encountering people who appear to be homeless, I smiled, waved and walked on by. But, before I got more than a meter or two past him, Elias called me back.

"Take my photo," he said as I approached him.

I replied that I don't usually photograph people who are homeless.

"I'm not homeless." was his answer.

I asked him why was he laying on the street in such weather (it was rainy and very cold).

"I have a place but I come out every day, trying to make people happy,"  he told me. "One day you will remember me and one day you will remember God through me." Then he told me again to photograph him, arranging his Star of David pendant just so, as he spoke.  So I made this photograph, showed it to him and he approved.

"That's a good one," he said and smiled his thanks.

Afterwards I asked him his name and he told me it is Elias. He also told me that he is a Jewish prince. When I said that I didn't know there were Jewish princes, he simply replied, with a smile on this face:

"Well, I am one."

He refused to take any money from me and just repeated that one day I would remember him and remember God through him. 

Is Elias really a Jewish prince? He told me he is, so he is. Will I remember him "one day"? Well he told me I will, so I will.  As a street and social documentary photographer, it is not my place to judge the things people tell me, or for that matter, the 'reality' they show me through the viewfinder of my camera. Life on the street, life itself, is what it is.  Sometimes the truth is plain to see, sometimes it's hidden beneath the surface or behind masks of various kinds.

 But, at the end of the day, on the street there is truth and really the best way to see and experience that truth is to remember that, while we may weigh up the facts of a situation, a story or whatever, there will always be truth hidden there whether the facts add up or not.