Wednesday, April 29, 2015

For All Firies (firefighters) Everywhere: A tribute

For Firies Everywhere (Sydney Australia April 2015)

Firefighters are respected, even loved, everywhere. And that is exactly as it should be. I saw this mural on the back wall of the fire station in Newtown (an inner-city suburb) in Sydney Australia. 

While it is only one of many fine examples of wall art or "graffiti" in the area, I specifically chose to photograph this because I feel it is a fine tribute to all the firies (which is what we call these brave people here in the land of Oz).

So, there it is. I post this with love, respect and thanks to all the firies everywhere who daily risk death and their short and long term health to keep us safe.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I Will Love You Till I Die: A slideshow for lovers everywhere

Quite a while back I made a slideshow of couples. Well, I've actually made a number of shows which feature some of the many photos I have of couples on the streets. But this one is one of my particular favorites because it was, I think, the first. Also the soundtrack I chose is a song from The Seekers, one of the great folk bands. The song is The Carnival is Over and is one of the most human of all folk (or for that matter of any other genre) songs of all time.

I suddenly decided to repost the slideshow today. Why? Umm. Well, no special reason. Just because I suppose, it is about lovers and love and loss and those things that live within all of us, but sometimes are a bit hard to find.

So, this is dedicated to lovers everywhere, and to love. Please enjoy. And, if you would like, please subscribe to this blog. It would be an honor to have you on board

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Adding Titles In Street Photography: They can really help a photograph tell its stories

Once again I find myself at odds with a number of people in the visual arts world, and more specifically in the world of street photography. You see, I happen to think that it is of huge importance to give my street and documentary photographs meaningful titles, titles that can add to the power or enjoyment of my photographs. Yes, I've heard that a picture is worth a thousand words (just by way of introducing a tiny bit of trivia, a study has proven that a picture is actually only worth 84.1 words. Don't believe me? Check out the report here), and I have heard that we should allow a picture to speak for itself.

And I have heard, and also hold to, the notion that a viewer should be allowed to bring their own interpretations to a photograph: the photo tells the story, but it's up to the viewer to decide what that story is. However, I think words are important too, and they can be used to add to the story telling ability of some photographs. And, cutting to the point of today's post, words can clarify the message or story a photo is trying to tell. A few words can clear up confusion is one way to put it.

Have a good look at this photograph, and think about what story it is telling you (I won't include the title underneath like I usually do; I don't want to give it all away just yet!)

Well, here we have a photo of a man sitting on a train station platform swigging from a bottle. Those are the facts, which of course are not the story. What story you are being told here is for you alone to hear. I can only speak for myself.

When I composed this scene in the camera viewfinder, this guy wasn't drinking: he was just sitting there waiting, I presumed, for the train. Then, just as I was about to press the shutter button, he took a swig from the bottle. Bum, I thought, I don't do pictures of people drinking (as in alcohol) on the street (or even at train stations). Still, trying to stick to my resolution to not chimp (ie check the photo on the screen of the camera), I didn't worry about checking or deleting it and just shrugged thinking, oh well another missed one.

Then at home when I uploaded the files to my laptop and zoomed in, I saw that in fact it is a lemonade bottle he is drinking from. Not a train station, platform sitting alcoholic after all. But, what to do? I liked the image. I wanted to complete it and share it. A title! As I've said, I title all my photos anyway, but in this case the title needed to say a little more; it needed to clarify what this photo is not.

So, the title of this image is The Not So Secret Lemonade Drinker. Clever don't you think? Well, maybe not. But for me it clears up a key point of potential confusion (not every viewer will take the time to zoom in and check the bottle). Sure, I know I might have ruined part of the story for some. On the other hand there's still plenty there for a viewer's imagination to play with in order to come up with the story (or stories) this photograph is wanting to tell.

Of course a photo should speak for itself. Of course a picture is or can be worth many words. But, you know, if a picture really is worth a thousand (or even 84.1) words, then what harm can there be in adding a few more carefully chosen, thoughtful words that might actually add something more to the picture?

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Costs of War: Photos and a conversation about how poppies help us to remember

Remembrance: Passing By the Wall of Flowers
(Sydney Australia April 2015)

Sometimes, when I am photographing someone in the street, they see me and move aside, thinking they are in my way. Now, not being one of those dishonest hunting type street photographers, I do not pretend I am photographing something else while sneakily "taking" a photo of someone; my work is about connection and openness, a celebration, not stealth and cheating.

Anyway, enough of that little rant. Yesterday I came across a woman putting up handmade poppies onto a temporary wall in a public square. Knowing that it was part of the Anzac Day commemorations, I decided I would make some photos of the scene. The image you see above is the first one I made. I then moved closer to get a more intimate point of view. And it is after making the second image (below) that the woman in the scene saw me and moved aside "out of the way".

Wall of Poppies Sacred Site (Sydney Australia April 2015)

As I always do when people move out of my way, I spoke to her. Here's our little conversation

Me: "Oh, Thank you, but you are actually a part of the picture."

Her: (smiling) "Really?"

Me: "Yes. I really like what you're doing here." I stepped closer. "It almost feels like you are creating a sacred site. Like a prayer. And putting the poppies on the wall is a sacred act."

Her: "Well, it does feel like a special thing to be doing."

I then started to have a closer look at some of the photos of soldiers being put up along with the poppies.

Her: "Do you know anyone who died in a war?"

Me: "Well my father fought in Vietnam and was really messed up."

Her: "Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. Was it PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress disorder)?

Me: "Yes. Among other things. He eventually died of those wounds" And, then I just blurted out:
         "It'd be really great if you could think of him when you stick one of the poppies onto the wall."

Her: "What was his name?

Me: "John"

Her: "Well, I'll think of him when I put up this one (holding up a poppy)

Me: "Thank you.

Then we said goodbye and that was that. I have always opposed war of any kind, and I always will. My rejection of war caused a lot of trouble within my family, especially after my father came back wounded from the war in Vietnam. But that was part of the reason: I saw the damage first hand. At the same time, I understand the need to commemorate and honor the victims of war, whether they be the people fighting or the countless other lives wasted in every war.

This poppy making and hanging project forms a part of the 100th anniversary commemorations of the landing at Gallipoli in Turkey on the 25th April 1915 of the armies of Australia, New Zealand and a number of other nations in an attempt to take control of the Dardanelles. In the six month battle that followed there were about half a million casualties.

Wars go on, and will forever it sometimes seems. But, we can all stop for a minute sometimes to reflect on the cost of war. And, you know, it might just make a difference.

Peace to you all.

There are numerous references on the net about the significance of poppies. Here's a short quote from one:
Worn on Remembrance Day (11 November) each year, and also on Anzac Day in Australia and other places, the red poppy was the first flower to bloom on the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium in the First World War. In soldiers' folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground.
Do take the time to check out more information on this fascinating topic.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

A Moment Shared with a Happy Dad

Happy Chatter Shares the City Square with the Birds 
(Parramatta Square Sydney Australia April 2015)

Strolling around the public square in the "suburban" city of Parramatta in the west of Sydney today, I came across this guy who seemed to be all alone, although the square was actually quite busy (the sun being out after several days of heavy rain). 

At the distance I was from him I couldn't see the expression on his face, but I liked the scene and made the picture. As I walked past him, he looked up and actually laughed. In such cases I always speak to the people I've shared a moment with. Here is our little conversation.

Me: Thank you (pointing to my camera to tell him I had made the photo)
I just loved the way you looked as if you were concentrating hard on your phone" (mimicking his pose).

Him: (laughing some more) I am just having a chat with my daughter"

Me: Well thanks for the photo, and have a good chat with her"

Him: (laughing again) Thank you

Nice eh? A great little moment shared with a dad who was so happy to be talking to his daughter, and was so proud to let me, a stranger with a camera, know about it.

One of the reasons I am a street photographer.