Like a sewerage outfall into the ocean, last week's so-called Australian national celebration of its apparent "founding" on the 26th January, has washed up the usual turds onto the shores of this ancient continent.Read More
Chasing a dream is one of the most invigorating and terrifying pursuits in the whole gamut of human endeavour. It invariably seems that for every inch toward your goal you make there is another entire foot that you must traverse before reaching it. Dreams vary but the theme that pushes us beyond our limits to create something out of our thoughts is always the same. It is one of self realisation, of acknowledging the limitations in our lives and endeavouring to go beyond them.
So why do some people achieve their dreams and others do not? Well I guess it has something to do with the scale of their dreams and their tenacity, intelligence and humility. Yes humility...thats the important one...
The profession of photojournalism has one defining character. That is that most people who want to tell stories visually, generally have some very good reason for why they want to take themselves and their cameras into places that they are often not even wanted. Some believe that it is because they don't want to lose the moment...to them to document it means that there is always a record of the existence of the person or place in the glance of the camera...and some believe that the existence recognised can go a long way to changing someones circumstances by highlighting their suffering...or their emotions...or indeed just the conditions of their lives...
In the days of such a plethora of people with cameras and so many stories about the affecting plights of the poor, drug addicted, homeless and starving can a photojournalist staring at the world with sympathy in their hearts but no fundamental understanding of a situation really be in a position to change the way that people see?
I think many photojournalists make such photos simply because they are trying to create proof of their own existence. Sometimes its a case of "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"...a sort of well I was there kind of moment...unless that person, holding that camera, at that particular time and place is as well aware of the privileged position they are in photographing whatever it is that is occupying their vision.... I think that ego can sometimes over ride intention.
This is tricky territory I am entering into as so many well meaning people pick up cameras with a view to changing the world...An honourable dream in fact...but how much of it is truly successful?
Head On Photo Festival is currently on in Sydney. Run entirely by the wonderful Moshe Rosenzveig and his partner Anita it is now the second largest photo festival in the world and next week I will be gorging myself on the visual treats on offer in over at least 200 different photographic exhibitions, displays and happenings...my own included... in the exhibition that I have written about for the last several months.
So how does my own work stand up against the work of some of the luminaries of the photo journalistic firmament? Photographers such as Pablo Bartholomew, David Alan Harvey and Steve Dupont? I hope that I am pursuing my own dream in pushing the edges of the envelope photographically and that everyone will bring their own reading to my work...
For those of you who are in Sydney and maybe interested in discussing more on this topic and have a few drinks on a hopefully sunny and chilled out Saturday afternoon at St Peters I welcome you to come along to my artist talk at about 3pm May 19th at INDEX Gallery, 60 Hutchinson St St Peters.
It would be absolutely fantastic to see you there...
Ok so I have stolen my header from the title of a book written by Ann B. Ross but it seemed appropriate given that this week I finally had my first opportunity to photograph the incumbent Prime Minister of Australia... Julia Gillard. Much has been written, discussed and debated about the present PM which is natural given she is a political figure... but much of what has been written, discussed and debated has not been about her stewardship of the country. Now I have had the pleasure (or not... depending on your politics) of photographing three other former Prime Ministers at close quarters and many, many MP's... both federal and state... and I have often noticed that the impressions I receive from training a lens on them are often quite different to how the general public perceives the people who are charged with leading the country.
I mean...so who is Julia Gillard really?
I would have to say she is possibly the most underrated Prime Minister we have ever elected to run the country. Not because I agree with all of the policies of her party or the way she initially became PM BUT and it is a big but (hehehe...no pun intended) because she is in fact our FIRST WOMAN PM and no one seems to have comprehended what an incredible achievement that is...Let alone run a parliament full of such a diversity of characters such as the 'Mad Monk' or 'Backdown Barnaby'...
Julia Gillard is no Margaret Thatcher (thank goodness) yet one of the leading lights of 70's feminism, Germaine Greer, has, rather than focusing on the incredibly positive aspects of being a woman PM, simply and naively played into the hands of the peanut gallery by making a comment about the Prime Ministers body shape and choice of clothes.
In all sorts of ways that is wrong.
I often ponder what it is that drives people to succeed in their chosen field. I know my own personal journey began when I was about five or six when I acquired a little exercise book that I used as a diary. I was astonished when I found it about thirty years later and I had rather perspicaciously written in it that I wanted nothing more in my life than to be an artist and travel all over the world...
I wonder if Julia Gillard woke up one day and said to herself "One day I will be the first woman Prime Minister of my country"?
I think if she had and knew in advance that instead of people celebrating the way she has governed the country as a very different style of Labour Party leader...( lets face it Australians aren't as a whole used to a quiet achiever, all the Prime Ministers I can think of have been very distinct personalities... I mean Bob Hawke and Gough Whitlam are flamboyant, Paul Keating is a sharp wit, John Howard is a patriarch and Kevin Rudd is earnest)....and concentrated instead on the size of her derriere, what jacket she was wearing the fact she forgot to have children, didn't get married and by the way is a non-believer as well.... then she just might have given up in the battle to break through all of the prejudices to get the top job.
Which she is not doing too badly at all.
Australia is one of the few countries that is not in complete economic decline and while you can argue the two speed economy is hurting many sectors of the community Prime Minister Gillard is not responsible for Reserve Bank decisions.
So where is the credit for her on a personal level?
Several of my friends have talked about this, with one female friend saying that obviously while we all like the idea of a woman leading the country the reality is no-one really is comfortable with a childless, unmarried, atheist doing it.
As little as 16 months ago I was working a job contract where my superior (in a job hierarchy that is) actually told me that I had no idea how to organise a task based on the fact I haven't had children. His actual words were "Do you have children? If you did you would know this (way of organising something) won't work". Having had experience of organising the particular situation previously I obviously knew exactly what I was doing... I am not an imbecile and I am not incapable but this man's attitude towards me left me gob smacked. I am sure if we had sat down, compared our qualifications, experience and IQ's it would have been a no contest...He obviously had no idea...
So I have a certain amount of empathy for Julia... When I photographed her to begin with, her media training kicked in but she seemed quite vulnerable and self conscious. Well who wouldn't be after suffering Germaine Greer's childish schoolyard taunts...But when the private part of the function began she was much more at her ease and had a dry and quite incisive sense of humour...plus she "got" some of the wise cracks I made so I have to say she is far warmer and jollier than she may appear through the general media perception.
But I have to leave the final comment to "Stan the Man" my motor mechanic, who like four of my male friends (unmarried and no children) have all echoed the same thought...
"If she wasn't a woman she would be the best Prime Minister we have ever had"
Put that where you drawing attention to Germaine!
This is a portrait I took of a friend of mine Maurial Spearim. I call it 'My Spirit Goes Before Me'.
She is a proud Murri woman from the Gamilaroy mob of north western NSW.
She is an intelligent, beautiful and very fine actor who is performing in a solo show at this very minute at the Museum of Victoria here.
I am sure that she, like many other of my friends and myself also found it incredibly insulting, disturbing and amazingly stupid that the Foxtel commentators at the Australian Open, including recognised past tennis great Wally Masur, discussed one of the Spanish tennis players Almagro, not in terms of his tennis game but in terms of his skin colour. After remarking on how 'olive' skinned he was, Masur and his co-host leapt to the immediate conclusion that Almagro must therefore be related to the Moorish people of Northern Africa.
That Almagro would therefore be able to cope with the heat at the Australian Open better than the other players. The subtext to this of course, based in the history of the slave trade, is that 'black' men work better in the heat because they came from hot countries and therefore you could justify leaving a slave to work through the heat of the day with little shade or water because they naturally could 'cope'.
What a completely racist insinuation... How is it that the braniacs that came up with such a discussion have jobs as media commentators?
By their reckoning then, Sam Stosur could never win the Australian Open because her skin colour is just not suited to the conditions in Australia...