Archive for September, 2014

Man and Dog, Parker's Piece, Cambridge, June 7, 2006

Man and Dog, Parker’s Piece, Cambridge, June 7, 2006

In 2006 I returned to England, eager to get away from a claustrophobic, conservative Australia and indulge myself once again in the cultural circus of Europe. I had returned to Australia at the end of 2003 after four years away and, on doing so, never really felt completely at home. Living in Cambridge had thrown my sense of belonging and I wasn’t sure where I should be any longer. England and Europe were so much more interesting than Australia, yet the latter had a far more appealing lifestyle and climate. Which should I choose? My hatred of John Howard’s government made the decision a lot easier, but ultimately what really drove me back was an intense desire to return to Cambridge and to the life I had had while studying.

It was a chaotic, yet romantic beginning, wherein the first few months I moved around a lot – being accommodated by my old buddy, now college fellow, C, in his spare room, on his floor, and, eventually, in a splendid warren on All Saints Passage above an old-school barber shop. It is impossible to do justice to the many and various episodes – teaching South African literature in Pembroke College, hunching in a tiny garret playing World of Warcraft, meeting Prince Charles again, catching up with old acquaintances, tending the bar at the Anchor Pub once more and making various jaunts across to the continent – suffice to say, it was a splendid time full of rich experiences and intense emotion. And, all the while, I was becoming increasingly snap happy with my new Canon EOS 350D

This shot reminds me of that time especially well – not because it marks any special occasion or incident, but rather I recall being pleased with it then on account of the dynamic human subject. Prior to this, much of my photography was focussed on static objects – architecture, landscape, light and shadows – things which still greatly interest me, but have come to play second fiddle to candid human subjects. Once I realised there was so much gold to be had from shooting people doing their thing, I never looked back. There is, I feel, too much dead space to the right of the image, yet I so dig the harmony and juxtaposition of the two running man and the charging greyhound as to excuse the otherwise uninteresting context. Or perhaps the context is ideal – nothing too fussy and busy to distract from the principals – or so I like to tell myself : )

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5998 HK Sunshine

Hong Kong, July 20, 2009

As a child, Hong Kong seemed to be a mythical place. It was British and it was Chinese – exotic and strangely familiar. Like so many children of the 70s and 80s in Australia, for whom a trip to a Chinese restaurant was both a great pleasure and an eye-opening multicultural experience in a then far-less Asian Sydney, I was enthusiastic for all things Chinese. Hong Kong was also the home of Bruce Lee, and though I wasn’t exactly a slavish fan as a child, he was seen as such a heroic persona that it was hard not to charmed even by the idea of Kung-fu itself.

My uncle lived in Singapore for some time and though I never visited him there, his visits to Australia were for a while accompanied by Asian artefacts – small ceremonial dragon dolls, brass coasters in the shape of Chinese characters, a wall-scroll of a traditional landscape. In a time when Australia was only beginning to see itself as a part of its Asian context, it felt exciting to live in a place surrounded by such exotic nations and cultures.

Later, in my twenties, when I was dating someone from Hong Kong, my curiosity and interest was re-awakened, but still only lived vicariously through films such as The World of Suzie Wong, In the Mood for Love and its sequel, 2046. Despite this interest, while I have visited Singapore a number of times en route to other places, I’ve only been to Hong Kong once, in 2009, at which time I went on a great photographic spree. While it might have lost some of its old Asia appeal, it is a stunning and exciting place, with a mix of gorgeous geography and eye-catching modernity. Hong Kong harbour is a marvel, irrespective of the rather tacky light and sound show which struts its stuff every evening.

 This photograph has long been a favourite as much for its geometry as for its subject matter. The leaves framing the image remind me of floral patterns on a loud shirt, reduced here to monochrome, and obscures the walking lady just enough to make it feel as though the photo is taken from a hidden vantage point. There is something magnificently languid and diaphanous about the woman – she seems to have an impossibly long stride, without appearing awkward. The sun is also directly overhead, so that all shadows fall immediately under their casters. It was a beautiful, clear and not too humid day; the air scrubbed and freshened by a typhoon which had lashed the place for two days previously. After a more than a month in sticky south-east Asia beforehand, I hadn’t expected to find such relief in this most splendid of cities.

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