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Archive for the ‘Sydney’ Category

1428 Walking man

0358 Leap 2

3780 Lines 2

5407 Moree sunset 2

4795 Puppy dog morning

0725 Window 2 best

2315 The rocks

4110 Coast

6595 Magnus in shadow

5497 Cages

0814 Straight line

6066 Legs 2

2230 Rail tunnel

4355 Atomic

6177 Industrial sunset

0245 Dashboard

9912 Parrot

1290 Misty road

6081 The real star

2501 Coal

3680 Favoured by local dogs

0209 The staircase

6086 Circumspect

1383 Action selfie

I began writing this on the hottest July day that I recall – bear in mind that, in the Southern Hemisphere, this is the middle of winter – whereas today is awash with rain. It is not, however, a cold day, and the air has a springtime humidity and welcome mildness. Usually such conditions only prevail at the end of August, when spring announces itself prematurely before falling back into hibernation. Yet, nothing about the weather will surprise me this year, as, under the reign of El Nino, under the carbon loading of the Anthropocene, temperature records fall around us like flies dying from heat exhaustion.

While every part of the Earth is being affected by climate change in its own way, Australia, with its often very tenuous, marginal ecosystems, has already been particularly hard hit. This year has seen unparalleled forest fires raging through the rainforests of Tasmania; not the rejuvenating, replenishing kind of fires either, but destructive and devastating fires in a land unused to such dry soil and conditions. Along thousands of kilometres of the east coast, the Great Barrier Reef has suffered its worst ever episode of coral bleaching, with the loss of huge swathes of diverse marine life in once thriving areas. Along the north coast of Australia we have witnessed the largest ever die-off of Mangroves, hit hard by drier conditions and warmer ocean temperatures, while off the coast of western Australia, thousands upon thousands of acres of sea-grass forest has been lost to warmer waters. El Nino years, by definition, produce anomalous conditions, yet with the atmosphere so laden with carbon dioxide and the ocean being the Earth’s principal heat sink, the extremity of those conditions has gone far beyond any experienced in the past.

It is said that winter in Australia will be shorter and sharper in the future, and just two weeks ago the winter bit in a cold spell that briefly had the east in its grip. Then, like that, it was gone – replaced by an uncanny, unseasonal mildness. Perhaps the winter has come and gone; already the trees are blooming with fresh shoots. Meanwhile, our government ignores the severity of the issue, the absolute priority of climate change, and cuts funding for research and abatement. It is what Shakespeare would call “a tale told by an idiot.” And all of us are, unfortunately, culpable and complicit as hell. And yet, as always, life goes on – with its grand and petty concerns, with its glorious vanity.

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The Return

Too much time has passed since I lasted posted a collection of photographs – partly because an air of malaise and pointlessness has set in around blogging, but mostly because I haven’t been excited about recent shots. Ever since my son was born I’ve mostly taken photos of him. This is great in that I have some really lovely images, but not especially interesting for people outside family circles. It’s also true, as noted before, that my range of travel has been somewhat limited, and when we do go somewhere, I’m often too distracted by parenting to spend the time finding the best shots.

Yet, whereas one world might seem to have shrunk, another microcosmic world has expanded exponentially – fatherhood. I say microcosmic because so much of my time is spent with my son, around the house and in the local area. We go through very similar routines most days and visit very familiar places – yet within that I’ve been privileged to develop a whole new perspective on life through watching the development of a human child. Before the weightiness of that eternal, paternal instinct, everything else seems far less important or purposeful. And in that microcosmic universe of my new family I’ve been swallowed somewhat, not unlike the immersion I seek in games – a willing escapism where all is coloured by “I’m a father now.”

So this is a return of sorts. A return to the vanity and exposure of the internet, where I shall post once again my small contribution to human culture, a collection of photos from the first quarter of the twenty-first century, one day to be archived and then utterly lost in the rises and falls and format shifts of the history yet to be made.

4017 Dude upright

4410 Biplane 3

4920 Tree morning

2352 Lady in window B & W

2515 Rusty rail

3933 Happy sunshine

3594 Wedding ring

5569 Leading with the elbow

2377 House wall

1283 Young guys, city

1357 Towel rack

1124 Light thin

0701 Old industrial 2

5812 Making and breaking Guernica

5939 Carriageworks

9882 Parrot head

3000 Crossing infinity

5957 Walk home

2307 Modern times

4574 Blue gate

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First Autumn

My favourite season has arrived in Sydney – Autumn. It begins in the balmy, residual humidity of sticky February and finishes in the dry cool of a winter prequel. Without haze the horizon flattens and sharpens into focus; the sky lifts towards the stratosphere and the shade regains a measure of chill. The sun, for the most part, shines and yet, as longer days shorten, the air acquires the nostalgic foreboding of the onset of loss.

This is my son’s first autumn. At four and a half months old he can’t yet feel those weighty emotions we associate with the shift – it is but a question of warm or cool, blanket or no blanket, hats and socks and jumpsuits. He may be excused for being unsure as to the time of year considering we still go to the beach several days a week. With the ocean at 22C, it’s hard to resist.

9167 Surfers

9582 Window wet

9201 Watcher 2

9503 Mural, off Cleveland street

9516 Bubbles 4

9379 Colgate ocean

9176 Great childhood

9343 Stormy swell 2

9635 Succulents

9442 White ceiling

9545 Broadway

9449 Mynor 2

9595 Boy at Bronte Pool 2

9141 Mother and child

8447 Stormy weather

9701 Bronte beach morning

9046 Boy at Bronte

9639 Succulents

9760 Hood

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The Eternal Beach

8666 Swimmers

7990 Surfer shapes 2

8516 Transient Alps  2

8800 Whitewash

8243 Aquatic

8679 In full flight B & W

7916 Shiny 2

8248 Bronte B & W

8281 Bronte

8817 Bronte surf

8576 Surry Hills, Sydney

8627 Rainy St John's college

8282 Into the Pacific

7981 Surfer's leap B&W

8495 A long way to Chile

8175 iPhone 2

7877 Pastel haze

8876 Donovan's Leap

I doubt I’ll ever get bored of the beach – it is simply far too beautiful and pleasurable. It is the key to life in Sydney for almost three quarters of the year, considering we usually swim from November through to the end of June. Sydney has many attractions, of course, and I never forget how fortunate I am to live in a society with such a high standard of living and sophisticated lifestyle. Yet, what makes the beach so wonderful is not merely the refreshing sense of well-being it offers, but the grandeur of the expanse, the light and space and the humbling, epic nature of the ocean’s power.

Years ago I came to these sea-cliffs at night and sat atop them under a full moon, pondering the incomprehensible vastness of geological history. Even the ancient sandstone cliffs tell a relatively recent story, compared to the oceans of time that preceded the laying of those sediments. I never fail to look at those cliffs against the backdrop of the Pacific and consider how deep and long is the history of the earth, and indeed, the universe. Thus the beach not only offers pleasure, space, light and beauty, but it also prompts philosophical considerations – our insignificance before both nature and time, our fleeting time in the light of our otherwise unremarkable sun.

Whilst the beach may never bore me, I do wonder how long I can continue to shoot it. It seems as though I take photos of nothing else at the moment, and yet, in truth, I hardly go anywhere else outside of work and various regular commutes. Still, considering how frustrated I feel when I forget to take my camera with me to the beach, it seems that inside I still have a burning desire to mine the sea and sand for gold. The new mission is to try to photograph surfers more, to capture the languid shapes they create as they balance themselves on their boards. One day, I’ll get around to learning how to surf myself…

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Post-Magnus

7373 Washed up on the shore of the world

2015 Tag

5761 Little blue guy 2

5516 Half in light

5721 Tulips, Floriade

7661 Group Selfie

6702 Spring flowers

7402 V & M, back from the hospital

5757 Bonsai tree

7347 On the sand

7629 Zan

4285 Curly wurly

4251 Ferns

7326 On the sand

7531 Train window

5621 Halifax bomber

5274 Tree movement 3

4851 fullmoon flats

7293 Reading in the sun

5576 Jet Engine

8302 Sculpture by the sea

7312 On the sand

Again, a misleading title here as many of these shots were in fact taken pre-Magnus – in other words, before the birth of my son of the same name just a month ago. Without so many opportunities to get out since Magnus joined us, I’ve spent more time going through old photographs and picking out those which slipped through the net. I’ve certainly taken a lot of photographs of Magnus since he came out, but most of these will only really appeal to relatives as babies aren’t necessarily the most interesting of photographic subjects. I’ve certainly sent a lot to my mother, but, however cute we may think he is, a whole series of Magnus shots is perhaps not so appealing to others.

A favourite theme is once again represented here – that of the beach and the various ways in which people make use of it, and, indeed, the variety of people who use the beach. It’s been several weeks now since we’ve had the chance to go, but as soon as V is fully recovered physically, we’ll be back in the water with a vengeance. And a baby…

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Paper and Sand

6221 Blue birdy

6185 Young corndog 2

6179 Life goes on

6287 man with child

5922 Bronte

3621 Dog walkers

5649 Biplane

6359 Beach pattern 3

6259 Native

6156 Reading 2

5989 Reading by the pool

5818 Reading at the beach

4970 Reflection deck

5916 reading in the sun 2

0697 Playground dream

1043 Texture

6139 The Bronte train

6212 Bogeyhole window

6065 Backwash over seagrass

5950 Rooftop tramp

6231 Blue bird

These shots follow recent themes, mostly revolving around the beach. This is partly circumstantial – as I always take my camera to the beach these days and it’s one of the few occasions now where I dedicate time specifically to taking shots. Much of the time my shots are purely reactive and incidental – I see something, pull out my camera, grab the shot and continue with whatever I was doing. In many ways this means I don’t spend enough time lingering in the scene and making more use of it, so it can be a bit hit and miss. Then again, so can any shoot, and hanging around does not guarantee results.

Having said all that, the desire to focus on the beach also stems from a long-standing fascination with beach culture as a core element of the Australian lifestyle. Ever since studying Australian literature and the history of various Australian artistic movements, I’ve had an interest in the gradual cultural transition from the bush as the principal symbol of Australia in the nineteenth century, to the 20th century recognition that the beach was in fact far more representative of Australia and Australian life. In recent decades the Australian geographical identity has coalesced into a combination of bush, beach and outback, as any international tourism advertisement will confirm.

This interest was piqued again recently when writing several series of courses for HSC ESL students – in other words, final year high school students with English as a second language. Much of the HSC material is focussed on getting students to identify and analyse distinct Australian voices and visions – writers, artists, film-makers, lyricists etc, whose subject matter and themes reflect or directly engage with Australian experiences, attitudes and concerns. This is very difficult for people who have arrived in Australia only a year or two before who have little grasp of Australian attitudes and stereotypes. It’s nigh impossible to explain why Paul Hogan, for example, is distinctly Australian, if you’re not entirely sure what distinctly Australian is. It’s also very difficult to make sense of say, Henry Lawson, if you have no understanding of Australian tropes and archetypes. My courses were designed to address this problem by focussing on fundamental aspects of Australian history and identity through the lens of Australian writers and artists – with, of course, an appropriate focus on indigenous contributions. Ironic, isn’t it, how indigenous art is, arguably, the most key signifier of Australia after the kangaroo, yet the people themselves are entirely marginalised. Sadly, mainstream Australia uses indigenous identity to disguise its own lack of distinctness.

Enough prattle, but yes, the beach, hardly unique to Australia, yet utterly key to its identity. This is presently the wealthiest society on the planet and it shows, especially in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney – an upper middle class paradise. It’s wonderful, sure enough, to have such abundance, but it carries with it the underlying guilt of decadence in a world in which nearly everybody else is less well off. Drink in the sun and forget, I suppose. Just drink and forget. And swim.

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Spring Clean

4589 Opera house steps

5304 Trees 2

4605 Pre-show, Opera House

4629 A chance encounter 1

4674 Shoes selfie

5689 Wall of remembrance

4769 Pigeon buddy

1962 Glebe Point

4909 Frames, broadway

6018 Reclining smoker

4521 The Hub

2035 Little flowers

5190 Lake, Snowy Mountains

4599 Opera House crowd

5841 Brothers

5827 Ripped dad

4850 Industrialism

5042 Text 2

6036 Towards Bondi

5016 Bus

5887 Bronte window selfie

4690 Dancing gait

5467 Eucalypt twist

6031 Suspended

5575 Variedad Geisha

5471 Alpine landscape

By way of contrast, V & I went down to the Snowy Mountains a couple of weeks ago and returned to Sydney to visit the beach for the first time this season. The ease with which we could transition between these regions was a welcome reminder of how fortunate we are to live in such a place. For the uninitiated, the Snowy Mountains lie about five hours drive southwest of Sydney in New South Wales and contain Australia’s highest mountain – Mount Kosciuszko. With a rather unimpressive elevation of 2228 metres, it is a reminder of what a flat country Australia is across its length and breadth. The Snowy Mountains form part of the Great Dividing Range, the 4th longest mountain range in the world after The Andes, The Rocky Mountains and The Transantarctic in, surprise surprise, Antarctica. While we’re on the statistics, for those who primarily consider Australia to be a hot and dry country, The Snowy Mountains are just one of the many and varied climate zones in a state which, while being only the 5th largest in Australia, is still bigger than France at a whopping 800,642 sq kilometres.

The Snowy Mountains are splendidly bleak; muted greens and browns, clumps of shrubs and grass and gnarly snow-gums with their twisting trunks that exhibit a surprising range of colours. They might lack the dramatic peaks and soaring walls of stone and ice found in higher ranges, and the skiing is at best mediocre, yet the mountains offer a curious play on the Australian landscape and, indeed, on Alpine zones generally. One noticeable contrast in Australian snow country is that, on account of the shape and nature of the gum leaves, snow does not generally sit on the trees, leaving them standing out starkly against the white.

In Jindabyne we found a magnificent Persian restaurant called Café Darya, set up by a former Iranian downhill ski champion with his wife. The menu was fascinatingly varied, with tantalising combinations of flavours and spices and a range of meats including goat and camel, yet in no way was it gimmicky. The love shown for the place on Trip Advisor confirms that we were not deluding ourselves in our assessment.

From here spent a couple of days in Canberra, a place often ridiculed as dull, bland or sterile, yet which we greatly enjoyed on this visit. A city planned from the ground up at the start of the 20th century, Canberra has the orderliness of Washington’s monumental heart, whilst exhibiting a far more modest monumentality. As the home of Parliament, the National Gallery and the War Memorial / museum, among many other significant institutions, it serves as a clean and refreshing shrine to culture and history, both Australian and international.

Back in Sydney now, the beach beckons and its lure is, as always, irresistible.

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