Christmas Greeting from Down Under

I have just realised we have about three shopping days until Christmas and I haven’t made up my mind what to buy myself.

Apart from that, and in spite of my many notes to write a Christmas greeting, I’ve allowed my life to be taken over by too many coffees and cakes with friends, thus time retreated at warp speed.

Sometimes it was necessary to refuel with a glass of wine in the company of a friend or three, especially on a Sunday with Ted.  Ted, now retired, is using his drawing skills on a new project. He, like me, observes people and he enjoys making sketches of them. His new project is to observe and sketch people in wine bars and he has so far compiled a list of 70 bars in Perth and Fremantle. I haven’t seen many sketches but he’s gaining an encyclopaedic knowledge of wine.

It’s been a year of travel and broken resolutions. Why change the habits of a lifetime?

IMG_9764

I also had to renew my old passport which I’d grown rather fond of. It had about 100 little inked rubber stamped imprints in it (some countries are very mean) also a lot of those visas which look like badly forged bank notes and take up a full page. I like those, they make me feel I’ve actually been somewhere.

I found that I’d been away for over five of the past 12 months. A sort of record. My iPhone also tells me that I actually walked a total of 1679km on those travels. That is a record. I also made a lot of notes, took a lot of pictures and did very little with any of them. Time wasn’t entirely wasted though. I caught up with many friends I hadn’t seen for years as well as making the effort to meet friends from Facebook and various other bits of social media. Those adventures took me though Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. These are countries I tend to enjoy as they encourage me to re-read the old works of Graham Green, Orwell, Maugham and others who collectively help me feel as though I’m living in an exotic time warp. That’s if you call ten buck hotels with cold, mouldy, showers and beds which seem bigger than the rooms, so much so it’s impossible to walk around them, exotic. There’s also the added luxury of bath towels which are so thin they could be used as net curtains.
I remember my well travelled colleague Mac saying “You really know you’re travelling when you’re washing your socks and jocks in a bucket of water on a hotel balcony”. He’s right.

IMG_1194.JPG
Sunset over the Mekong at Luang Prabang

It’s been a year of highlights though I’m not sure  the offering of a  fried rat for lunch in the north of Laos was one of them. It did look tasty though, especially if you happen to be a cat.

A long trip down the northern section of the Mekong has made me plan an even slower trip next year.  Maybe it’s something about Lao hospitality but I was offered some deep fried insects by a lovely old lady en route.

IMG_4293.JPG
Lunch menu on the Mekong slow boat

I spent a couple of separate months in my favourite spot in Bali where an old mate, Chris, from our respective first marriage days took the trouble to fly from The Old Dart. Coincidently my photo buddy Mac came in from France. Say no more – we had one of the best weeks I can remember. Plenty of food, drink, many lies and much laughter. As long as we each manage to cling to our ageing bodily wreckage I hope we’ll be able to do it again. I may have to work a bit harder too!

I’ve been back in Fremantle for the past couple of months promising myself I’d write a lot more. I’ve got unfinished stories totalling over 30. That’s taking procrastination to extremes.

A couple of days ago I was exploring the town and was stopped by an elegant Chinese gentleman who questioned me about the abstract yellow paint on the walls in the High Street of the Fremantle’s West End.  I told him it was a little difficult to explain, though I did know preciselyy what it was about.

IMG_9620

I directed him to the bottom of the High Street, pointing out the steps to the old Round House prison and telling him to walk up the steps, turn around and look back. “All will be revealed” I said.

Snapseed

This is a very clever piece of art work installed by  Swiss artist Felice Varini, who has produced geometric optical illusions around the world.

And so 2017 sped past and ’18 is on the doorstep. With that in mind I wish you all the healthiest and happiest New Year possible and I do hope that at least some of us can catch up somewhere other than on Facebook.

Take care, stay well, watch this space.

Back to Back in Fremantle

I think most photographers have the work of the old master shooters firmly imprinted in their minds. Lisette Model was a photographer who’s simplicity of style appealed to me and some of her images of the backs of subjects have become icons.

I was wandering around Fremantle today and came across these two exuding inimitable style in the West End.

2017-09-17 FREMANTLE BACK 1.JPG

2017-09-17 FREMANTLE BACK 2.JPG

The Black Madonna

1 BBM 2107 6.jpg

Each year the fishing community of Fremantle has two ceremonies to ensure the fishermen and their boats are safe and the catches are good throughout the season.

The smaller of the two festivals, held in honour of The Black Madonna, is on the second Sunday of September and celebrated by the small Portugese community who live in the city. The larger Blessing of the Fleet is held in late October and conducted by the entire fishing community, mostly from Mediterranean communities, principally Italian.

Several Masses are held in St Patrick’s Basilica and a procession leaves there to parade the Black Madonna around the city’s street during the afternoon. It is a time for the younger members of the community to play a part in their industry. Many of these kids would be descended from migrants who established the fishing industry in the 1920s and will mostly become fishers themselves.

 

2 BBM 2017 2.jpg
The parade consists of a hierarchy of young people. These boys are in uniforms of the  gendarmery who will protect the parade

 

6 BBM 2017 4.jpg
It is one of the communities great honours to be able to carry one of several banners paraded through the streets

 

4 BBM2017 4a.jpg
Portuguese national costume is worn by many of the children

 

3 BBM 2017 3.jpg
Three elders of the Portuguese community stop at the half way point of the parade for a  fireworks display

 

5 FullSizeRender 20.jpg
Banners paraded through the local city’s local shopping streets

 

9 BBM 43.jpg
Children in national costume carry a set of ornamental fishing floats attached to a Crucifix

 

8  BBM 2017 5.jpg
The Black Madonna

 

10 IMG_1562 2.JPG
The fireworks, mainly firecrackers, put on a very noisy show. The kids tend to block their ears, some don’t like them at all and some are stoic.
11 IMG_1689 2.jpg
The Black Madonna, the Portuguese fishing communities treasured icon, passes through Fremantle’s West End, an enclave of heritage architecture from the gold rush days of the late 1800s

Bali and Beyond

Sea Change on the Horizon

The past few months have been the beginning of a watershed. A slight change of life style and direction. Only slight of course, I don’t like drama.

I have been living in Fremantle, Australia, for close to 40 years. Those years have been great fun, sometimes profitable and sometimes a touch irritating when it comes to glancing at the pile of bills alongside the bank statement. I imagine a few people experience that feeling.

I’ve pretty much covered Australia from top to bottom and side to side. Produced a number of books and written umpteen articles about everything from mining, agriculture, prospecting, cattle rustling, rodeos, fishing, pearling, diamonds … it goes on.

Now, with massive changes in the media resulting from new technology, great changes in photography for similar reasons and changes in my mind for no particular reasons, I have made a decision to take a sideways shift in lifestyle.

Bali, peaceful and charming

Fremantle is a little over three hours flying time from Bali, a place I enjoy for it’s laid back lifestyle, peaceful culture and charm. Thus I thought “Why not work from Bali?” It costs very little to live here in reasonable comfort and it is a convenient  point to reach pretty well anywhere in Asia. So now I’m spending a few weeks here looking for a suitable place with two or three bedrooms, a swimming pool and space for an office. Thus I can live a ‘fly in fly out’ lifestyle and friends are welcome to drop in when they wish.

The idea is to carry on doing what I do, produce a few more books of one sort or another, write a few articles and not make any rigid rules. I don’t do stress.

I’ve also made a commitment to shoot more film, black and white, as well as the digital colour  necessary for articles. More on that later but I have bought myself a rather indulgent Christmas present. I’ll show and tell in a later post, probably mid January.

Here’s the view from what I refer to as my ‘Lunch Office’. I also have a ‘Coffee Office’ and a little further down the road a ‘Beer Office’.

photo

I confess that I do enjoy taking snaps on my iPad. This was a straight shot which went through a sort of random button pressing process on the  Snapseed App which is far more entertaining than any computer games.

Back to the Streets

Trawling the Files

I spent a few days nursing one of those damned head colds which cause victims to reach out for a bit of loving care and attention and, when they don’t get it, to reach for the ‘medicinal uses only’ whisky bottle. This was a half bottle cold.

Being one of those characters who always seems to find his bread falling buttered side up I had a friend bring around some beautiful home made soup and another who arrived with a bottle of whisky. Both of them made me wish I could have more colds to use as bait and attract these people more often.

The upside of colds is that they offer an excuse to meander through the files and dredge for forgotten pictures.

Here’s a few to keep the ball rolling. I like pictures to be a little whimsical, something which may put a smile on peoples’ faces. At the very least I like pictures to have an obvious reason for being taken.

Street-Photo-8

There’s something funny about photographers. They always take up a sort of crouch when shooting.Sometimes I’ve seen them stand on a chair, then they crouch a little which takes them down to their normal head height.

Street-Photo-7

I was out shooting with my photo buddy Lidia D’Opera on what we termed a ‘pooch mooch’. Lidia was working on a book about dogs and I became a sort of deputy dog spotter. We both got this shot, how could you resist it? Check Lidia out at  http://www.lidiadopera.com.au and look for her books. 

Street-Photo-15

An artist working at Fremantle Markets. He’s there every weekend come hell or high water. The picture at the top left is a self portrait I think

Street-Photo-3

This was taken in Saigon. Somewhere under the plastic is a man selling newspapers. He’s sheltering from the rain.

Street-Photo-14

And this is a nice closing shot for now. I get the impression they were good friends.

Anzac Day

Each year Australia and New Zealand commemorate what is possibly the most venerated period of their history. At dawn on the 25th April, 1915, off the coast of Gallipoli, tens of thousands of troops landed on the beaches in an attempt to push through to Constantinople. In prolonged fighting over 8000 Australian troops were killed and the campaign, though a significant defeat, ensured that Australian and Kiwi troops gained a reputation as being among the toughest fighters in the world.

A dawn services marks the beginning of a day when families, many of whom lost relatives, assemble at memorials throughout the two countries. The day starts in a solemn manner but later, following what is known as a Shotgun Breakfast in many halls and clubs,  lashings of bacon, eggs, hot tea and rum are served to anybody who cares to join in. Following this a parade of old diggers and sailors as well as younger military people march through towns. The day becomes a celebration.

I’ve been taking pictures of Anzac Day for about 36 years now, the first in 1977 in Perth but mostly in Fremantle which has a very homely and slightly  disorganised feel about it. The military precision is not quite as precise as the bigger events.

I have generally used the occasion to wander around and shoot a few street pictures, mainly to record the event but also to keep myself tuned up. Until recently I used a Leica M6 with a 35 or 50mm lens though the earlier pictures were made with an M2. Invariably I used film, initially Tri X, more recently T Max 400  but for the last couple of years I have used  a little Leica D Lux 5. I’ve found the 24-90mm (equivalent lens) and the B&W  jpg processing in the camera to be excellent.

Here’s a selection of pictures from this years event with a couple from previous years.


L1170198

L1170196

L1170213

L1170206

L1170185

L1170202

L1170184

L1170230

L1170176

L1170192

L1170169

L1170162

L1170229

L1170241

This shot was taken as the old fellow was being wheeled onto the parade ground. Just before he joined the parade he whipped out a hip flask and knocked back a sly swig or two. Can’t blame him really.

Anzac Day, Fremantle  E 2011

This is one of my favourite shot. Taken in 1977 at the Perth parade. This old digger had walked over to what I assume were his regimental flags, removed his hat and stood contemplating them for several minutes …..

Anzac Day Perth E 1977 CORR

Can of Worms

I’ve only got myself to blame. After the last post which related to being dragged slowly and painfully into the digital age I went out and did a bit of street shooting, probably my favourite pastime. As I said previously I do use digital to shoot the magazine stories I work on, particularly if they need to be in colour.

For personal work I like to do things the old fashioned way which mainly involves wandering around the streets looking for slightly whimsical pictures.  I carry an old M6 with 35mm lens and a couple of spare rolls of film.

I wandered into town and roamed around a few favourite hunting grounds looking for likely suspects. I don’t like to call them victims. Thus I finished up outside the local markets where buskers put on shows. There are usually a lot of people around, a critical ingredient.

I’d had a reasonable day and jagged a couple of decent shots in between diving into cafes and warming up with a coffee. It’s cold down here at this time of the year.

Later in the day I processed the films and scanned this image, my favourite catch of the weekend.

Fremantle Markets 2012

© Roger Garwood 2012

Andrew, who I nickname Soobs, is a photographer colleague who lives on the other side of Australia these days. He read the last blog, regarding digital v film and another emailed exchange of opinions ensued. One thing about Soobs is that he does ask pertinent questions which, as much as I’d like to, are difficult to ignore.

I sent the picture to Soobs with some comments:

This is a straight scan from a TMax neg. I’m really pleased with the tones – a nice range with detail through to the deep shadows and highlights and it looks like film – and it is … and I can make a silver print if want to. So there! 

I had previously made some comments about the advantages of shooting film, thus opening a can worms:

Needless to say Soobs I had forgotten to mention what I feel is the most important aspect of film. 

In a nutshell the images actually exist. In a computer they don’t. They are a collection of 1s and 0s which are susceptible to the vagaries of technology, ranging from glitches in computers to the treadmill which traps us into continuing updates and upgrades.

By shooting neg on important material I’m doing two things. One is not losing some well earned skills which do need to be kept in tune. The other is the archival characteristics of film. I’ll add to that the ability to make silver prints as well as digital images. 

I think you’ll agree that a scanned neg doesn’t look bad on a screen either. In that regard I’d be the first to admit that times have changed and, to make a silly estimate, it’s clear that 90% of people will view 90% of pictures on a screen. 

I don’t share the notion that film is dead. All the stats show that film sales are increasing throughout the world, as are sales of film cameras. Leica make about 400 film cameras a month. I think that my final ‘camera to last a lifetime’ will be an MP but it can wait. Like the iPad I don’t actually need it, but I want it.The likes of Linhof, Sinar, and others, as well as custom manufacturers of large format gear, are experiencing increases in sales. All formats of film sales are increasing. Paper and chemistry is readily available so I believe the prophets of doom should get back in their cages. 

So, from where I sit, which is currently in front of an iPad, an M6, a steam radio and a plate of poached eggs on toast, I feel the sensible decision is to cover both bases.   

Of course I only say these things to stir him up a bit. It always works. Soobs fired back a series of  well considered comments:

1. People who use film nowadays are analogous to craftspeople who build their own houses from scratch; or – more relevant, perhaps – to those who breed goats, crop the wool, spin it to thread, then knit sweaters. It’s highly skilled, a labour of love, the product is superb – as per your film practices – but for the vast majority of people, it’s out of the question. It’s a niche skill within a set of niche skills. To say this is not in any way to be negatively critical of people who breed goats, or shoot and process film. They just choose to do it differently.

 2. The product you get is not necessarily any better than a more commercially produced one. (cf Simon’s printing)

 3. A negative can be lost, burnt, scratched, generally damaged. It has to be looked after very carefully. So do digital files. There’s no inherent archivability advantage to a neg – or a dig file. Depends on how they’re looked after.

 4. You can make archive quality silver prints from dig files. So once you silver print a dig file it’s ‘as if’ it came from film. Longevity  doesn’t of course apply to colour prints from either film or dig. 

I freely admit to being a dinosaur and haven’t had time to get back to Soobs on these issues, non of which I particularly disagree with. (For the record I do have a few chickens and have given serious consideration to getting goat to save me mowing the lawn). However, one underlying point I made is that I love the feel of a good camera. And for street shooting I enjoy something small and discrete. I’m convinced these big digital cameras, which look like Darth Vadar on steroids, really do upset people. I also like to get relatively close to a subject rather than ‘spying’ on them with a long lens. Working like that is a bit like shooting ducks on a pond – easy!

Why Am I Doing This?

That’s a difficult question. It’s not because I’m bored. I’m not. I’m happily earning a precarious living preparing features for magazines.  That  involves a bit of  writing, a bit of photography and a bit of travelling. I also enjoying sitting around with colleagues  enjoying sunshine, fresh air and sharing notes about what’s making the world go round. Sometimes that involves navigating our way around a few wine bars.

I like this industry. It’s commonly called photojournalism. I was lured into the media because my mother taught me to read before I went to school, thus print media is a large part of my conditioning. I didn’t see television until I was about 16. That’s a slight exaggeration as I did watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth on a television and can remember being told what a privilege it was for me. Let’s not go there but in later years I did spend a considerable time as a sort of proto-paparazzi, chasing the very person I had watched on the TV as she was crowned.

I started work in Fleet Street as a stringer for the Daily Sketch and the Daily Mail and then went onto the London staff of Paris Match. Now I simply freelance, work on my own ideas and syndicate the resulting stories. Then I spend a bit of time with colleagues, navigating a few more wine bars.  Such is life and I have to admit that in terms of lifestyle things don’t get better.

But where next I ask?

It’s clear there are many changes happening in the media and I feel it’s essential to become accustomed to working within eMedia. There are many online magazines emerging; newspapers are collapsing and the new era of electronic media is expanding at roughly the same rate as the known universe. One of the eBenefits is that it’s possible to publish a blog without the  constraints placed by conventional media, and I want to be part of it.  A simple blog is a humble beginning. I feel blogging can be fun, I hope it will be anyway. I can be my own media boss and that is the real challenge. In their own sweet way every blogger can nibble away at media moguls’ empires, challenge their editorial control and offer those who do read blogs an alternative opinion to the mainstream manipulation of public opinion. And of course there is the added advantage that we can become mega bloggers, like the Huffington Post, sell out for squillions and spend the rest of our lives relaxing on large yachts.

So this is my first effort. Over time I’ll probably talk a bit about ideas, cameras and lenses, writing and travelling. I won’t give ideas away until I’ve finished working on them and sold subsequent material – I don’t want to give the competition too much of a head start and believe me this is a very competitive  industry.

I have spend time lecturing in both journalism and photography and I may voice some of my opinions about teaching practices. In that respect I’m  often at odds with mainstream thinking.

By and large my blog will be a random selection of past work and experiences. To kick start I’m posting a picture taken several years ago, several decades ago in fact. It’s utterly sexist but I like it. I’d be mad if I didn’t.

I slipped out of the office to buy a bottle of red before I went for a lunch with my erstwhile business partner, Trish Ainslie. The hotel over the road had a small bottle shop and as I waited at the counter I looked into the bar. This picture was taken after the then Premier of Western Australia, Charles Court (a real wowser) had banned strip shows in pubs. Fremantle is a port city and the pubs were patronised by wharfies, the dockworkers who enjoyed a bit of entertainment  with their beer. So in a true Australian spirit the very next day,  following the ban on strippers in pubs, we witnessed the advent of what became known as Skimpies. They were very welcome and the beer tasted pretty good to.

I am in the habit (or was, pre digital) of carrying an old Leica and 35mm lens around, loaded up with Tri X in those days. I could see no reason to ignore this picture. I didn’t realise at the time that it had started me on a distinct path, a change of direction, as to the type of stories I liked to work on. But more of that later.

Skimpy Barmaid, The Fremantle Hotel. circa 1987

The photograph was taken with a Leica M4-2 and 35mm Summilux lens. The exposure, on Tri-X, rated at 400asa was probably about 1/30 sec @ f2. I can’t remember what wine I bought but it would have cost about four bucks. Lunch would have been the Roma’s chicken, mushrooms and chips – that’s about all I ever had there. I have a cruel sense of humour, I give this picture to friends on significant birthdays, just to remind them how good life used to be before they hit a pensionable age.