So it's the most overrated night of the year. But hey, at least there are fireworks. And this kind of looks like a fireworks explosion, don't you think?

Apologies if you're getting sick of the palm trees. I'm determined to keep going though!

A more detailed post to follow in the wee days of 2011... and many more posts to follow in all twelve months of 2011! Hooray!



Though I have been to Golden Plains at the Meredith Amphitheatre twice before, this year was the first time I attended the iconic Meredith Music Festival. As such, I took several cameras and loads of film with the intention of capturing everything I could. Of course, the weather was so dreadful most of the time that taking cameras from the (relative) safety of my tent was too risky. And so, I don't have the plethora of images I hoped for. But I do have some.

This photo is pretty much my favourite of the lot, because it really sums up my feelings toward the festival. As far as I'm concerned, there are two ways to look at this photo, which can both be applied to Meredith: with jaded cynicism or with optimistic celebration. If you take the former viewpoint, you might see ultra-hip North-side girls wearing the 2010 festival uniform (i.e. high-waisted, possibly acid-washed denim shorts - middle seam digging into the arse crack optional) and getting muddy and 'free' for the sake of it (this was around 4pm on the first day, and it wasn't yet raining) - because, It's Meredith, man. If you prefer not to take the cynical path, you might see in this image the recklessness and ebullience that has always been associated with youth. You might even think of classic music festivals from eras gone by, and feel privileged to be a part of this generation's equivalent. I really stand somewhere between the two.

Most of these photos offer the choice of cynicism or celebration, pathetic hipsters or enviable revellers. Of course, as the rest of them are my friends, I'm leaning toward the latter from here on in...

Looking through the photos from the weekend, I have realised that Meredith is largely timeless. What I mean is, it doesn't have a whole lot of 'twenty-first century' elements, and so images taken there often look like they could be twenty years old. When your friend drives an old Kingswood, this is especially true.

(Though I don't have an explanation for that giant air mattress.)

 I wasn't thrilled with the colour throughout this film, with the possible exception of this photo: look at that brilliant green against her burnt-orange hair! Glorious.

The great thing about taking photos from behind people is there is very little chance they will see you, which means your photo will be totally natural. Of course, it also means you don't get to see faces. But in this case, I think it looks fantastic anyway.

A side note: the girl is standing on an esky. Those blokes are that tall.

OK, so I guess at this point the bad weather was on its way. Though I don't like the silhouettes in the foreground, the colours in the sky are wonderful.

Before that bad weather hit, we had a few quiet moments with my favourite kind of sun: the late afternoon golden glow. Just stunning.

Cliched? Yes. But who cares, it still looks great.

Still a bit of a glow about Rich. Though I suspect that had little to do with the sun.

Great headgear. Great size juxtaposition. Great background.

Speaking of the background - how could I not take a photo of the cherished wheel? A rare lomo shot from the weekend; the sky clouded over after this and I refused to waste slide shots on a dreary canvas.

My only attempt at some Meredith–lomo magic, which didn't really go as planned - it's overexposed and largely unclear. But maybe that's perfect.


photographer + subject

A little while ago I went to an exhibition at the Heide showing photographic work from Carol Jerrems, William Yang, Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, all from roughly the same era (1970s–1980s). I was reluctant to trek all the way out to Heidelberg when I wasn't even familiar with any of the artists, but something about the promotional image (Jerrems' stunning 'Vale Street') told me I shouldn't miss it. I convinced a friend to drive me out one Saturday, and I'm so glad I was able to see work from these four wonderful photographers. Goldin's images are confronting if only because they are so unashamedly warts-and-all; Yang's visual stories from pre-AIDs gay Sydney are breathtaking in their intimacy; Clark's gorgeous presentation of mid-American youths doing drugs and having sex is a natural precursor to his debut feature film Kids (1995), and probably my favourite images from the exhibition; and Jerrems' depiction of 1970s Australia from a female perspective is both fascinating and inspiring.

While I usually write only about my own experiences and photos on this blog, I wanted to take a moment to talk about this fantastic exhibition because I have rarely been so moved by the work of other photographers (Rennie Ellis is the only other obvious example, but that's another story). Specifically, I want to talk about Jerrems.

Her work - at least that which was presented in the exhibition, though I suspect that constitutes a lot of it - is not consistently great. There were some images that didn't move me at all, and which I thought were quite ordinary. But when Jerrems took intimate photos of people, and particularly of women, she seemed to reveal these essentially universal emotions: pride, shame, lust, defiance, insecurity, power, fear. Maybe that's why 'Vale Street' is so famous; all these emotions and more are captured so perfectly in that one frame.

Occasionally, she turned the lens on herself. Standing in front of a mirror, camera partly obscuring her face, Jerrems would shoot herself. I have read interpretations that talk about a deconstruction of the female gaze, and while I'm sure that is in there, I think the images are powerful at a more basic level. For me, they show a woman who is intensely curious about her body. Her stance and gaze (where it's visible) reveal a calm inquisitiveness - a gentle wonder - that is only just prevailing over the self-criticism, shame and insecurity that every female feels at some point (and often too many) in their lives. This is reinforced with tragic execution in her hospital self-portraits, where she examines her mutating and dying thirty-year-old body. In all of Jerrems' self-portraits, she is looking at herself, for no one but herself, and learning to accept. In this way, maybe the deconstruction mentioned above is apt; Jerrems is reclaiming the gaze from the countless men (and women) who have judged before her. It's a triumph - over others and over herself - that a lot of women probably never reach.

Like every other woman and girl I know, I have experienced the volatile and highly charged relationship between the self and the body. For me it started out with indifference, before moving (with a lot of peer encouragement) to intense scrutiny, on to shame (manifested in the constant attempts to hide it), reluctant discovery, the first stages of acceptance, and most recently, the beginnings of pleasure and admiration. It's a vital process, and one I'm pleased to be in. But even as I approach total acceptance and celebration, the negative views of the body are impossible to kill. This ongoing battle between love and hate, acceptance and rejection, is undoubtedly what I respond to most strongly in Jerrems' self-portraits.

The photo at the top of this post is a direct response to how Jerrems' images made me feel. I'm not quite ready to reveal close-up details, too much skin, or even my face - but I am willing to really look at myself, and to embrace the aspects of my body that are beautiful, but which I always thought were unsightly. It's hard to post even this for fear of judgement. That I'm unattractive. That I'm attractive. That I'm unoriginal. That I'm vain. But then I think of Jerrems, and I know that I can't be judged if the image is for my eyes only. And it is.