Kids are prone to obsession. A generalisation, I know, but the combined knowledge from my own childhood, later years of babysitting and the new generation coming through the extended family tells me that youth is consistently marked by passionate fixation. I know a boy whose determination to collect rare Australian coins led him to spend hours putting money in vending machines and cancelling the purchase - apparently you don't get the same coin back - in search of those elusive commemorative dollars. His eternally patient mother was obliged to go through the process with him; he was just eight. My own mother confessed to keeping a painstakingly comprehensive scrapbook devoted to the St Kilda Football Club in her younger years (though her love was evidently fleeting as she soon converted to the mighty Demons). For me, it was The Simpsons and Prue Leith's Confident Cooking series. And as the teen years took hold, Rage Against the Machine, Quentin Tarantino and of course the obligatory high-school heartbreaker.
The subject of this photo is devoutly committed to all things sport. Most prominently, I believe, AFL and cricket. Around the time I took this (last summer) he was so immersed in cricket that he successfully requested the back lawn be spray-painted with the '3 Mobile' logo - then principal sponsor of the Australian Test Series - to match the 'G. I took the shot above using the Diana, which as I have lamented before tends to cut people's heads off if I'm not careful. Clearly, I wasn't careful - yet I just adore the result. Without a face to focus on, the image conveys two very powerful and wholly adequate components: a young boy + cricket. And that really goes beyond this particular child and his sport obsession to represent a century or more of young kids who love the game. The way the ball hangs effortlessly in his right hand while he gently assembles the bails with his left... I just couldn't have asked for a better outcome. Its unexpected beauty blew me away.
That I got two incredible images of the divine Mr Josh with his cricket paraphernalia is quite unbelievable considering the unpredictability of lomo photography and the fact that I was still getting the hang of the Diana. But here it is - the second great image of a boy in his element. (Um, no pun intended... though maybe his T-shirt adds a symbolic layer to the shots?) This one has a shot of Josh catching his cricket ball exposed over a shot of his old cricket scoreboard. I love the moment. I love the shading on his face. I love that you can see the gaping hole where his two front teeth used to be. I don't often gush so unashamedly over my own work, but these two photos have been dear to my heart ever since I saw them, and in fact I was reluctant to post them because I find them so special. Special for their aesthetic beauty, special for their Australianness, special for their gorgeous star cricketer.
Something else that is very special to me, and to this blog, is the incomparable film Pecker, in which the title character wisely states life is nothing if you're not obsessed. Thank you Pecker, and thank you Josh, for the always timely reminder of the irrepressible joys of reckless infatuation.
On my recent trip to the sunny North for Splendour in the Grass I had no choice but to shoot on my Holga as the festival rules stated "no SLR cameras". A ridiculous rule, but not surprising seeing as this particular festival seems hellbent on making sure all possible funds that can be squeezed out of the weekend go their way, from exorbitantly priced on-site liquor - the only alcohol option for those unwilling or unable to smuggle in their own - to the apparent threat that patrons may take professional-grade photos and profit in some way from them. (For the record, had I taken the F4 my photos would most definitely not have been professional.) In any case, with the Holga as my designated tool, I loaded it with black and white with the aim of getting some no-frills shots of the on-site, off-stage antics.
At the outset, I was imagining taking candid photos of humorously dressed, possibly intoxicated revellers, as well as capturing some of the inanimate absurdities that are found at every festival. As usual, things didn't really go as planned. For one, I didn't end up taking as many photos as I would have liked. Another downfall of the exercise was my unwillingness to get up close and confrontational with strangers for the crowd shots. But, in keeping with the apparent rule of my photography - that each film's only certainty is surprise - there were some unexpected gems to come out of the roll.
When I turned around and took this shot of the crowd relaxing on the ampitheatre's enormous hill while waiting for Little Red to take to the stage, I assumed it would be a bit of a dud. Regardless, I followed my urge to take it because that hill, when peppered with people as it is in the shot, looked quite breathtaking and I wanted to somehow capture that. In this endeavour I think I failed, yet I still love the shot. Here's why: the scene is very clear, in that it undoubtedly depicts a lot of people sitting on a hill with trees behind them - but the individual people aren't clear enough to focus on, or to detract from the overall scene. The blurriness around the edge of the frame enhances this anonymity, making for nothing more or less than an image of a crowd.
Another reason this photo delights me is because with all my close-up flash portraiture, I had almost forgotten that in natural (good) light, the Holga can and will capture a lot of people in the frame. Not individuals, but people. Which is really what festivals are like - a faceless mass of denim-short-wearing, leather-bag-toting, Ray-Ban-loving youths looking too cool. (Of which, admittedly, I was probably one.)
OK, I realise that the word-to-photo ratio on this one is kind of unbalanced, so while I will post most of the other photos from the festival another time, below is one of those absurdities I mentioned earlier. And if anyone can tell me exactly why they felt the need to display a roped-off but open-walled pristine toilet - which was presumably not intended to serve any practical purpose despite the inevitable temptation of more than a few drunken attendees not wanting to face the lines and repugnance of the port-a-loos - please do.
So you've met my F4 before, and you're pretty familiar with the Holga. But remember when I spoke about iPhone photography? Well today I'm going to show you the same basic image taken with all three pieces of photographic equipment.
The lights - at a mall carpark in Darwin - looked so pretty against the blue sky, and I thought that their cute simplicity would make them a good object to shoot in order to compare cameras. Also, as my Holga and my F4 had slide film loaded, testing them on the sky was perfect as these particular slide films really love blues.
And here they all are. I think it's an interesting comparison. They are all different, and this goes beyond their aesthetic qualities: one of them cost me about $4.00 to produce; one cost about $1.10; one was totally free. Does the result correspond with the monetary value? I really don't know.
Walking around Darwin's city centre (which is more like a town centre by most Australian city standards), what struck me most about the buildings is that they are all so dated. Not old, exactly, but extremely un-modern. Just as I realised that all of these outdated buildings were reminiscent of roughly the same era, it hit me - the architecture is uniformly dated because it was all built at the same time. Or rather, rebuilt.
I think everyone in Australia knows at least a little about Cyclone Tracy. For those who are a bit hazy, here are the essential facts: It hit the city of Darwin at around midnight on Christmas Eve, 1974. By Christmas morning, approximately 70% of the city was destroyed, 48,000 people were homeless and 65 were dead. Following the immediate aftermath of the disastrous storm, then prime minister Gough Whitlam set up a commission with the task of rebuilding the city within five years (despite some calls for the entire city to be relocated).
While I haven't been able to verify my suspicion, it seems indisputably obvious that these buildings were a part of that immediate late-70s rebuilding process. All of the images here were taken in the city centre, and there were countless others in the same style.
The abundance of architecture from this period - concentrated within the very small CBD - gives Darwin proper a fascinating, almost forgotten feeling. It's as though they (and who's they exactly? The government? The Australian people? I don't know) frantically streamed money into the city in order to rebuild it as quickly as possible, and haven't been back since.
And that's probably not far off the truth.
I recently mentioned that I would write about Darwin's architecture. When I (finally) develop my remaining Darwin shots next week I will go into more detail on the startlingly unique buildings in the city streets of the NT capital, but for now, take a look at the state's parliament house. Some of the detail eluded my lens, but let me explain: an enormous white, rectangular structure with striking vertical and horizontal patterns (executed with white poles) at several points around the building's exterior. According to Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory website, this parliament house was built between 1990 and 1994, making it the newest parliament house in Australia. The design aims to accommodate Darwin's tropical climate, and "its façade across the exterior screens and defuses 80% of direct sunlight from the interior of the building".
Though the above image doesn't capture these finer points, the blinding whiteness and linear style is well represented. In addition to this, the intense blue of the sky and the almost stereotypical palm trees (the perfect repetition of which complements the building beautifully) encapsulate the eternal summer of the city. It's all just so fabulous.