plastic summer

Whenever I see sun-drenched, washed-out images like this, I can't help but think of this song. Like the tune, such photos automatically bring to mind memories of wilting in front of fans, feeling the heat rise from the footpaths, aching for the ocean, tasting sweat on your upper lip. Sure, a lot of these things are unpleasant, but their very existence implies greater things that only summer can deliver: quenching that desire for the sea in one glorious dive, walking barefoot through the balmy air of a hot night without the need for a cardigan, embracing the sweat and giving in completely to the all-encompassing feeling of heat. It's a pretty marvellous thing.

The weather is brilliant in its capacity to pardon behaviour that would otherwise be deemed somewhat inappropriate. Like lying on the couch with your housemates all day, taking turns to spray each other with water from a $2.99 Kmart spray bottle, because your beautiful old house is badly insulated and you don't have air con and there's not a damn thing else you can do.

Driving in the summer. Everyone remembers what it was like to take family trips in a car where the air con consisted of four windows wound as far down as they could go and the wind matted your hair and threatened to blow all your eyelashes off while it was at it. Hell, if you're anything like me it's not even a distant memory; who doesn't have a friend who drives a bomb? I reckon Craig here is in a car that would definitely have air con, but perhaps with an eight-hour, hungover drive to Adelaide ahead of him, cool air isn't that great a consolation.

Well it wouldn't be summer in Australia without alcoholic refreshments, and it wouldn't be summer in Melbourne without a bloody beer garden or two. The smoking laws mean that beer gardens are utilised year-round as those craving nicotine are happy to brave the crisp air, even in the depths of winter, in order to indulge the addiction. The upside of this is now we have even more choice when it comes to outdoor drinking in the warmer months. Providing blessed shade while the sun is fiercely high in the sky, the umbrellas soon become redundant as that gloriously gentle setting sun creeps under their domain and bathes the drinkers with an early evening embrace. Warm, golden sun, ice cold cider, the promise of a joyously warm night ahead: is there anything better?

Summer in Melbourne can be pretty ruthless at times, but I say roll with it, take the lows with the highs and give thanks for the kind of conditions that we can only dream of during those brutally icy mid-year months.


portrait of the week: maydia

I couldn't decide what to post about today so I have gone back to the portrait of the week idea in order to stall a little before I post a larger entry. But this photo is actually worth more than just a fill-in between 'proper' posts. There are a couple of reasons why this is very deserving of its own post. Firstly, it's my sister, stupid! So naturally she should be entitled to stand out on this blog. Secondly, this photo is fantastic! Anyone who has visited this blog before would know that I'm crazy about the black-and-white film/flash combination, so that automatically adds appeal to the image. Then there is the expression - so full of character while at the same time extremely flattering! Win-win!

The story behind this photo also adds some interest, if only to me. We were at a house party in Fitzroy while Maydia was down for the Christmas break, and quite late into the evening we went into the bathroom. Why? Hmm, admittedly the memory is a little hazy here. Possibly to discuss something away from the crowds and the music, but more likely we both needed to use the bathroom and were sufficiently inebriated not to worry about sharing the experience, so to speak. In any case, Maydia was sitting on the edge of the bath, and when I decided to take a photo of her, this is the expression she pulled. Thanks, Maydia!

I've written before about the benefits of taking photos late into an evening, when the drinks have been flowing. This is more proof of such benefits - because not only do I get a completely uninhibited portrait, but I have captured a memory that I'm pretty sure wouldn't be there without photographic evidence. Admittedly, I treat my cameras somewhat poorly after a few drinks, but with results like this, I have to say, SOZ, CAMERAS. You're going to be bashed around for a while to come.


putting your cutest feet forward

Even the most straightforward photos of kids are invariably gorgeous. Everything we know is miniaturised and injected with a whole lot of innocence, and it's a combination that is sure to melt hearts and elicit a lot of 'oohs' and 'aahs'. I recently spent a couple of hours with three precious kids that I am lucky enough to be very close to, and I took a couple of rolls of film of their irresistible faces. But I found myself completely (and surprisingly) drawn to their feet.

It got me thinking about photos of feet. Feet don't have a face with which to express emotion. And while feet and legs are relatively flexible, there is a limit on the number of ways you can make feet look different. I mean, feet are feet. Some are less attractive than others, but really, they all look pretty similar. So why do they make interesting photos? Well in the case of the top photo, the interest is definitely in what you can't see: where is she that enables her legs to dangle like that? The fence in the background is subtle but adds a nice element of the ordinary, and perhaps of backyards, which leads to the idea of playing. The different placement of the legs also suggests that the owner of said legs is climbing. So it says a lot about what's happening without showing much at all. I adore that photo. The one immediately above this paragraph holds the answer to the initial riddle: the kids are on a swingset. This one isn't as effective as the top one, but I still love it because there are so many things in it that are universal signs of childhood: bare feet, classic swingset, climbing as play, backyard/fence, and perhaps getting up to mischief by climbing above the swing instead of swinging on it.

Feet are absolutely the star of this shot. For starters, the only part of Holly that is in sharp focus is her feet. Her gloriously dirty feet! Secondly, Holly is looking up at the owner of the feet on the slide - but we can't see who it is, so we wonder what the interaction is between the two kids. All we have as a clue is the first child's feet and the direction of Holly's glance (and the expression on her face!).

So adorable. While it looks out of focus (and largely is), the sharp focus exists on that very small part of her body - yes, her feet. Probably appealing because it's just a little different to usual photos of kids on swings, both in the focus and the angle. And the fact that we don't see a face - the character is discerned from her sitting position (very childlike and unladylike - very like Holly), her clothes, and her gorgeous little half-painted-toenailed feet.

This black and white image is such a spot-on portrait of Holly. Unbelievable. She is defiant and stubborn - and the position of her feet leads me to imagine that she was standing just so, with hands on hips, ready to argue with anyone game enough. She is a total dag, and almost tomboyish, which is in complete opposition to her wonderfully girly sister Jas, and you get that in this image, too: she is evidently OK with dirty feet, wearing only one thong, and wearing that thong on the wrong foot. What an amazingly cute kid.

And here they are again, making another grubby appearance. This is great because you can tell she is on a swing as her legs are dangling, so it adds a kind of movement to the image. And again, it has so many elements of childhood - the bare feet, the willingness to get them as dirty as possible, the joy of feeling dirt between your toes and not caring at all, the grass, the toy in the background. The narrow depth of field enhances the photo too, and for me lifts it above your standard snapshot.  I also love this because it goes some way towards explaining why her feet are so grubby in the other photos!