Warning: High-horse alert. The following may contain some ranty, self-righteous material.
You may remember a way, way back, when the sky-gods still punished humanity with thunder and lightning, when human sacrifice was the order of the day, and when hyper colour t-shirts were just about the coolest thing a twelve-year-old kid could wear, I set myself a photo-challenge: “Things that don’t belong together.”
The idea of this photography challenge was to create an image containing disparate elements that somehow worked. Perhaps to be thought-provoking and if very lucky, aesthetically pleasing—think those adorable Facebook images of tattooed bikers in a tutu, holding a kitten while kissing their granny.
Then, as you do, my family and I headed off on a month-long adventure around Scotland and Ireland. We packed our rain-jackets and beanies, loaded up my Audible account with the complete Harry Potter Series (thank you J. K. Rowling and Stephen Frye for my children’s continuing survival) and we toodled our way across the globe and into some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen. The Highlands of Scotland can only be described as soul-filling. I’m sure you know what i mean, that sense of awed swelling you get as your eye can’t widen enough to take it all in.
This is Ireland and Scotland. Almost every road, every turn, every stop, another delight. More waterfalls than the CGI team of the Lord of the Rings could contemplate (sorry to my Facebook friends for bombarding you with almost all of them). It was paradise. For me at least. With my pasty skin and love of photography, Ireland and Scotland were just what I needed to recover from Perth’s relentless sun, heat and high contrast lighting.
How is this a post about a photo challenge? Well, it is, obliquely. The feature image above was taken towards the end of our trip on the Ring of Kerry, near Killarney in the Republic of Ireland. It is an image that tells a larger, sadder story about Ireland and Scotland.
When I was a child, the “Keep Australia Beautiful” campaign was in full swing. The T.V. reminded us constantly about litterbugs, “Clean-up Australia Day” was a big deal and thankfully still is. We were bombarded with the message that littering was out of the question. It worked, but I’m frightened that things are slipping.
In Ireland and Scotland, almost without fail I found litter or out-right rubbish dumping on every verge, in every river, and nestled between rocks at the beautiful waterfalls. The sides of the roads were strewn with plastic bottles, cartons, food wrappers, computers monitors. and. so. on.
Yes, I was in photography heaven, but I often needed to work my framing around rubbish, edit it out in photoshop or, if possible, physically remove it. Killarney was almost the last stop in our four-week adventure and sadly, was probably the worst of the dumping sites.
This is a cropped section of the above photograph (bottom left corner) and it shows what looks like a pet crate sitting amongst the mossy rocks.
This image was taken further along the road.
When cropped in to the bottom right corner you can see the witches hat.
These images were not taken where the large tourist coaches stop, but instead reflect the local community using their amazing landscape as a rubbish dump.
So now we get to the crux of my photo challenge.
What is it that doesn’t belong? People and their rubbish.
It’s not aesthetically pleasing but I hope it is thought-provoking.
New Challenge? Photograph numbers in an unexpected way.
This week’s challenge (albeit a little late) was “Old and Used”.
Sitting at my local cafe the other day I noticed the light fixture above one of the large tables and thought it would be perfect for this challenge. This cafe is set in the back of a bike shop and the owner has repurposed the materials he had at hand to decorate the cafe. Luckily I always carry my Olympus mirrorless camera with a 17mm prime (35mm full-frame equivalent) in my handbag for just such an occasion.
OLYMPUS OMD—EM5 Mark II Mirrorless Camera 1/8 sec, f/2.8, 17mm, ISO 200 (Four thirds cropped sensor)
These old bicycle wheels make up the main structure of a large light fitting, to which the creator has used ropes to hang the light globes from. It is a super cool set up and I particularly liked the contrast between the bulbs, the wheels and the white and black of the ceiling.
OLYMPUS OMD—EM5 Mark II Mirrorless Camera 1/13 sec, f/2.8, 17mm (Four thirds cropped sensor), ISO 200
Next week I will be looking at: Things that don’t belong together
Today is photograph day (well, technically yesterday was photograph day), but I spent this weekend doing taekwon-do. I took over a thousand photographs of other being doing taekwon-do meaning as well which meant I didn’t quite get around to the challenge I had set for the week. Rather than pulling an old photograph out of the archive and pretending that I took it this week I’ve decided to write a different post instead.
Today a friend sent me a link to an article about an ongoing twitter thread started by @gwenckatz (you can also check out the article from Electric Lit here). It is a conversation that is both hilarious and horrifying (the way all the best conversations are) because we get to indulge in the pleasure of calling out an idiot, and having a rant about how appalling some of the representations of women in fiction really are. The gist of the thread is this: a male author announced to the world that his characterisations of women are so on-point that the #OwnVoices movements (calling for diversity of representation) is unnecessary. This is because, his post suggests, a writer’s skill essentially lies in their inhuman ability to inhabit and empathise with perspectives that they have never experienced (don’t get me wrong, some writers actually do have this ability). This makes sense because talented writers possess innate extreme arty, mind-bending, talent. We all know that a writer need not be a woman, an indigenous Australian, a Syrian refugee, mentally ill, elderly or any other marginalised group in order to skilfully represent their experiences, opinions and world-view—I mean, what could experience possibly reveal that watching a bit TV doesn’t? This is because, he says, “It’s called writing”. If by writing he means the mechanical act of putting words on the page, then sure, he’s completely correct. He CAN write as a woman. All you need are some words: blah, blah, blah, she, blah, boobs, blah, blah, periods, blah, blah, crying. Right? Totally representative of women.
@Gwenckatz provides a myriad of examples of just how this guy aced what it is like to be a woman. His insight into the female psyche is uncanny, almost as though he was a woman. I don’t know about you, but when I think about my appearance, phrases such as “I’m hard to miss”, “a nice set of curves if I do say so myself” and “I blushed on demand (standard southern belle trick) and tossed my hair” (—Take. A. Deep. Breath.—) instantly pop to mind. For instance, I’m not typing these words, but rather I’m playing with the keys, teasing them with the light, feathery touch of my fingertips—obviously. I’m also revelling in the sumptuous curves of my love-handles—just so you know.
Outrage has rightly ensued in this twitter feed and sparked a call to: describe yourself like a male author would.
I love this challenge. I love it in so many ways. So here goes:
I could see him shudder when I spoke, both repelled and saddened by the words that came unbidden from my mouth. Opinions don’t make up for heavy thighs or bland, off-skew features. Quiet is sexy, I know that. I was sometimes considered okay-looking in that “it’s 1am and nothing better has come along” kind of way. In that beer-goggle kind of way. Though I’m not the kind of girl guys want to show to their friends.
I also thought it might be fun to flip it around and describe a male character in a way that men write about women. What do I mean by this if you haven’t linked through to the article above? Well here are some more examples that sparked this challenge in the first place:
“I could only imagine the thoughts that were running through his head. Naughty thoughts.”
“I could imagine what he saw in me. Pale skin, red lips like I had just devoured a cherry popsicle covered in gloss, two violet eyes like Elizabeth Taylor’s.”
“And, of course, my boobs. I had them propped up all front and centre, in a perfectly ladylike way. Well, kind of.”
WTAF? The secret is out. When I describe myself to other people, when I imagine what other people are thinking about me, I often conjure up images of oral sex, and there’s nothing quite so delightful as being thought of as “naughty”. Being infantilised and sexualised at the same time is as we all know—Just. The. Best. (I might be hyperventilating with rage right now).
What would happen if I described a man this way?
She watched me from across the room, pretending to look at her phone, but I knew what she was doing. She was imagining me naked, picturing the sway of my hips as I saunter from the shower to the bedroom, the swing of my cherry popsicle covered in gloss and what it might taste like. I like the feeling of her eyes on me, the knowledge that I’m driving her crazy. I smile at her, then look away, teasing. She has to earn the to right to see the real thing. I watch her though hooded lids…
Maybe I just vomited into my mouth little. You get the picture, I actually can’t write like that, even as a joke. It is beyond ludicrous.
As much fun as it is to make fun of this guy, it speaks to a bigger problem. This writer essentially wrote some male-centred erotic fiction for himself, changed the “she” to “I” and declared that he had nailed the female perspective. There are many male authors out there who can write women as completely formed human beings, but writing from the perspective of the other is not a simple matter of changing the pronoun. Fiction is supposed to help us explore the human condition. It is supposed to envelope us in story, history, and culture, and open up worlds we would otherwise never understand. Thank you @gwenckatz for calling this guy out, and if this turns out to be a masterful joke, thank you anyway because it got us talking.
This week I undertook the photography challenge: glow
I hoked through my box of goodies out in the shed and managed to find a string of coloured outdoor lights, set them up in the kitchen and turned off all the other lights in the room (except for the TV where my husband patiently put up with my mutterings, clicking and cursing).
I think I prefer this black and white, high contrast to the saturated colour of its counterpart below: both shot on Nikon D5, 105mm, ISO 800, 3 sec, f/32
The specific challenge this week suggested coupling symmetry with the theme, and so you can see in some of the images I have included the reflection of the lights in my kitchen bench top.
Each of these images have had the contrast increased, the blacks deepened and the saturation bumped up. What interested me most about this challenge was the dramatically different images I was able to produce by either clumping the lights together or stringing them out, as well as the different effects various distances and angles produced: from completely abstract in the first case, to fairly predictable and mundane.
This was a great little project to do in the evening at home with very little in the way of equipment needed. For those of you who aren’t aware, the starburst effect from the light source is produced by stopping the camera down (to f/32 in this case). The rays of light are made by the layered blades of the lens (like the iris in your eye), however, because the light is so restricted by the limited opening if the lens, a tripod is a must.
Next week: Monochrome | Old and used