Sunday, December 23, 2012

First light, second light.

There's probably few times when we struggle more than against the first light of day. Our perspective is lost in the less than half-light, our footing is insecure and our confidence is still gaining ground from the ebb of the blackness. How comforting it is to see a familiar landmark, feel the grass beneath our feet and the moist air on our face. This is a time to remain steady, wait and watch as our mind comes to grips with the topography, and our fears abate, along with our hunger for the day to begin. Out there, in the grey of the day is everything we left behind and all that lay before us, waiting to be woken by the scream of a gull or the explosion of a wave against the rocks. We wait back just a little before we step into the day, fearful of stumbling, searching intently for signs of the jagged, precipitise edge  whose white face beckons for the light to mark the way.
We've seen this before, you and I, back when. We were younger and intrepid, pushing our fears aside and stepping into the light as if to bring it forward, defiantly, daringly, somewhat foolishly wanting to loose our footing and feel the ground beneath our feet move to a fate where we could go, then laugh into the dark and into the light of the new day coming.
Now we wait for the second light, the reassuring light that comes as we ponder the dangers ahead and anticipate our less eager actions. Nothing foolhardy for us now. The end of this next day draws as close as its beginning and we are in no hurry to meet that time head on.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Waking from a dream

I know I'm old when my dreams no longer contain images of nubile wenches gyrating frantically before me with lustful intent.
Now I dream about photographs - of Grass!
One of my students asked me the other night how do i come about taking a photo. Where does the idea come from? What is it I think about before I take the shot? She was particularly looking for a technical answer with regard to choice of camera, lens, exposure, PoV, etc. She got that but it set my mind into teacher mode.
I know there is a routine, almost a ritual, I will waddle through before I am content with the shot hanging on the wall but I haven't analysed it all that much. It sort of goes with putting my left sock on before my right and always sleeping on the door side of the bed. Today, with the internet down and the world reduced to shouting distance I put the extra time I seemed to have gained to good use.
This is a typical scenario.
On Sunday, Christine and I were out for a drive. Bored with waiting for Telstra to return our contact with the world we decided to take a look at it head on. On our wanderings we passed a small patch of rough land not far from the Botanic Gardens which seemed quite overgrown with grasses. A few native trees poked their way through the undergrowth like hikers out for a walk. It was a fleeting glance but it buried itself deep in that bit of my brain reserved for trivia.
During that night I was restless in my sleep. Images of long grass waved in the breeze and the smooth bark of gums flashed brilliantly in the sun. Distinct images, framed in black mahogany, begun to hang before me. I walked throught the grass among the trees in my half-sleep until I had a number of images clearly before me. I had, in a sort of way, worked out what I wanted to photograph and how it should look. I also decided there and then what I would need to get that in terms of gear, timing and PoV.
The next morning I followed my dream, so to speak. The feeling of expectation is quite high at this point. I don't know this place but it takes on a familiarity in a deja voi sort of way. After all, I was here last night, all night. As I walked I looked for the images in my head. There they were, just as I had designed and anticipated. I can move quickly into position and shoot without faultering. I do keep my eyes open for things I missed in my dreams, and there are usually a few, but generally I am happy with the few shots I had come for.

This sort of shooting doesn't require much processing. I know how they will look and I know how to get there. Within a few minutes they are ready for printing. I do some 6x4 proofs and print at least one for framing.

The answer to all questions

The light seems further away today, as if it is retreating to new ground and leaving the cold behind. If I peer into the dark from here I can see nothing but a fading memory surrounded by the noise of darkness. The line I stand on is that which separates one life from another, the old and the new, the past and the future, what we had and what we could have. The present is a thin knife edge between the two. We balance ourselves on this ridge with either precipice facing us. If we step back we slide into a chasm of semi-darkness in which fragments of our existance entangle like the straw and mud of a swallows nest. If we step forward we are blinded by the light of the unknown, terrified by the facts and figures which can change our very thoughts and beliefs, releasing us from one life and shoving us full frontal into the next.
In the half light of today, we can only wonder and wait. Tomorrow we will still remain in the half light of the present. One more day will fall into the abyss and another will gleam in the brilliance of the new light.
We are truly alone.

Closing down sale

It sounds so final. Closing down sale! The goods are no longer of any use, the register is no longer cashed up, the shelves no longer bare the burden of better times, the customers have found new fields within the sprawling mall of commerce. In a last ditch effort to reap some fodder from the dry stalks, we open the doors to a final rush. Tomorrow is no more, is the cry from the crowd. This is our last chance to lay claim to unwanted produce. But why? Yesterday it was worthless and tomorrow it will be discarded, yet the tenacity of the purchaser is to fight for every last thread of whatever waits in stock. The crowd will strip the carcass bare and lay the bones out for the creditors.
Is all this a metaphor for a life? Who will pick us dry when the time comes to close the doors? And who will be our creditors? What will there to show for a life well spent in the pursuit of satisfaction gained and lost, purchased and discarded, bought and sold? And will the mourners come at the last minute to salvage what they can in an undignified rush of sensual spending, only to discard the corpse and move to the next sale?
Keep your eye on the sign. I'm closing down.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Consistency in change

I've watched grass grow. It doesn't; until you turn away. My grandson never grew until he went away and came back. I never age until I look in the mirror. The city in which I live grows only when there is an election. The toothpaste tube never runs out until there is none left. Milk never sours until it is poured into a cup of coffee. My clothes always fit until I am about to dress for work and the car is always fueled up until Christine is about to go shopping.
Change is sudden. It will happen when we least expect, while we are inattentive, not watching. One moment the pods will be full and whole, and the moment we turn away the place will be scattered with the new.
Pay attention, my friends. Tomorrow you will be older, the cat will have left home, your partner will no longer open the door for you, your children will have children of their own and the lawn will need mowing once again.
Grass does grow, but not while you watch.

Knowing Darkness

In the half light of decay I can see no further than my next thought and listen only to the sound of the last word spoken. I am no longer blinded by the light of others or deafened by the profanities they speak. Every answer has a question, every thought a need to clarify, every vision is seen through an aging mist filled with mournful sounds and cries for help. Yet none of this is of any importance to me. I hold the next breath as one might grasp a rope at the edge of a precipice. The next heartbeat is the last. The next thought is the lingering remains of a lifetime of experiences. I must hold this inside, away from the dragnet of the reaper. Hold the visions as if from a waking dream. Retain only what is relevant for the next moment. If I cannot see I cannot be seen. If I utter nothing I cannot hear. All that is left is what I hide behind these broken hands and no-one can know who this is.

Learning to Swim

The fishing boat rises and falls on the turbulent blue-black sea. One moment I see it, riding high. The next it is barely visible...