Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Far horizons

Some days the horizon seems such a long way off. If the lines of convergence meet at infinity, that's where I'll find it; that mystical and elusive junction between sky and ground. I can trudge all day and it doesn't get any closer. The same smooth line stretching from somewhere to nowhere. The tide doesn't carry it any closer, the Sun doesn't warm it to me and the black evening sky only hides it from view until the Moon rises. Clouds seem to fall over it's sharp edge, ships appear from nowhere, a dry hot wind pushes the sand from under my feet. Everyone has their horizon, every place, every sky, every sea, every piece of land on which we stand. We can look from afar and dream or we can move forward, either way this strange junction remains precisely where it has always been; just out of reach.

Friday, May 25, 2012


We stand centre stage at the end of our performance and wait for the applause. Blinded by the light, struggling to see beyond, into the blackness, we feel the pregnant pause, the eternity between completion and the complement; time to contemplate for both actor and audience. More than a note has been played, a word spoken, a step danced, a ball juggled, a wig worn and a costume changed for the sake of this performance. Little does the audience know that this has been the performance of a lifetime, filled with drama, laughter, tears, pain and the odd lost script line. Act after act, scene after scene, the show went on and the performer gave what he had; never more, never less but always enough. He has paid his dues and broken more than a leg or two. He knows nothing of his audience, only of himself and they also. yet they come to see him perform his art. They expect to get their moneys worth. They are not disappointed. Still he waits. Then a pair of hands come together and the applause begins. The light fades. He takes a bow and leaves the stage into darkness. He's done his job. He is pleased. There is no encore. The theatre empties for the next performer and a new act. The dust settles on on the stage and silence waits.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Silence broken

It's eight o'clock. Once again the house is quiet. I can hear the tiles shining in the new light. Fragments of last movements glisten in the shadows. An ant treks across the kitchen floor looking for remnants of rain from heaven. A thud penetrates the glass panel through which I can see the rest of the day. A dove lays at the foot  of the door, dazed and lifeless, a feather flutters above it like the halo calling it away. Stupid bird!
I can feel the silence at my back, calling me to shake it loose from its cage. Not yet. I listen to nothing. It tells me all. The restitution for living is in the stillness of silence. It bares witness to my thoughts and reconciles them with peaceful solitude. One thought, one moment; separated by the emptiness of quiet.
Gone! Time to move.
Manring, Metheny, Mehldau caress the walls with rhythms. Soft and warm. The silence is broken. Not broken, stirred; gently. Notes split the air and leave the space between for long enough that it can be heard again. I search for the silence again. It's there, blending with the life of noise. Its music and I am surrounded by it. It will keep me company through the day until the dust is disturbed once more and the silence rests until tomorrow.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Back stage

Any building has a back door as well as a front door. It doesn't have a welcome mat on which to wipe your feet or a chime to greet you. It's not adorned with flower pots, numbers and the name of the resident. The back door is for the tradesmen, the peddler of goods, the kitchen hand. It is purely functional. Back doors don't encourage us to enter. They suggest austerity and defensiveness. They are secure. A deterrent to the passer by. Shapeless forms in a solid defense. Abrupt frames with little indication of what lay beyond. There is no path to guide us, no light to illuminate the way. Just a door in a wall. Yet we all have one; a back door. It's the other place. The one we use more often than not. It's the familiar place of home and work. We let the dog out in the morning, bring the groceries in, enter the garden, attend to the refuse, find our refuge, take our friends, leave open when we are home, secure at night for the safety of those within.
'Have you locked the back door?' is a catch cry of any neighborhood in the late of any evening, before we settle to our slumber.
It is our guardian.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Crossing over

Every time we move forward we cross over from one place to another. There is no going back. Time has taken care of that. From the old to the new, the physical, mental and social destinations beckon us forward. Our vision provides us with a new perspective, new dreams, new friends, new adventures, new space to stretch, strengthen and test ourselves. If we look back we see the old; changing, shrinking like the streets of youth. We might look longingly or with rejoice at moving away but we cannot go back and change that. It will change without us.
The gap in between is sometimes shrouded from our vision. Times of torment, trepidation, anxiety, mistakes, learning and re-learning are easily forgotten as the new adventures spread out before us like a carpet of new grass. Without the space between we have no past and there is no future. We all must pass through somewhere. Others will see it for you and fear for you. They will want you to follow their path. Be guided, but draw your own map. Take water from them and eat from their basket; then welcome them into your world on arrival. You may be on your own but you are not alone.

Another way

200 years isn't a long time in the history of an art form. Photography is an embryo compares to most forms of artistic expression. We are still trying to figure out how it works, what we should include, how we should interpret the results, even learn the language that has yet to be invented. We get tied up with the technical aspects and revel in the complexities of the New Form. In blinding ourselves with the external parameters of the process, the image within us can be lost.
With a single strand of reed from a billabong and a few jars of paint, Eric is able to weave a tapestry of his life and that of his country and ancestors in a slow and patient rigor that is beyond most of us. When he paints he is painting for a culture, his family and his decendents. The image forms is clear in its meaning. The story is as old as his culture. It is his dreaming which was that of his father and his father's father. His son's will dream in the same vivid way: he hopes.
He also paints for the tourists. He, like all artists, need to eat as well.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cultural divide

Framing and context isn't everything in a photo but it sure goes a long way to getting a message across, whatever the message is. The world around us is sharply and savagely edited by the incisive boundary of the viewfinder. we include and exclude to achieve our goal. And like the spoken word, the contents, once recorded, are there for all to perceive and conceive. But it doesn't stop there. We then place the photo in a new context; the hands of the viewer. The new setting, that of the viewer, renders new colour to the already existing hues. The photographer may ask 2 questions: 'what do I include within the frame to get my message across?' and 'where do I place the photo for maximum impact?' The photograph does not bare witness to reality, only the actual will do that. The photograph bares witness to the power of the photograph and our own misgivings.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The guitar player

D301223, a photo by tom.dinning on Flickr.
'He's really good, grandpa'
'He is'
'I bet he practices a lot'
'He does'
'If I had some money I'd give it to him'
'The music is free. Go tell him you like it. That's free as well.'
The young man smiles at the guitar player and the guitar player smiles back.

Cultural divide #2

What fence doesn't divide me from you, us from them, enemy from foe, neighbor from neighbor? 'Keep Out' screams the barbs and locks. The air and light is free to cross. Seeds from the grasses, birds seeking a nesting place, something small and furry scuttles under the bottom strand. I can stand here and see what you have and it's no different to mine. So why do we squabble. There is room for us all. My gate is open. Drop in for a cuppa any time. Let your sheep graze in my paddock. We'll keep the fence but keep it low enough that we can chat over it.

The sand beneath your feet

There is no path that takes us nowhere. Each path moves us from and to another place. With that journey we take with us what we learned from the past in preparation for learning in the future. We step lightly yet carry a heavy burden. Our pulse races with anticipation of some loss yet there is nothing to be lost. With every step we gain ground. There is only growth in following the path. Something or someone will be at the other end to greet you. You will be among friends. One of those that bring familiarity to your new home will be yourself. You cannot leave that behind. Self is what holds our hand and comforts us as we dig our heals into the sand that leads to the shed at the end of the path.

Pillow talk

What goes on here?
This can only be the remains of an event that is far from my understanding. A child's game, a rendez-vous, a grollo for prayer, a pile of refuge. I have not doubt that whatever it is it is of great importance to the people involved. This is no accident. Great care has been taken to ensure everything is in its rightful place and on leaving, nothing remains except the objects of play, pray or lay.
I can't disturb this. This has memories that will outlive me.
We all have our sacred places. Please do not disturb.

The shadow line

I wish I could draw.
Its such a graceful process; drawing. Each line so purposeful, so meaningful, so delicate. It is as though the face grows from the end of the pencil and spreads like oil on water over the paper. Tones appear from no-where, form and structure blend in harmony. The actions of the drawer are equally harmonious but with an added tension and intensity that takes them away from where I am, causiously watching the miracle unfold, and to a place they can call their own. What entices them to do this? Are they doing this for us? I doubt it. This is their world where they can create order out of madness. They can mirror the world as they see it. We need to stand back and observe. Our task is to admire and not to interfer.
How I wish I could draw.
I guess I will just stick to taking photos.


Who will remember the Amelia C? After a lifetime of trawling the Gulf this bulky beauty, with her current make-up of rust and peeling paint will be scuttled and become a home for the animals she helped capture. There is no irony here. This is the way of the sea. Death comes gracefully. What is taken can be returned. Tomorrow a young man will take his tinny out to the reef and cast a line down to the decaying frame. He won't remember her name. He doen't have to. She will welcome him anyway.


William Eggleston knew how to capture the everyday occurrences of his home. He recognised the beauty in its ordinariness yet he had no intentions of recording beauty in the conventional sense. He gave a strength to his world that is punishingly real and equally recognisable.
Eggleston can help us all see what we miss.


I don't mean to be scary. I understand you must preserve your freedom. But stay a while. I'll just watch from here. You do what you need to. If anyone comes I'll alert you. Please stay.
I do know how you feel. Trust is everything. Some days I wish I could fly.
Maybe tomorrow I can get a bit closer.

Page #3

What lies behind the wall at Number 90? Something we should not see, I suspect, judging from the formidable barrier provided by the residents.Perhaps a fortress guarded by savage dogs on long chains, hungry for flesh. Maybe a cortisans court or a den of iniquity where bare breasted nubiles flaunt themselves before the glaring eyes of the lechers who covet them. There may be secrets behind this wall that we should never hear. Whispers of deviance or dalliance. MI5, CIA, ASIO and other acronyms of mystery and intrigue.
Number 90 is telling us: 'Move on. There is nothing here that concerns you.'


Its a miracle! I plug the chord in and this marvelous machine sucks the dust off the floor, along with a small toy, a beetle, 2 spiders and their web and a button I have been searching for. No-one else in this house seems to be able to do this. 'Tom, can you do that thing with the machine that makes that funny high pitched sound?' is the pathetic request from 'Her Ladyship'.
It's called a vacuum cleaner and the act of using it is called vacuuming.
My sister brought a young man home to meet my parents many years ago. My father said her appeared to have the intelligence of a vacuum cleaner. The young man must have had a retractable chord for I saw no sign of a 3 pin plug protruding from his rear.


We all like to leave our mark. Some wait for the very end and summarise their life in stone, suspended over a hole in the ground in which our final remains become the excrement of a lesser life. Others will scratch their philosophy on a wall, or scribble, in passing, a small note to the next passer by. Its a gesture, lke a nod of the head or a print on a T-shirt. The words label us as part of the continuum and we have made our mark, as brief and inconclusive as it may seem. Tomorrow it will fade in the light of the Sun or loose its place in the context of a new generation. But if one person lives their life by this, then that may well be enough. Someone will read it and possibly stop to think: 'Is that worth knowing?' Then we know we have begun to change the world.

How sure are you?

How sure are you? Step in front of a fast moving train and there’s a more than fair chance you’ll not survive to tell the story o...