No Go Zones

Every quarter I write a piece for the APS Focus page in Australian Photography magazine. This is my latest piece, published in the December 2017 issue now in newsagencies.

As published:EPSON MFP image

Are there no-go zones when it comes to what we photograph?

My local photographic society recently held a most interesting discussion regarding the ethical questions that need to be considered when taking, or perhaps more importantly, publishing street photography. We talked, and shared views, about such things as our whether photographing children in third world countries that we visit was the same as international tourists photographing Australian kids. We debated whether photographing homeless people is appropriate. We considered whether street photography involves a different set of ethical principles to other areas of image capturing. We compared what we might do with the practices of the paparazzi photographers who have come under fire.

But the area I want to discuss here is somewhat different to street photography. It relates to a much more personal, or intimate, time for most of us. We photograph most of the major events in the lives of our family members. We capture images of our children from very soon after they are born, at their baptisms, each time they have a birthday, at times like Christmas, during their involvement in sports or other activities, appearing in school concerts (provided the school allows it), and arriving at their Year 10 or 12 formals.

Later in their lives, we photograph people when they graduate from secondary school or university, when they get engaged or married, when women are “heavy with child”, and even at the time of birth. All through our lives we capture images of family and friend gatherings. We photograph our parents as they get older. Occasionally other people even photograph us when we aren’t behind our own cameras.

Nowadays vast numbers of images of ourselves, our friends and our family members are captured on the cameras built into our smart phones.

But it seems there is at least one area of our life journeys that we generally do not photograph in my culture. I’m thinking about funerals. Yes, we photograph our friends and families at the wakes or other gatherings that follow the celebration of the departed one’s life – because we must take the opportunity presented by the fact that we have all come together. After all, it is so often at such occasions that we catch up with others that we rarely see in person!

However, in my experience it is rare to see photographs taken during the funeral service or, indeed, afterwards until that family photo opportunity is taken at the wake. I wonder why? Is it just my personal experience and you are saying to yourself that I must move in very different circles to you? Or am I right and it is also your experience? As an aside, I note that I have seen videos made of funeral services much more than I have seen still photography taken at them.

I recall seeing, and photographing, funeral processions when traveling in Europe – largely because the “hearse” was ornate and seemingly from another era. I have seen images of funeral occasions in some exotic overseas locations published in newspapers or magazines. Because the locations are exotic to us?

Of course, there are always photojournalists at the funerals of people in the public eye for one reason or another. And, obviously, they photograph the funerals – at least the crowds outside that include other celebrities.

But how often have you seen photos taken when you have attended the funerals of ordinary folk? How often have you taken images yourself at such events? If, like me, it is rare for you to have taken shots at such funerals, why is that?

If we photograph everything else in a person’s life journey, why do we leave out the final step? Is it because we are grieving ourselves? Is it because we feel the immediate family would be offended? Does it just not occur to us? Am I in error? Are there other significant markers in the journey that we omit to photograph?

A search of my own digital or digitised images reveals just a few taken during funeral services. Only one of them is in a category that I would call personal, showing a mourner with head bowed just beyond his mother’s casket. Others are of the scene inside the chapel prior to a cremation, and of the flowers in the church or inside the hearse before it leaves for a cemetery. There are a small number showing mourners at the graveside gathering around the casket before it was lowered into the grave.

And there are a few taken as a funeral cortege assembled at the celebration of the life of the wonderful Australian photographer, Robyn Beeche. I think she would have been pleased that this near to last step of her life journey was photographed.

Respect

Respect

 

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Canberra – Our Streets

A few months ago I was approached by a friend to be one of a small group of Canberra photographers to do an exhibition of Canberra street photography. In due course, three of us – Ian Copland, David Chalker and myself – agreed to put together an exhibition. A venue was arranged. We then set about capturing our images. Along the way we agreed on how many prints we each would provide, the size of those prints and the prices we would ask for them. The exhibition will be hung on 21 November 2017 and be on display from 22 November until 4 December at The Front Cafe gallery in Wattle Street, Lyneham (in Canberra). We will officially open the exhibition at 6 PM on 22 November. We have publicised the exhibition on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and by distributing this card through various channels and via email:

EPSON MFP image

We have also sought to get publicity in various local print media.

Eventually I had gathered some 340 images to choose from. The task was not altogether easy, but the 14 A3 size prints that I eventually chose to print are below.

Busking - Jamison

Busking – Jamison

This image of a young busker outside the Jamison Centre in Macquarie was taken on 13 August 2016, before the exhibition idea was floated. I had to include it in the exhibition because I love the colours and the diagonal shadow. The seated man using his laptop seems oblivious of the busker’s performance, but may have been enjoying it.

White Goods - Belconnen

White Goods – Belconnen

This image was taken outside the door to a warehouse where I was waiting to take delivery of a new item that I had purchased for our new home on 24 March 2017. The woman in the image was standing a short distance along near these old white goods. I grabbed the image on my iPhone.

Wet Crossing - Manuka

Wet Crossing – Manuka

This image was also taken on my iPhone whilst waiting to be picked up on an extremely wet night in Manuka on 30 March 2017.

Bar Upstairs - Manuka

Bar Upstairs – Manuka

On the same wet night and using the same iPhone camera, I took this image of an older man in the Manuka shopping centre, doing his best to raise money to support himself close to a couple of popular nightspots.

Looking Inside - Lyneham

Looking Inside – Lyneham

On 6 April 2017 whilst Looking around the Lyneham shops near to our exhibition venue, I spied this man looking inside a storage space accessed from the laneway.

Thinking Music - Dickson

Thinking Music – Dickson

During a walk with my camera from Lyneham to Ainslie via Dickson, I captured this image in the Dickson shopping centre. I was attracted by the young man seemingly in deep thought whilst behind him a busker dressed in the same colours was playing his music.

Dumping Prohibited - Dickson

 

Dumping Prohibited – Dickson

On the same walk on 7 April 2017 and not far away from where the previous image was shot, I took this image of a seated young woman on her phone near this waste bin with its prohibition notice.

Laneway Conversation - Dickson

Laneway Conversation – Dickson

Also on 7 April 2017 in a laneway in another part of the shopping precinct of Dickson, I was attracted to this interaction between the brightly clad man and a woman and child walking past a faded advertising sign for the same company the man is employed by.

Looking at the screen - Dickson

Looking at the screen – Dickson

It was a most fruitful walk on 7 April 2017 because I also found this image in Dickson. Again the ubiquitous smart phone is in use, but it was the graphic elements that took my eye for this shot.

Taking a Break - Dickson

Taking a break – Dickson

My final offering from Dickson on 7 April 2017 depicts an older lady on a seat – not using a phone.

Marry Me - Dickson

Marry Me – Dickson

On another visit to Dickson on 18 April 2017 I grabbed this image of two cyclists near this large mural in a laneway. Again I used my iPhone.

Morning Paper - Dickson

Morning Paper – Dickson

On the same day with the same phone camera I was delighted to find this lady squatting low on the footpath reading a newspaper.

Communicating at The Front Cafe - Lyneham

Communicating at The Front Cafe – Lyneham

Back in Lyneham on 5 May 2017, I captured these customers of the exhibition venue communicating, not with each other, but rather with his music and her laptop. This time I was using my DSLR camera.

Passing the Hoarding - Woden

Passing the Hoarding – Woden

Visiting the other side of the city on 17 July 2017, I was attracted to this hoarding with graffiti in Woden and waited for someone to walk through to capture this image. Once again, my iPhone camera was utilised.

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