Week 184 – a photo marathon

On Monday it was ANZAC Day. We didn’t make it out to a dawn memorial service (it’s what you are meant to do)! Instead we made the most of the unseasonably warm autumn weather by spending the morning at the beach. The tide was low revealing a shallow sandy lagoon flashing with tiny darting fish and Neil and I had to drag the kids out of the water, they were having so much fun!


In the evening I went to see a new Melbourne-based film entitled ‘Pawno’. It charted the course of a typical day in a Footscray [a scruffy, rough, multi-cultural central suburb] pawn shop. The film had a great sense of place, and despite being crammed full of (mainly) quietly desperate people, it also managed to be hopeful and funny (and convincingly violent). The most entertaining characters were a charming ‘Jay and Silent Bob’-style pair of crack addicts.


On a Wednesday city stroll in the continuing mild sunshine I passed Melbourne’s sparkliest shop front (see picture) and a piece of street art that resonated with me(!). I enjoyed an evening meal out at Uncle with Sam and Claire-Anne, and sampled a couple of their adventurous cocktails, including one which featured chilli, tequila, and fish sauce in its long list of ingredients!


On Thursday the kids enjoyed a ride on the tram to the wooden fortress playground in Albert Park, and on the way home we popped into the Linden Gallery, to see work by artists shortlisted for their annual Art Prize. The pieces were large and colourful and sculptural, which made them a hit with the kids. Maisie’s favourite was three conjoined knitted yellow jumpers with incredibly long dangling arms, suspended from the ceiling. It made her think of Mr Tickle! She watched the explanatory video afterwards (listening on headphones), and the gallery attendant came rushing up to tell me that it was full of inappropriate content (apparently the work was about child abuse). I don’t think Maisie had picked up on that though! Both Tommy and Maisie were entranced by a simple 5-screen psychedelic animation showing a dumpy woman dressed in feathers and sequins floating on clouds and blowing bubbles. It was meant to be a meditative piece, and it certainly worked well for them – they were silently transfixed for some time!


A torrentially rainy Friday ended with a stunning Turneresque sunset!


On Saturday I took part in Melbourne’s first ‘photo marathon’ (the event has been going for years in various other places – Neil took part in the first one held in Cardiff in 2004 – and was commended for a couple of his photos!). Over the course of 9 hours participants had to take 9 photos illustrating 9 topics set by the organisers. To make it (even) harder, you had to take the photos strictly in order, and the topics were posted up at the event HQ (an art gallery in the city centre) in batches, the first three at 10am, the next three at 1pm and the final lot at 4pm.

I was excited but pretty anxious at the start of the day, and the sight of all the other competitors registering (many of them professionals armed with massive cameras and complicated accessories), did nothing to reassure me!


The first topic was your own registration number. Mine was 117. I was glad I could use the fridge magnets (a lower case L came in handy) I’d brought with me, but the question was where to stick them. I wanted to give them a Melbourne context, but then I spotted a 7-11 shop sign (there’s one on every corner) and I thought that would be fun to weave in too. In Fed Square I found a 7-11 with a great window reflection of the Eureka Tower, but try as I might I couldn’t get the composition to work well. After spending half an hour or so trying to get it right I had to cut my losses and move on to the next image!


The next subject was ‘A piece of a whole’. Neil did some internet sleuthing to see what images are generally used to convey this topic. They mainly involved cakes and jigsaws! I couldn’t think of anything very original, so I thought I’d at least try to keep up my Melbourne theme by visiting my favourite artisan cheese cave(!) where I picked one of the most photogenic blue cheeses and asked the cheesemonger if I could photograph him while he sliced it for me (I did buy the piece – it was a very strong Italian dolcelatte!).


The next topic filled me with dread when I read it – it was ‘hope’ – how to convey that in one picture?! My first thoughts were either the bookies or the church. I popped into the cathedral where there happened to be a service on and took a quick snap of a beatific-looking priest (before being told off by a member of staff in no uncertain terms)! But it didn’t quite convey ‘hope’ anyway! Neil came to the rescue. He’d scanned the sports pages of the day’s paper, and discovered that a horse called ‘World of Hope’ was running in the 3.15pm race at Caulfield. I popped into a bookies to see if I could put some money on it and get a betting slip to photograph, but I was told that the entry had been ‘scratched’! But it still seemed the best idea for a shot, so I caught the tram all the way home (a 40 minute dash each way!) and spent a frantic five minutes setting up a reasonable shot with Neil before rushing back into town to pick up the next 3 topics.


The next three subjects were ‘well rounded’, ‘intimacy amongst strangers’ and ‘reflection’. I joined a huge crowd of St Kilda football supporters surging towards the Etihad Stadium, thinking I might be able to spot a well-rounded belly or two and get a nice football crowd shot, but it was too hectic – everyone was focussed on getting into the stadium as kick-off was in less than ten minutes! As I was in Docklands, I thought I might find a buoy or something else maritime and round, but there was nothing obvious. Thankfully, on my desultory walk back into town an odd shop window display caught my eye – a herd of curvy comedy dog-shaped sofas – they fitted the bill perfectly!


Neil suggested surveying the crowds in Swanston Street for a bit of intimacy amongst strangers. I found a place to perch near a busy pedestrian junction and snapped away every time I saw a couple crossing hand-in-hand. I was pleased with my picture of a young Emo couple!


‘Reflection’ was more straight-forward (I thought I’d go for the obvious interpretation), but my plan to explore the possibilities of the multiple mirrors in the Hamer Hall was thwarted as staff were locking the doors of the building as I approached. The mirrored pillars on the external wall create all sorts of crazy distortions but I couldn’t get the complex layers of patterns in focus. At one point I looked up to the ceiling, which was also mirrored…

By 4pm I was foot-sore and exhausted, but there were still 3 hours and 3 more topics to go! I passed by a Korean festival on the South Bank – it was colourful, with lots of musicians and dancers and costumes and interesting food – the kind of things I love to photograph – but frustratingly they didn’t fit any of today’s categories!


The final topics were ‘under the covers’, ‘art of the city’ and ‘frivolity’. For the first of those I thought of books, beds, markets, sports grounds. There wasn’t time to seek out the last two, so I decided to focus on book shops and hope that inspiration struck. Neil suggested heading to a specialist magazine shop that we’ve popped into before, and happily their displays of obscure magazines were beautifully presented!


‘Art of the city’ suggested Melbourne’s famous graffitied lane-ways, and I took a couple of pictures of street art depicting cartoonish characters spray-painting, but I wanted to do something more architectural. I took a tram heading north, and while I was balefully looking out of the window, quietly panicking, I was struck by the early evening light on a crazily patterned new housing block. I had to make a snap decision and hopped off the tram and photographed it, leaving my final topic…


…‘frivolity’. I was feeling far from frivolous at this point, having been running around and failing to eat all day! I didn’t want another picture of a shop front or stuff and I didn’t have the energy to create something with the various props I’d brought with me. I reckoned I had just about enough time to go home (and back) again before the deadline, and pinned my hopes on the children being frivolous for me. I arrived to find Tommy having a tantrum, but Maisie (well-prepped by Neil) dressed and ready to dance. She jumped up and down a couple of times (the messy room adding to the mood of frivolity, I thought!), I took a photo and ran out of the house to catch the tram back into town. The tram I needed didn’t turn up so I had to sprint down several streets to find another one. Somehow I made it back to the HQ 5 minutes before the 7pm deadline!