28.07.2013 Canberra: the beige capital?

A local magazine recently approached me with an assignment. The brief was for a photo that captures what Canberra means to me on a personal level. Initially I was unsure about how to quintessentially depict my relationship with the city. After a few failed attempts to take an image that fit the brief, I went back to the drawing board. I decided to challenge popular thought about the nation's capital.

Like many Canberrans, I often find myself defending the reasons why I choose to live here. The mention of Canberra elicits responses that range from awkward pity to outright ridicule. I do understand these responses. I'll be the first to admit that there are fairer cities to inhabit than this one. But if you can look beyond the unfortunate architecture and the lack of open restaurants on Sunday, Canberra surprises with its unexpected gems.

My photo features a landmark that often divides opinions. There are some people who cherish Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding parklands. There are others who deride the lake for the murkiness of its water. For this project I wanted to confront the notion that the lake is an unpleasant feature of the Canberra cityscape.

In my photo you see Lake Burley Griffin with the Commonwealth Bridge reaching across it. The last light of the day is quickly fading and Canberra is shimmering in the background. The photo says something that I've often thought about this place: Canberra's appeal isn't immediately apparent. It's a city that looks rather plain on the surface. The beauty is there, though. You just need to know where to look.

 

10.07.13 Welcome to my blog

Writing this inaugural blog post got me thinking about the first digital photos I ever took. It was 2004 and I was taking a gap year to teach English at the South Ocean International School in Taiyuan, China. During those first months abroad I marveled at many of the things I saw. The country was strange, different and often confronting. Each day provided new insights into a culture and landscape that contrasted starkly with the one I had grown up in.

I felt compelled to document the things that I saw in China. My first photos were taken with a film SLR that my Dad had given me. The pictures I took with that Minolta helped to cultivate a deep love for photography. Every time I finished a roll of film, I would rush off to have it developed. Flicking through fresh prints caused both surprise and disappointment; the unexpected successes and the tragic missed shots were all part of what made film photography rewarding.

Though I loved taking photos on film, I soon found the appeal of digital photography too strong to resist. With a new wave of affordable DSLRs hitting the market, digital photography was within my reach. When the Nikon D70 was announced, I visited Taiyuan's largest camera store to see if they had one in stock. The store owner sat me down and handed me a pair of white gloves to put on. He brought the camera to me and gingerly placed it in my hands. After taking a few awkward snaps of a tea cup, I knew that digital photography was for me.

Digital photography transformed the way that I shared my images of China. From our apartment in the rural outskirts of Taiyuan I would email out images of people, food, landscapes and architecture. Sharing my images helped with the sense of dislocation that came with being so far from home.

Ten years on and the digital landscape has expanded dramatically. I now share my images via various channels including this website, Flickr, Facebook, Vimeo and Instagram. Although I enjoy sharing my images through these channels, I have felt the need for a space that facilitates a deeper level of discussion. I need a space where engagement moves beyond a 'like' button. That's where this blog fits.

What you will find on this blog are some reflections on my photography. I will accompany uploads with a commentary on the creative processes behind them. I encourage you to offer your own thoughts on the topics I raise. I see my photography not so much a product, but rather as an organic process. Writing about it will help me deliberate, debate and ultimately, grow.

 
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