When Words Don’t Come

This post was meant to be about something other than what I’m writing here. I’ve been trying to write it for a couple of days; words are failing me right now. I can’t quantify my thoughts. Each time I write something it feels wrong, like the words I’m using aren’t good enough. I don’t know why this is. It may be because my anxiety has been high during the last week. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I really don’t have anything to say.

So instead of fighting myself in my mind about my inadequacies as a writer, I’m giving up on that post. I’ve saved it in drafts, in case I feel one day like I can find the right words.

Instead, here’s a photo from my recent holiday in St Kilda. I hope you like it because I do.

St Kilda pier

Following Those Who Chased The Steam

Early this past Sunday morning I stumbled out of bed at a time of day I rarely see & did my best to wake up. When my sister-in-law Ashton asked me to be her photographer for an inaugural charity event that saw runners on land race her family paddle steamer the PS Melbourne I was quick to agree. I like to help her whenever I can & I thought this would be a relatively easy way to help out. If I’d have known that I’d be setting an alarm for 6:30am I might well have reconsidered! Anyway as I ate my breakfast I hoped that the early start would be worth it.

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Pulling my car in to find a park I felt a jolt of excitement when I saw lots of participants milling about the starting area. I was sure this would surely mean the event would be a success. Making my way onto the boat I kept an eye on the runners trying to determine how many of them were serious about arriving at the end point before we on the boat docked. To my untrained eye most of them looked keen to give it their best shot.

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From the water I knew there wouldn’t be many points where I’d be able to see the runners once the event was underway. It occurred to me that the best place to photograph the runners & somehow tie that back to the boat itself would be when they crossed over the Murray Bridge. Making my way to the front of the boat (excuse my ignorance of the correct boat terms. I don’t claim to know anything about boats & don’t see the need to go looking for the right terms because this website is not about the boating life!) I looked for something that I could potentially frame the runners with. I took a photo with the backs of people who were relaxing on the boat but knew immediately that it wasn’t the right way to go about framing. As we got closer to the bridge I realised sections of wood on the boat would frame a photo in an interesting way. I crouched down & took a couple of photos. The one above worked out exactly how I hoped. The lines from the boat intersect nicely with the lines from the bridge. The woman running may only just be visible but I think that she provides enough impact. There are more photos from the morning that I’m happy with but none in the same way as I am with this one. To me it feels like a representation of what I’ve been trying to do with my photography this year. That is to capture the everyday beauty that surrounds me, if I look close enough for it. This particular photo – or any of the others that I make on this personal quest of mine – might not represent ‘typical’ beauty but I don’t give a damn about that. I’m trying to photograph beauty as I see it. Hopefully others will recognise that beauty too but it’s ok with me if they don’t.

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The event was a success. There were some pretty serious & fast runners, who arrived at the finish line before the boat arrived. We arrived somewhere in the middle of the pack although it feels kinda weird viewing it that way considering we travelled on water! Prizes were given out, breakfast rolls & coffee were consumed & kids ran around enjoying the sun. The trip back to the wharf was a lively affair with many participants celebrating with an alcoholic beverage or two & several more dancing to the tunes pumped out by a live radio broadcast taking place onboard. I suspect the dollar value raised during the event was high enough that it will go ahead again next year. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to observe & photograph the goings on second time round.

Those Small Moments Of Beauty

Svenja looking through her makeup

Photographing small moments of beauty has – over the past few months – become incredibly important to me. When I am anxious I find myself unable to see the world properly. Effort is needed, either medical or physical – often both – to pull my mind out of anxiety. For some time afterwards I feel as though I’m teetering between two realities: the anxious & the non-anxious me. It’s a weird feeling but I have become accustomed to it. During the time of afterwards it helps me if I can distract my mind to help ensure it doesn’t become anxious again.

The easiest distraction can be found by cuddling my dogs. I swear that they are therapeutic! They sit with me, lick away any tears that may be lingering & do their damnedest to keep me calm.

Irina talking about false eyelashes

My habit of taking my camera along to my pole fitness classes has provided me with countless opportunities to capture small moments of beauty. These photos are my favourite to take although I’m finding it difficult to articulate why. This is my fourth attempt at this post; I can’t find the right words to express how I feel when I take the photos of these women moving in beautiful & athletic ways, nor afterwards when I look back at them. The closest word I have to describe taking the photos is joy because as I look at the movements through my camera thats often what I see, but that’s not really right. Delight probably best describes my feelings when I look back at my photos but it isn’t really that either. Why is it so damn hard to describe these feelings? I suppose for you, the reader, my feelings don’t make much difference to my photographic results. Except I think actually they do. If I wasn’t enjoying myself when I was taking photos then I don’t think I would push myself out of my creative comfort zone. I wouldn’t be looking to improve my technique or try different things; I’d simply be happy phoning it in. Or not even bothering to try in the first place. Yet because I love what I am doing I keep striving to improve, to notice even smaller moments of beauty & try to capture them.

Vee applying makeup to Becky

The photos that accompany this post were taken as we were getting ready for Aerial Showcase 2019. Yes, I took part & yes I had my camera. I couldn’t resist bringing it because I knew there would be moments to cherish later on. I found myself having to put my camera away, lest I be late getting myself ready but I’m glad I had it with me. The photos (I’ll be sharing more in a portfolio here) make me smile. What I’d like to do with them next is to have them printed. I think it will be nice to be able see the photos hanging on a wall, reminding me that yes indeed there is beauty everywhere if you look for it.

Taking Stock #1

This is my favourite tree to photograph

How is it already October? Where has the year gone? I find it hard to believe that my husband & I will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary next Wednesday. 15 years! WTF? Two days after that & I’ll be performing in the 3rd Pole Fit Mildura Showcase. Yet again, WTF? It only feels like moments ago that I was doped on painkillers due to injury so I could participate in the 2nd Showcase. And it does not feel like I’ve been married for 15 years. What the actual fuck?

So considering all that I thought it a good idea to write my first Taking Stock post. As a way to feel like I’ve got some hold on life, sure, but also to take a micro look at my life & appreciate what I have. You probably don’t need me to tell you, but Pip from MeetMeAtMikes writes the best Taking Stock posts. She encourages others to take stock & kindly provides her taking stock list on her blog. Thanks Pip, I love the idea of doing this every now & again.

Here’s my list; perhaps you’d like to make one yourself?

Making Art gifts for two friends. I can’t say more, in case they read this post!

Photographing My dogs, my friends at pole fitness, the setting sun. These are my go to things to photograph at the moment.

Cooking a cake to enjoy on our wedding anniversary. Well, ok I haven’t baked it yet, but I’m going to next week.

Reading True Stories by Helen Garner. If you don’t know it, it’s her collected works of non-fiction. I’m really enjoying it. I’m also reading the latest issue of Flow magazine. It’s always an enjoyable read.

Sipping Japanese Sencha tea from T2. It ties for my favourite tea, along with their Melbourne Breakfast.

Looking into buying a new washing machine. Ours is 10 years old. It’s not working very well anymore. I have no idea what I want, other than a machine that actually works. So I’ll be doing lots of online research before laying down any cash.

Listening to Garbage, Amanda Palmer, Florence & The Machine and Lorde. I can’t get enough of these women lately. They’re all my favourites & I love listening to them nice & loud.

Wishing that we were living in our new home. Not long now, hopefully.

Black & White double exposure photo

Enjoying eating meals that I made in bulk & froze into servings for two. Makes life easy, although I don’t seem to always be organised enough to cook this way.

Waiting for daylight savings to start. Extra daylight in the evening is great, it always feels like I get a lot more done. I’m more productive of an afternoon & evening which is probably also why I like daylight savings so much.

Loving my A5 Cahier notebook from Pebble Stationery Co. It uses 52gsm Tamoe River paper which is so beautiful to write on. Pebble is an Australian company & I have the pleasure of interviewing the founder Lois Ho for an episode of the Art Supply Posse podcast. Which I am going to encourage you to listen & subscribe to 😉

The aforementioned Pebble Stationery Co notebook

Liking making the incredibly indulgent XXL Death by Chocolate Cookie by Sally’s Baking Addiction. I make these when I’m craving chocolate. Really craving it, but don’t actually want chocolate. Which seems like a misnomer I know. I make them as two larger cookies; the first time I baked this recipe I made it as one but couldn’t eat it in one sitting. It could probably be made into smaller cookies, but where’s the fun in that?

Buying a beautiful teapot from a store from a store on the Japanese website Rakuten. I accidentally broke my favourite teapot on the weekend. It’s no longer available, of course, so I spent way too long looking for a replacement. Warning: if you’re as in love with all things Japanese like I am, you’ll be tempted to buy all the things. You have been warned 🙂

Watching series 11 of Gruen, by the ABC. I love Wil Anderson. He’s one of my favourite comedians. This show never disappoints. I’m also loving the comedy panel show Insert Name Here, with comedian Sue Perkins. She’s great & so is this show.

Hoping that I get through our showcase performance uninjured. Last year I had a spectacular fall at the beginning of our piece during full dress rehearsal on performance day. It meant I had to pull out of one of the pieces I was to perform in. And I performed whilst on a lot of painkillers. I won’t post a photo here of my bruised & battered knees. They took the full brunt of my fall. It’s not a pretty image.

Needing more sleep. Its the story of my life at the moment

Wearing whilst unpacking (see below for more details) I found a bikini set that I bought a couple of years ago but haven’t actually worn. I think it will be perfect for wearing to my pole fit class. I shall wear it to tomorrow nights class.

Following I interviewed Jane Mills for an episode of Art Supply Posse, during which she talked about streaming on Twitch when she makes her art. I knew little about Twitch, other than that its a platform for gamers. Turns out there’s more to it than that. That chat led me to join Twitch & I’ve watched her art streams a couple of times now. I’m really enjoying it. If that’s you thing give her a follow. You won’t regret it.

Blossom on one of my peach trees

Noticing my stone fruit trees are all in various stages of blossom. So is the lemon tree. I love this time of year, the beauty of the blossoms & the promise of fruit to come.

Sorting through the boxes that we’ve had in storage for the last four years. Almost everything we own has been in storage in our shed as we build our house. As it’s nearing completion I’ve begun unpacking. A lot of it is going to goodwill or into the bin. It turns out there’s a lot of stuff that we own that we don’t actually need.

Getting excited to see U2 next month in Adelaide. I’ve seen them every time they’ve been in Australia since Popmart & I’m excited for the Joshua Tree tour. I know it’s going to be great.

Saving offcuts & scraps of vegetables, coffee grindings, used tea leaves etc & dumping them all into my new Bokashi bin. I had a voucher for Biome Eco Store & had to buy myself one. It feels good using all that waste to create good stuff for the garden.

Bookmarking various writing websites. Both as a means to look into courses to take to improve my writing skills but also publishers so I can submit my children’s stories to the slush pile. I hope to break through the pile to become a published children’s book author.

Coveting Fujifilm’s newly announced X-Pro3 mirrorless camera. I have the original X-Pro1, bought at a terrific price once it had been on the market for 18 months or so. I love it, but its time for an upgrade. I’m hoping when the price is announced in mid October, coinciding with it becoming available to buy, that I’ll be able to afford one.

Opening a zine called Scotland On Film. I purchased it from a guy who posted a thread on Reddit. It arrived today.

Giggling when listening to comedy podcasts. Or any comedy really. But comedy podcasts are my thing. Two new episodes of The Little DumDum Club & DYKWIA are waiting in my podcast app to listen to which I’ll do once this post is finished. Give them a listen too, once you’ve listened to Art Supply Posse 😉

Feeling a sense of renewal. It’s a bloody wonderful feeling, throwing away all the unneeded stuff we own. I highly recommend it.

Hearing the gentle breathing of Zena & Cadel as they sleep. I love my dogs 🙂

Obsessing about the aforementioned X-Pro3. Yes I’ve got it bad!

Well thats my list done. I’d love to hear if any of this resonates with you. And go write your own taking stock list. It’s a fun little exercise.

Unexpected Truths From Podcasting

For approximately 18 months I have been interviewing people for the podcast Art Supply Posse. I’ve chatted with a variety of artists as well as retailers of art supplies. Everyone from Kevin Murphy – whose art has been commissioned by such luminaries as The Rolling Stones, Game of Thrones & now runs his own art school, Gosia Orlinksa who is an artist & an art therapist to ceramicist Julia Skott who challenged me to label myself as an artist.

I love bringing these chats to our listeners. I try to guide our conversation in a gentle way so that it sounds like a chat between two friends as opposed to a question & answer type interview. I don’t know about you but I prefer to listen to a podcast where it sounds like I’m listening to a couple of friends have a conversation. It makes me feel like I’m in the room with them.

That might sound like it’s difficult to achieve but I’ve found that once people start talking about the thing they love, such as painting with watercolours or pouring alcohol based inks onto canvas, the conversation flows naturally. People slip into that world, their world of art & creativity & their conversation carries you into that world too.

Talking to so many artists who are often at different stages of their career to each other has made me realise a few things about myself & my long held views of my creative abilities. And I suspect these realisations have occurred to some of our listeners too.

By far the majority of artists have had family support to pursue their creative endeavours. Some have or had artistic parents & most have or had parents who encouraged the creativity when they weren’t creative themselves. Yet even artists with family supported have occasionally had doubts about their work. This goes against my expectations; surely only those who suffer from doubting their art are people like me who were actively discouraged from making art?

Turns out that’s not the case. Self doubt seems to affect a lot more artists than I expected. The more I hear this expressed by artists, the more I realise that its almost common among creative people. I’m always grateful when someone I follow on Instagram posts something about how they’re in a creative rut that they’re having trouble getting out of. Not because they are in that place but because they are sharing it. The more creative people can see that self doubt is common, the better. It will make it easier for us all if we know that self doubt is common & can be worked through, if thats what is wanted.

Everyone I have spoken to has encouraged our listeners to continue following their artistic pursuits or to take up something that they’ve always wanted to try but haven’t had the courage to do so. The more I hear this the more encouraged I am to continue with my creative loves. I can now say I am a writer & a photographer. It turns out, despite my fears otherwise, admitting these things won’t kill me! It doesn’t even hurt me!

Give it a try yourself, if you’d like to call yourself an artist, a writer, a filmmaker or photographer or whatever it is you know deep down you are. It won’t hurt, I promise! Start saying it out loud to yourself, then try it on your pets. Pretty soon you’ll find it easy to slip into conversation. It doesn’t matter if you don’t make a living from your creativity & it doesn’t matter if you don’t ever want to pursue it financially. Claim the thing you are. You claiming it & proclaiming it will make it easier for someone else to claim their thing. That I can also promise.

Dogs In The Street Is A Genre For Me

I was lucky enough to meet with a good friend in Melbourne last Thursday. We’d decided earlier on this year that we needed a break from our lives & flying to Melbourne for a few days away seemed like a good idea. It gave us a concrete point in the future that we could work towards, coming in handy when we were wondering if we could get through what life was throwing at us at various times this year.

As I am wont to do I packed my camera into my handbag, expecting there would be opportunities to take photos of something, somewhere. Thankfully, Melbourne delivered. The weather was beautiful & the vibe in the CBD seemed to echo the weather. I had Friday to myself whilst my friend attended a conference, so I spent the the day walking with my camera.

I thought taking my time to wander the city slowly, sitting down whenever I felt like it & paying attention to the light & people within it would hopefully provide me with some opportunities to take photos that I could be happy with. As I moved through the day I found myself yet again being drawn to people with their dogs. Many were walking together, some people were carrying their dogs in their arms & others were sitting with their dog by their side.

I find dogs more interesting than their owners, although I pay attention to the owners in case it is worth focussing on the them in lieu of their dog. I want to know what the dogs are thinking & feeling & try to capture that. I like to think this guy in the photo above was watching me, making sure that I wasn’t going to be a threat to his owner & then wondering what on earth I was doing. To him I probably looked weird standing nearby, relaxed but holding a strange thing in front of my face. He relaxed once he knew I wasn’t going to be a threat & moved his attention elsewhere.

Reflecting on this moment & looking at other opportunities I’ve had trying my hand at street photography I’ve realised that the genre of street photography of dogs appeals to me. It ties together two things that I love – taking photos & dogs. It seems like a natural fit so I’ve decided to improve my skillset within the streets of where I live. It’s not enough for me to wait until I’m in Melbourne or another city. I want to take these types of photos more often so the sensible thing to do is to do it locally. If I have any luck with this project I’ll post images here.

Unexpected Friendships

When I took my first pole fitness class a little over two years ago I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was hoping the class would be fun & might provide a way to get fit without feeling like a lot of effort was involved. By the end of that first class I knew I’d found a new habit. Unused muscles had begun to ache, invigorating me to the possibilities of what it could do if I used it in an unaccustomed manner. More importantly though I’d had fun. Attempting pole moves that were foreign to me felt weird at first but I laughed at the feeling of awkwardness & tried the moves anyway.

I knew I would never look as graceful or beautiful on the pole as the instructor but I was ok with that. I just wanted to keep going, to learn more moves & more importantly to me, test my body’s capabilities. So I returned the following week & pretty soon found myself a regular at the pole studio. I kept returning because I was enjoying myself & because I wanted to continue to see what my body could do. That remains a driving force today, challenging my body by constantly placing it into weird & wonderful positions.

I’ve never liked being photographed but now I have hundreds of photos of me on my phone, in probably as many positions, that serve as a reminder of how to do it again, but also as proof of my achievements.

Reflecting on these past two years attending the pole fitness studio, it’s obvious that my hopes to get fit & have fun came true. However the unexpected element from these two years are the friendships that I’ve formed.

I’ve always found it difficult to make friends. I’ve never liked putting myself out there, especially around people that I don’t know very well or do not know at all. Despite these anxieties I now call some of the women I’ve met at pole my friends. We’ve shared laughter & tears, secrets & triumphs, coffee, alcohol & food. We champion each other as we try out something new, applauding & shouting with glee at the successes. And encourage each other when it doesn’t quite work out.

I cherish these friendships & hope they prevail for many years to come.

Through The Eyes Of A Traveller

The photos shown is of gardens located in Suzhou China

As I write this I find it difficult to believe that 12 months ago I was China for the first time, alone, exhausted, ill-prepared for the oppressive humidity at Shanghai Airport, trying to make my way through customs with no knowledge of Chinese & no clear idea of where I needed to be going. I was attending a conference for work & due things going on in my life I wasn’t able to bring my husband along with me to enjoy the experience of a visiting a country I’d not been to before, nor was I able to extend my stay beyond the five days of the conference.

On the second last day of my stay I had a few hours of free time so I joined a couple of people I met at the conference on a walk to try to make our way to a pagoda located on the top of a mountain, that could be seen from our hotel. We weren’t able to get to it so instead walked the gardens located at the base of the mountain enjoying their tranquility & beauty.

I was amazed to see the air full of dragonflies. They flitted around, paying no attention to me standing there, gobsmacked to see so many of them at once. I guess the combination of the humidity & the abundance of water provides a perfect home for them. They can be just seen in the photo above as mere specks in the sky; I didn’t have a lens suitable to capture them close enough but I didn’t want to edit them out of the photo either.

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Travelling somewhere new is an experience like no other. The excitement of new surrounds & the possibilities of what photographic opportunities might arise cannot be matched. Unfortunately I don’t get the opportunity to travel to new places often. I do visit Melbourne a few times throughout any given year so I’ve been trying to focus my attention on capturing the things about the city that to me make Melbourne feel like Melbourne. That allow me to look at them when I’m home & think yes that photos speaks of Melbourne, at least to me anyway.

I wonder if I can create photos like this of my local area? Can I look at the places I’ve traversed so often & find something of interest in them? I think I’ll give it a try. It cannot hurt & it might just help me improve my photographic skills. Regardless of the outcome of this challenge I’ll write about it here. Hopefully I’ll have a photo or two I’ll be happy to share sometime in the near future.

Sharing Writing

I have been tentatively stepping back into the world of writing. I remain a little wary, the old noises in my head questioning who do I think I am by writing? More & more however when I hear that noise my response is ‘who I am to not write?’ I’ve always loved to write. I remember writing a convoluted murder mystery as a young child, across a variety of scrap pieces of paper. I’m sure it was terrible but the excitement I felt as I wrote is still vivid.

Like photography I fell away from writing, letting my anxieties around my ability take hold & stop me from producing anything. But now I’ve decided no more. I’m sure I’ll always feel a sense of unease at the quality of what I make but my desire to write & take photos is stronger than that unease. So here’s a little sample of writing. I’m not exactly sure what to classify it as, but I think that’s ok too. It’s better to be writing something whose category I cannot quantify than to not be writing at all.

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Constant weariness makes the day difficult. The desire to stop overwhelming. On & on we push. We cannot stop. Or rest. Not until it is complete.

I wonder why did we begin? Why were we sure this was a good idea?

The costs physical & mental. We will never be who we were. We are shells of our former selves. Do will like our new selves? Does it matter?

Each day hour minute we move closer. It’s now tangible. It can be seen. Smelt. Touched. No longer imagination. Not yet reality. So we edge closer. Hopeful. Wanting. The end.