As a bit of a taster of what’s to come in the next few months, I’ve compiled the five images from my black and white photo challenge.
I was nominated for this Facebook fad by fellow photographers Jake Nowakowski and Angie Simms and, looking at the images now, it’s actually a decent snapshot of the work I produced in 11 months of globetrotting in 2014. So, there is much more to come, but enjoy this for now.
Last week I visited my incredible 104-year-old grandma Irene (Rene) Francis in Forbes, the first time I have seen her since Christmas 2013. As usual, she was in fine form, and told a story I hadn’t heard before about the first time she met my now deceased grandpa Arthur (pictured right, aged 24).
The year was 1930 and my grandmother, a concert violinist at the time, had travelled to Penrith on the train from Rockdale for a recital. My future grandfather (known as ‘The Count’ to his friends) picked her up at the station and Irene initially took him for a taxi driver and didn’t give him the time of day on the way to the concert.
Throughout the course of the evening it became apparent that Arthur wasn’t a cabbie, but a ‘rather charming’ combination of gentleman and larrikin who was at that point wool classing in various shearing sheds around western NSW.
They began courting, as I believe it was referred to in those days, and three years later were married.
Rene is kind enough to model for me whenever I visit and I like this image because it’s a pose she often assumes when listening to my latest tale of triumph or tragedy. She is a proud woman, always keeps her space ‘just so’ and I have very fond memories of visiting her and my grandpa as a petulant child.
She was delighted to make it to 100 and receive her telegram from The Queen because; ‘she’s English, you see’ (the family left Yorkshire when she was 2), but she doesn’t seem that fussed about 104 – like she wishes people would just get over this age thing already.
Rene is cool – may she live long(er).
For day two I returned to the Caribbean to chill out.
This is ‘Bucky’ the Bajan and he was “just relaxin'” on his pal’s porch in Bathsheba on the eastern shore of Barbados.
I sat and enjoyed a local Barbadian rum with Bucky and his mate – we talked about cricket, life on the island and how most folk ‘just don’t know how to relax’.
No one could accuse Bucky of not knowing how to relax, and sitting on his porch, watching the ocean and talking about life seemed exactly the right thing to do on that lazy summer afternoon.
For day three I chose an image from the tiny town of Fairfield, Franklin County, Vermont.
My obsession with graveyards is perhaps a little morbid but, wherever you go in the world, they offer a fascinating portal to the past.
The inscriptions on gravestones give you these tantalising snippets of information about that place and the citizens who lived there. What people died of, which families were wealthy or poor, and (reading between the lines) how the deceased were regarded by their clan and community.
This particular marker, unaccompanied and almost covered by the shedding maples dotted around the site, struck me for its simplicity. Undated, it was simply marked ‘sister’, and somehow that seemed more powerful than the long-winded inscriptions on the more lavish monuments.
The fourth image encapsulates the love-hate relationship I have with a certain part of my kit.
Most of the time the distortion in Nikon’s 14-24mm lense really bugs me, apart from those rare occasions when you’re trying to make a row of silos near Regina, Saskatchewan, look like they’re reaching for the sun.
People need to be placed centre of frame when using this lense, otherwise it looks like some kind of unseen force is attempting to suck out their brain.
To complete the series I published this visual momento of a chance meeting ‘south of the border’.
This is Mike Monahan, an artist I stumbled upon while in Mexico earlier this year.
Mike’s studio, where this image was made, sits on a stunning part of the Baja Peninsula just outside the village of La Bufadora.
I spent a week in a great little guesthouse down here, editing and running trails (pre stress fracture), and I was admiring a huge structure of concentric circles outside the studio when I met Mike.
All the pieces inside are a study of the circle, there are no sharp corners, but trying to understand his theory was kind of like sticking something pointy into my brain.
It involved the relationship between trigonometry and humanity – how various repetitious patterns of circles alter and distort the human eye’s perception of distance and reality.
It was cool, but a lot easier to explain when you’re looking at it. Anyway, Mike needed some images to promote an upcoming exhibition, so I was happy to oblige.
His skill is clearly hereditary; Mike is the proud father of Los Angeles-based sculptor Matthew Monahan who is best known for his beautiful totem-like structures. His most famous pieces resemble a cross between the imagery of Greek mythology and the faces of those well-known statues on Easter Island.
I often struggle to connect with work like this bit I spent hours perusing his latest book and his creative process is also fascinating.
He talks about his work and the influence of his father Mike in this video.