Fun

“Fun? Ah yes, the employment of time in a profitless and non-practical way.”
– Arnold J Rimmer, The Last Day, Red Dwarf, Series 3

I absolutely adore photographing Tasmania. It is not just the gob smacking beauty of the natural environment, although that is a huge plus, it is also the quirky sense of fun that is often displayed in the everyday mundane things.Take traffic light control boxes for instance. In most places they are boring grey metal boxes about 1.5m tall, a metre wide and 0.5 metre deep that sit on pavements by intersections controlled by traffic lights. You’ve probably not noticed them, they just sit there being dull, boring, and virtually invisible. In the state capital of Tasmania, Hobart, they are individual works of art. Some are satirical political commentary, some just abstract designs, but the thing is someone made a decision to allow these boring items to be made into something fun. Does it make them more efficient? No. What it does do is allow the community to express its humanity on a bit of space that otherwise wouldn’t be doing anything other than being a grey metal box. Our present day prime minister ever on the drive to improve the efficiency and profitability of the nation would see them as a frivolous waste of time. Time that could have spent making multi-millionaires even richer. But then he sees people as mere economic units rather than as human beings, and economic units don’t express themselves creatively nor have fun.

Safe With Us Now. A control box for traffic lights painted with Tasmanian Tigers the extinct emblem of the state.

 

Dreamtime Fish Traffic light control box, Hobart, Tasmania.

 

Movies Traffic light control box, Hobart, Tasmania.

On our last trip to Tassie just a few weeks ago we encountered another example of this expression of fun or “joie de vivre” as the French would say. We drove from Coles Bay on the north-east coast up to St Mary’s via Elephants Pass. It was a hair-raising drive with steep drops at the roads edge, warnings signs about rock falls and logging trucks, the switch back corners and narrowness of the road. Often our speed drop down to 25 Km per hour which on one particular corner seemed excessively fast. Our camper van certainly felt ponderously elephantine as it awkwardly worked its way to the top and to St Mary’s. St Mary’s is an attractive little town of just over 500 people and it sits beneath St Patrick’s Head, an impressive rocky outcrop standing at 694 metres or 2277 feet in the old money. We had the obligatory coffee stop at the Purple Possum and then took a stroll up and down the two main streets. It was in many ways nothing remarkable, just a small Australian country town. Then I noticed that one of the businesses had a small windmill attached to the facade that depicted what it did, and as I continued to walk my eye was now in so to speak and I noticed that virtually all the shop fronts had a small custom-built windmill. Apparently talking to one of the shop owners a local artist had been making them. They serve no function, they are just a small piece of gratuitous fun.

Australia Post. The Windmills Of St Mary’s

 

The Windmills Of St Mary’s

 

Laundromat. The Windmills Of St Mary’s.

 

The Windmills Of St Mary’s

 

The Pharmacy. The Windmills Of St Mary’s.

 

The Windmills Of St Mary’s

As an aside I like doing this type of dead pan photography, because it allows me to become a collector without actually buying or physically owning something. It allows me to group things together and organise them. In the field of archaeology this known as a typography which is where you group things according to their physical characteristics. Photography embraced the term in the early Twentieth Century when the German Photographer August Sander shot a series of portraits of people called “People of the 20th Century” a monumental work that looked to document every profession, trade and social start of the German people living in the Weimar Republic. Sander’s photographs however were shot in such a way as to express the individuality of each subject. Bernd and Hilla Becher’s typography of the industrial landscape looked to capture each subject in the same dead pan manner and the photos were often displayed in grids like scientific specimens. I’m not that anally retentive, but I do enjoy the process and have applied to things that take my fancy as I travel about – sign posts, mail boxes, shop fronts. I’d been doing this sort of stuff long before I’d heard of the term typography. I also like the work of Stephen Shore who combined this methodology with colour and road trips. Shore endlessly catalogues the things he sees. Both the Bechers and Shore were grouped together in an exhibition with some other photographers called “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape” in 1975. Although no longer ‘new’, after all 1975 was a long time ago, the exhibition has had a far-reaching impact upon photography and as late as 2011 it was still being shown in venues. The resulting book from the exhibition was recently republished by Steidl and is definitely worth looking at if you are interested in landscape photography that falls outside the typical tree and rock photos most people think of when they hear the word landscape.

Time

Sorry for the absence of a post last weekend – my trusty laptop had pass away and gone to Silicon Heaven. It may come as a shock to many people that there is an afterlife for electric and electronic appliances.

So I had to get myself another computer, this time I bought myself a desktop. All very swish looking with lots of brushed aluminium and shiny glass. The OS interface is all very futuristic looking in that sleek modern shiny way. Of course it wasn’t just a straight forward turn the thing on and then install my apps – no my last machine was a little on the ancient side and things had moved on and I had to search for updates, patches and firmware revisions. It’s amazing what a time sink a computer can be, I first started working with them in the mid 1980’s and we were promised a lot of things like they’d make us more efficient and we’d have a paperless office. Well thirty years on the paperless office still hasn’t arrived and anything involving a computer still takes longer than it did without one. In 1985 2013 sounded so futuristic and full of possibilities, yet now we’re here it is all a bit of an anticlimax. Whatever happened to the 3 day working week we were promised? I distinctly remember watching a TV program aired on the BBC called Tomorrow’s World which said that we’d all have flying cars. I suppose somethings did change – if you’d have told me thirty years ago I’d be taking photos with a phone I’d have thought that:

  1. you’re nutty as squirrel pooh
  2. I’d need a jolly long cable just get the phone out of the house

Well here I am and although it is possible to take photos with a phone I’m not actually doing it because a smart phone would be pretty pointless as there’s no 3G coverage where I live. I suppose I could get one just to take photos with, then it would become a camera with an optional phone built in.

Talking about all things “timey-whimey”, as Doctor Who might say (you can see from this post that I spend too much time watching sci-fi from the BBC) the town of York in Western Australia suffered a huge temporal disturbance and was transported back to the middle ages, and more to the point it wasn’t Medieval Australia but Medieval Europe. I walked down to the park besides the River and there were all manner of people walking about in suits of armour,  there were jesters hey nony no-ing and all manner of other Olde Worlde frippery. I quickly came to my senses and realised that it wasn’t a temporal disturbance after all but the 2013 York Medieval Fayre.  There was a Medieval market where you could get the latest in Long Bows, armour, heraldic devices and even toys. I avoided the stall selling Medieval German sausages as they were probably past their sell by date – I know I know that was the wurst joke ever!!! 🙂 There were the good people of the Grey Company who put on displays of historical re-enactment focusing on the Dark Ages and Medieval times. Then there was the The Free Company who’re a group of biffologists who dress up in armour and give each other a serious belting as the YouTube clip below shows.

 

I fear that at this point in time I must make a confession – I strayed from the  micro four thirds path and returned to full frame goodness. I broke out the 5d and the 70-200 f2.8 IS L because I knew that it would be difficult to isolate subjects from crap distracting backgrounds with the smaller format but easy to do with the larger format and fast glass.  Does this mean that I will stop using m4/3? No, I’m just using the appropriate tools for the job. If anyone would like to see the stills outside of the video clip they can be seen here.

 

20131103-York_Medieval_Fayre-3077 by Paul Amyes on 500px.com


20131103-York_Medieval_Fayre-3077
by
Paul Amyes