jonathan pearlman

jonathan pearlman

FINE ART Photography


George Brandis vows not to read documents ASIO seized......

Photo by Andrew Meares


Secret Memo: To all XXXX operatives


From: Xxxxxx Xxxxxxx


Subject: Xxxx xx x xxxxxxxxx xxxxx, xxxxxx xx xxx


As many of you are aware, this government is contesting a legal challenge in The Hague Court of Documents brought about by the Prime Minister of Xxxx Xxxxx, a tiny island nation located somewhere near Bali, or The Philippines, or both. 


At issue is the confiscation of documents from the law offices of Xxxxxxx, Xxxxxxxx and Xxxxxxx of Sydney, who were employed by the Prime Minister of the the tiny island nation of Xxxx Xxxx with a view to embarrass and disgrace present and former government minsters who are still alive or dead, or both.


As you all know these documents pose a substantial threat to our security and accordingly a decision was made by me to secure them by trickery and deceit, and, once secured, to place them in a sealed envelope, which was then placed inside a lead lined coffin which, in turn, was placed inside a large wooden crate which was sealed by way of heavy duty chains and 17 padlocks. The crate was then transported to a secret location in the Xxxxxx Desert, near Adelaide, or Perth where it was to be buried at a depth of 15 nautical miles and in a downward trajectory until we hit rock where a slight horizontal detour was to be affected.


Unfortunately, at some point during the afore-mentioned operation, the envelope escaped and we have not been able to ascertain as to its whereabouts.


I wish to inform you that I have today, via iphone 'facetime' given an assurance to the Hague Court of Documents that none of my operatives, nor my cabinet colleagues or indeed myself, have read any of the documents in question. I have also given an undertaking that should the sealed envelope find its way back into my filing cabinet I will not, under any circumstances, open the envelope and, further, should I find the envelope has come unstuck and is no longer sealed, will not withdraw the contents of the envelope and attempt to read any, or all, of the documents even though I would really like to.


I hardly need to remind you that should these documents come to light and be read by someone other than, say, me, our country's immediate safety, and that of its population (including Labor supporters) will be in very grave danger. I cannot emphasise, enough, the peril our once great nation faces whilst the documents remain at large, even though I have never read them and have absolutely no idea what they actually have to say. Suffice it to say, you are all to remain vigilant and to ensure that the envelope, wherever it is, does not fall into the wrong hands.


The wrong hands being the Prime Minster of the tiny island state of Xxxxx xxxx or Labor supporters. Or both. 



A strange week, dear listener. 

Two massive tomes arrived - I picture them here for your viewing pleasure.

I downloaded an essential weather app for my iphone

We (Birdseye people) received a commission to shoot one of Brisbane's oldest buildings.

I also loaded the most wonderfully small 1936 Zeiss Ikonta with my favourite film and have snapped away, deliriously, 15 frames of all manner of subjects in and around Marcoola beach.

All these things I received are as a result of my desires; I only really need one on this list. The remainder are what my dreams are made of.

The unfortunately named Willy Weather (is it just me?) is a most incredible little app; since we are so reliant on weather conditions, especially of the changeable type, it seems only fitting that we count Willy Weather amongst our most treasured possessions. Rather like carrying a barometer in your back pocket, Willy alerts us to pending weather waiting around the corner: wind speed, rain radar on a real satellite map, dew-points, extreme alerts etc etc. We've tried so many weather apps, but this is by far the most comprehensive one so far.

How did we live without it?

Which brings me to the two books: Robert Frank's 'The Americans' is considered one of the most influential book of images ever published. Frank travelled some 10,000 miles through the USA during the mid-1950's, ostensibly to capture the 'real' America. Excoriated by critics when the book first appeared in 1958, it is now regarded as a classic piece of art, one which has excited and inspired generations of photographers. The edition you see above is a publication of the Museum of Modern Art, NY and was produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first published volume of 'The Americans.' The book not only contains all of the original plates but provides the reader with unpublished photographs, contact sheets, notes and maps associated with Frank's sojourn.

'Impressed by Light' - another publication from the Museum of Modern Art - is a treasure trove of early British photography: or, the 'Calotype' process. The Calotype was a British invention dating back to the mid 1840s and competed against the, then, widely used French process known as 'Daguerrotype.' Stepping back into mid-Victorian Britain by way of photographs is a most bizarre journey; the audacity of the art of photographers, the stars of the book, is truly wondrous and awe-inspiring.

Which brings me to the historic building shoot: we attend to the shoot this Sunday. It will all be exterior by digital camera and my desire now is to return, with permission, and conduct an interior shoot with three antique bellows cameras and attempt to emulate the work of those photographers who appear in the above-mentioned book.

So happy my desires outweigh my needs.





Hullo. Allow me to introduce myself
My name is Cory and I am a Federal politician from Adelaide and I am a conservative. As you can see from this picture, I am reading a book. This is not any old book; neither is it a book written by liberal do-gooders or left-wing terrorists or islamist muslims. In fact, it is my book that I have just had published and contains lots of thoughts I have which are all conservative thoughts.
Most of my thoughts are about things that the political left would rather I didn't think about.  For example: in my book I write about a thought I once had in which I thought through something that made perfect sense. As a matter of fact it was pure common sense. Common sense is a corner-stone of conservative thinking which is why the political left hate conservatives such as myself.
In England, the conservative government of the day invented the 'House of Commons' where only common sense was allowed. An architect, Sir Wren, designed the 'Houses of Parliament' to go with the 'Commons.' This is why the political left hate people such as myself. I am so passionate about common sense I have created a movement which I urge you to donate large amounts of cash. It is called the Campaign for Common Sense and its purpose is to propagate the use of common sense and to promote healthy life-styles based around the ideals of common sense in a conservative world. The more you donate the more the political left will hate me (and you).
My aim in life is to defend all those important things that made our great nation of ours so great: normal families that don't have any homosexuals or communists, economic freedom from world-wide jewry and traditional values that the lefties want to dismantle and replace with a communistic state that uses brainwashing as a tool for recruiting new members and promoting fornication and abortions. Common sense and banning fluoride from our water supplies will ultimately defeat the political left. That's why they hate me so much.
Common sense made me what I am today and it is also is why I am the founder and chairman of the Conservative Leadership Foundation. The CLF is non-secular and not politically aligned; however, to join us it is advisable that you are over 18, a conservative, despise the political left and generally dislike non-whites no matter what their colour, creed or religion. 
One last point to consider: if God had intended us to fornicate he would have made us fornicators. I am not a fornicator and neither is my good friend Dr Wim Wenders from the 'Aryan Truncheon' movement of Holland. I mention this because Wim and I share many common sense ideas: interracial-marriage should be outlawed for non-whites and non-christians; jewish people should be allowed only $50 cash on their person at any one time and single parents should be chemically castrated at birth (theirs, not their children. Although come to think about it that would be a great idea).
Wim and I also share a passion for healthy living through physical exercise and clean thoughts.   Here is a photograph of me with a six pack and a healthy posture that all christians should aspire to. Notice, also, that I am facing the right.  
All good people (no matter what the shade of white they are) should be facing the right - it's the common sense thing to do!
Thank you and good night.






Steve Coogan joins a cast of thousands who have brought much-loved British TV comedy to the big screen and failed miserably: On The Buses - Dads Army - The Likely Lads - Steptoe & Son - Porridge - awful muck, to name just a few....and the list goes unmercifully on and on.

'Alpha Papa' is a bland comedy made for the 21st Century, but steeped in the usual bland collection of faux pas, double entendres, mirth and titillation that once bore down us through the telly and eventually onto the big screen in the 20th. The film creaks and groans as it meanders down the memory lane of the 'Carry On' films and all that sailed before and after at Pinewood. 

Here is Hattie Jacques as the Acting Deputy Police Commissioner; Bernard Breslaw as the tough detective; Sid James as the tough Swattie; Kenneth Williams as Alan Partridge, our unlikely hero:

What utter rubbish!


I'm a fool for vintage cameras. But my small(ish) collection has grown slowly over the years due to a condition known as money.  So it was fortuitous for me that I celebrated a milestone in birth years recently and was handed a carte blanche by my better half with permission to go slightly bonkers online.

Which I did.

The five cameras you see above are the result of serious research and frenzied auction activity over a two month period and which culminated in a grand opening (as a result of a grand wrapping) a few days ago.

Unfortunately, the photo belies both my acumen as a professional photographer and the hard work spent in restoration. Interestingly, and as an aside (albeit one of great importance), all the cameras you see here are of the folding (or bellows) type. Their combined timeline spans just three decades of the twentieth century and they represent a fascinating history of the camera.

Allow me to elucidate (from left to right):

THE CONLEY was produced in Rochester, NY around the beginning of the twentieth century. This particular model dates from 1909 with an unknown provenance. The case is seal leather (ouch!), the bellows leather, the base floor Indian Mahogany and the lens surrounds nickel plate. I have all six original plate holders which are double sided and the obscured glass (which is used to correctly frame and focus prior to exposing the plate) is perfectly intact. The camera is now fully restored: the wood cleaned and polished, the glass cleaned, the leather dubbined and the shutter still works perfectly. In due course I will purchase sheet negatives for the plate holders and fire off this 106 year old beauty.

THE KODAK AUTOGRAPH No 3, SERIES H also produced in Rochester but by Eastman Kodak. This model dates from around 1910-12. Seal skin (yikes again) leather casing, leather bellows and brass fittings. Six hours of massaging with 'Autosol' uncovered a most stunning lens fitting, the likes of which I have never seen before. The camera can be modified (with some degree of difficulty) to take 120 film (medium format) but I'm in no hurry: this gorgeous addition can sit proudly as a showpiece, not a workhorse. Provenance is unknown.

KODAK VEST was mass produced in the first decade of the twentieth century until around 1924. This particular model dates from 1910 and is almost certainly of the type that was widely used by soldiers on the battlefields of France and Belgium in the Great War. I would love to think I own a piece of that history, but alas and alack I have no way of knowing. Bellows are leather and the camera is encased in a metal body. With some modification to the film, the camera might accept 35mm for pinhole type lomography.

ZEISS IKON 'IKONTA' OR IKON 512 dates from around 1938 and was manufactured in Germany. Accurately dating and identifying the different Ikon models is a maddening experience: the factory in Dresden (destroyed in 1940 by Allied bombing) pushed out over 100 models in one year alone. Provenance is unknown, but I guess that it is an export model given that i bought it from the USA. The camera has leather bellows, a Novar/Compur shutter with Zeiss lens all encased in a hard leather case that folds down to the size of large box of matches! Excitingly, it accepts 120 film. Watch this space!

THE BURLEIGH BROOKS, KNOWN AS THE BEE BEE, was manufactured by Certotrop in Germany for export around 1938. It is a stunning plate camera packed with many features: rack and pinion horizontal adjustment, removable lens, spirit level, double extension leather bellows all packed in a hard leather casing (what else?). I have all three plates to which I will add cut sheet negatives; the obscure glass is intact and clean as are the attached black curtains  which helps to block out some light (but too small for me to poke my head through).


Thank you Netflix! For just a small outlay every month I have been treated to the most extraordinary films I'd not heard of. Here is my new listicle: a selection of films I believe to be worthy enough to recommend without any hesitation. 

I'm not a film critic, but I can wax or shred lyrically if time or energy permits. Sadly for you (dear listener), I have decided that my musings need to be truncated and so I have tried to commit myself to fewer than 50 words to each film. I doubt I have managed to convey very much at all with respect to plot and story; worse, the descriptions might be pithy and vacant to those who are unfamiliar to any of the following films. 

Trust me when I say that each of the films in the list below are worthy of your attention. Almost all were released between 2006 and 2012 and most can be allocated to the catalogue of 'Indie' films.


INTOUCHABLES: touching and uplifting. Based on a true story: a billionaire quadriplegic takes on a street-wise con artist as his personal assistant. France. 5 stars.

LORE:  Gloomy and oppressive - a tale from the ‘other’ side. Her parents, high-ranking Nazis, having been captured by the Allies, Lore leads her siblings across Germany seeking refuge. I was looking for revenge and found only sympathy. Germany. 5 stars.

MONSIEUR LAZHAR: To Sir With Love! Lazhar, an Algerian refugee accepts a temporary teaching post in Montreal and finds himself helping his charges come to terms with the trauma of their former teacher who had hung herself in their classroom. Not as depressing as it sounds! Canada. 5 stars

LONDON: THE MODERN BABYLON: Tour de Force. Contemporary documentary which take us on a tour of London’s most recent history. UK. 5 stars

AFTER THE WEDDING: Some people give the oddest gifts!  Wealthy businessman offers millions to save Jacob’s orphanage in India but with strings attached. Watch it and weep for all the children - the true stars! Denmark. 4 stars

END OF WATCH: Gut wrenching with a denouement you wouldn't hope for. Understated and dismal. The extraordinary tale of an LA PD patrol car and its two occupants during various shifts. USA. 4 stars.

EUROPA REPORT: A bat out of hell! Remarkably overlooked sci-fi thriller; gloriously confined within a large space-pod, a team of astronauts voyage to Jupiter’s moon, Europa. Footage of the ensuing maelstrom courtesy of the on-board cams ensures a claustrophobic adventure for the viewer. The ending is decidedly daft. USA. 4 stars.

KING OF DEVIL’S ISLAND: Try unclenching your fists! Based on a true story. the film tells of the events leading to the eventual closure of the notorious Basto Boys Correctional facility in Norway. Brutalised, the older boys revolt which leads them, ultimately, to confrontation with the Norwegian army. Norway. 5 stars.

UPSTREAM COLOUR: All but impossible to summarise without giggling, but here goes: a couple try to re-build their lives after being abducted and having their heads messed with a chemical extracted from a wild-flower! I kid you not. Bizarre and confusing; time retreats and accelerates; you’ll never want to eat bacon again. Bonkers. USA. 4 stars.

BERNIE: C’est la mort. Inspired by true events, Jack Black’s Bernie is ingratiatingly, cloyingly loveable. He’s too good to be true, isn’t he? A tale of love, dependency and murder. Shirley Maclaine, as Bernie’s wealthy, widowed benefactor, is magnificent. USA. 4 stars.

ELECTRICK CHILDREN: Decidedly off-beat. A quirky but mostly satisfying indie film tracing a young Mormon girl’s quest for her holy grail in Las Vegas (of all places!). The denouement, whilst also not exactly original,  was a tad grating for my liking. USA. 4 stars

A BAND CALLED DEATH: Well before Rotten and Vicious there was a band called ‘Death.’ Proto-punk, if you will, borne out of Detroit in the early 1970s who rose to prominence through a series of  small episodes of serendipity in 2008. A well researched, beautifully presented doco. Buy the album!! USA 5 stars.

THE IMPOSTER: You can’t fool all the people most of the time, can you? Words should fail you after watching this. They certainly failed me! The narrative of imposter Frederik Bourdin as told through this immensely unsettling doco. A con-artist, Bourdin bluffs himself out of prison in Spain by claiming to be an american abductee. Almost everyone, including the abducted boy’s family, believes (or wants to believe) the boy has returned, after many years, from his abduction. USA. 4 stars. 

BOY: Beautifully filmed in New Zealand with an amazing cast of children. A boy’s father returns to the family home after years of absence; his presence slowly dissolves innocent fantasy embroiling Boy and his younger brother into unsavoury adult pretensions. A film about shattered dreams and digging holes. NZ. 4 stars.

STARLET: I believe it was the accompanying film poster that drew me to this film. Well, we all have our peccadilloes, don’t we? Dee Hemingway portrays an alluring, kooky, aspiring young actress in LA. She befriends Sadie, a decidedly not nice 85 year old widow. Starlet steals the show whilst Sadie’s battle with friendship and a lost dog is a marvel of modern cinema. USA. 4 stars.

BLAME IT ON FIDEL! Paris in the 70s: a childs view of extreme left-wing politics. A precocious and annoyingly intelligent young girl beautifully portrayed by Nina Kervel-Bey and starring Julie Depardieu as her mother, questions her parents’ radical political lifestyle. She’s a counter-revolutionary, and knows it! France. 4 stars.

GOMORRAH: Good god, what did you expect? The title should be a warning to you: this is not a pleasant film in any sense. A film about the mafiosa in and around modern-day Naples; intertwining stories make for an uneasy viewing experience. Watch it through gritted teeth. Italy. 5 stars.

THE DOUBLE HOUR: I won’t spoil this intriguing film for you. Suffice to say: Sonia is shot in the head during a bungled art robbery. Her recovery leads her to suffer from strange visions of the dead and flashbacks to incidents that may, or may not, have played out in her life. Italy. 4 stars.

THE RETURN: revisiting the now familiar story of a father’s return to the fold, this dark and wholly unsettling film places the children front and centre in almost every scene. The resultant emotional and physical pain the brooding, angry father inflicts on his two boys is barely suffused through his eventual fate. Extraordinary and breathtaking cinematography. Russia. 5 stars.

FISH TANK:  Katie Jarvis plays a not-so-sweet 16 year old; attitude with a mouth to match. This is a wonderfully subjective film that portrays life in modern working class England and the young people who must suffer it. Short of optimism and big on escape plans, anything can be possible if you play your cards right. Who better to show you how to play the cards when you’re a girl just turned 16? Michael Fassbender on hand, so to speak. UK. 4 stars.

THE HOUSE I LIVE IN: This is an important documentary and should be compulsory viewing for everyone over the age of 13. Modern-day America as seen through the eyes of those caught up in the cross-fire of the never-ending war on drugs. USA. 5 stars.

LONDON RIVER: “Twenty bridges from Tower to Kew - Wanted to know what the River knew, Twenty Bridges or twenty-two, For they were young, and the Thames was old And this is the tale that River told:” In the aftermath of the 7/7 London bombings two parents each search for their missing children. Fate, or luck, brings them together. This is their story. UK. 5 stars.

OMAGH: Not an easy film to watch; I sped through the bomb blast. Based on true events, the film chronicles some of the the victims’ families as they tried to come to terms with what had happened and to seek justice for their loved ones. They discover how the investigation was botched by the Police and how the threat to bomb Omagh was known by the Secret Service well beforehand. Justice denied the truth. UK. 5 stars.


A new word entered my lexicon today. Listicles.

Thank you, online Guardian.

I get bored reading lists; not mine, you understand. Other people's: lists of best films, best books, best dream job, best destinations (yechh), best celebrities, best albums of all time (some I've never even heard of), oscar winners (care factor - zero plus infinity).  I hate thinking about them. I hate looking at them.

My mind wanders and I get listless.

My listicles, on the other hand, entertain me. I enjoy reading my own lists almost as much as I do writing them. You could call this behaviour narcissistic; or self-indulgent. Egocentric, vainglorious, self-loving, pompous, big-headed or conceited.

When I'm also being sanctimonious and feel the need to fire off emails to anyone who deserves to receive my wrath, I write things in lists. It's rather like handing down a number of commandments from up high; I act like I'm some sort of legal demi-god and I love it. Numbered, not bulleted. Lists don't make sense with bullet points.

Other note-worthy listicles of mine include a dictionary of legal puns I once prepared for a handful of judges. I got as far as 'C' before I was finally brought to heel and ordered to stop wasting tax-payer funded emails.

For your reading pleasure and amusement, here are but a few examples:

  1. APPELLANT: a pest. Destroys fruit crops at harvest.
  2. ASIC: one piece of vomit
  3. AFFIRMATION: a collection of thin trees lined up in neat rows
  4. AGREEMENT: something people disagree about thereby causing litigation
  5. ARBITER: a lover of beer
  6. BAIL: holiday destination for dyslexics


On a recent trip to northern NSW, Mrs P and me could be found exploring Nimbin - erstwhile hippy capital of Australia. And god bless its little hemp socks.

Whilst Mrs P had once made this pilgrimage way back in the 1970's, I had not. I missed the Aquarius Festival by a few months and was settled back in London after a brief but disastrous visit to Oz in 1972.

This visit, however, was made in honour of the cheese that I love so much and I wanted pay homage to the fromage at  the Nimbin Cheese Factory. Apparently Nimbin Cheese is owned by Noreco and the factory is actually not in Nimbim but located in Lismore.

No matter, Nimbin itself was an interesting enough little town; plenty to keep us entertained for 15 minutes or so. Cliched photo opportunities abounded which i ignored, but having the Hasselbladski on hand I did manage to fire off some decent shots here and there. This included an amazing shot inside the incredible hardware shop; the shop assistants happily posed for me, surrounded as they were by all nature of dusty, musty stock and six or seven jars of some of the biggest snakes I'd ever seen. Pickled.

I dreamed of glory. The defining photo that would see me crowned photographer of the year was inside the camera. A black and white masterpiece that will stun the world; the adulation, the applause, the awards, the glittering prizes. I made a list in my head.

I processed the film last night. I processed the film I exposed to the Nimbin light with a developer that was not only expired, but was also from a bad batch I had bought and inadvertently forgotten to throw out. It stripped the film of all its emulsion and gave me back half a metre of nothing but clear acetate.

Serves me right for not writing these things down.  





I'm a bit of an legal idiot savant, dear listener.

I am not suggesting that I am legally recognised as an idiot savant (my muse would rather have it that I should be known as a qualified idiot). Rather, I have a severe ability to absorb, digest, regurgitate and interpret law and legislation. This is not a boast, it is (as it happens) an affliction. I cannot resile in the face of a legal wrong done to me or my kith and kin. I do enjoy a challenge or two, let's face it, but court appearances do have remarkably emotional side-effects.

But I am very rarely caught out, as it were, by those who hold qualifications to practice law. I am, in essence, always correct! Try me: Writs at High Noon if you wish, your choice of torts.

In the fog of law, contract law is (to my mind) the most difficult to interpret and comprehend. This elderly cousin-in-law to common law dates back almost 400 years with precedents seeping back so far in time they need to be aired and ironed before being applied.

Shopping, when one thinks about it, is always (always!) about contract law. Any transaction, come to think about it, is all about contract law. Ever wondered, dear listener, why telcos play their boring, monotonous and tedious recordings after you agree to sign up for their amazingly wonderful mobile 'phone plan? Contract law - the one that binds without the use of bran. Extricating yourself from a mobile 'phone contract is rather like having a severe bout of constipation.

I could wax for an age with all sorts of examples of pit-falls (and prat-falls) that abound. I won't because this is not a legal blog, or a series of lectures, or a legal broadcast. This is my blog where I try and entertain with my little adventures, hopefully without the ranting and ravings of some inveterate and vexatious litigant.

Dim the lights, dear listener (if you're still with me) and watch as I cast my mind back a few weeks to a small photographic assignment that we both attended. A friendly real estate agent commissioned us to take aerial photographs of a property she was marketing. The property itself a most disagreeable subject, as were the owners. Rude, bellicose and downright nasty; so much so they brought one half of Birdseye close to tears. Professionals that we are, we hoisted our chins and the mast in the air and snapped away for two hours. Processing, three hours and incidentals (travel, heat and accounting) two. A grand total of seven hours for the most wonderful prize of $220 + gst

Our reward? The agent refuses to pay the bill. She refuses to pay because in her odd little world an agreement (read: contract) may only be satisfied on her terms. The agent wrongly believes that the agreement lies with the property owners and us, not with her and us. They won'y pay (presumably because they didn't like the shape of the mast, the colour of our car, the make of my shorts, the cut of my cloth) and so she won't pay.

Problem is, someone has to pay. And it's not going to be me.

I might be many things, but I'm no idiot.


Scott Morrison aside, there is just one type of news story guaranteed to make me want to bring up my breakfast cereal: tips on how to take great holiday snaps courtesy professional photographers. The latest tour de nonsense appeared in two Fairfax newspapers - The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald. 

I was fortunate enough to have half a page left on my free online monthly allowance and unwillingly (for reasons best known to my unconscious state of mind) clicked on the aforementioned article.

One professional suggested getting to know your way around the camera - learn to understand ISO, shutter speeds, aperture sizes and the relationship between all three. He (or she) could have thrown in, for good measure, a quick study of Ansell Adams'  'Zone' system. What better way to spend your entire holiday?

Another tip: ignore the boring touristy shots. Forget trying to emulate the Princess Di-type shots of the Taj Mahal, instead, why not wander around the vicinity of that wondrous edifice and look for hidden nooks and crannies. In all likelihood you'd cop a bullet in the head from the elite anti-terrorist squad. Still, the shot (both of them) would be an incredible photo opportunity.

Yet another: in Third World countries, make it a habit to pay locals for allowing you to take their photos. Grizzled, dusky faces, heads adorned with turbans en vogue at the moment. A close-up could win you awards and the old man will be thrilled and honoured to take home a bit of cash. Whilst you're at it, ask for a quick shoot of his body - concentrate on the area where his kidney used to be. He probably sold that to a nice well-meaning white tourist as well.

Worse: a professional made the point that since it is not innate in us (as humans presumably) to take great photographs; we have to learn to how to take great photographs. Ipso Facto: if you to want to learn how to take great photos you must first learn how to take photographs. Learn from a professional because they have learned how take a great photograph by learning how to take photographs.

Why do I despair, dear listener? Well, in the digital age, photography is once again, thankfully, democratic. We can all take photographs and see the results, good or bad, in an instant. Delete what we don't like and keep the stuff we do. Kodak, as I have recently mentioned before in these very pages, promised to make photographers out of everyone. All that was required of you was to snap away and let Kodak do the rest. This was at the turn of the last century and surviving family photos from around the world are breathtaking in their simplicity, naivety, in their composition and in the stories they tell. Who am I to judge their worth or worthlessness? By what measure do we, as photographers, judge what is a great holiday snap and what isn't? 

Holiday snaps from the late 1890s to the late 1960s are a wondrous tour of fashion, of social mores and graces; of modesty and the immodest. Snapshots of memories,  the good, the bad and the awful, down through decades. Those who have long passed tell us their stories through  memories they once stored in albums and in dusty drawers. Fleeting moments captured inside Kodak Brownies; small and square, black and white, washed and muted colours, evoking sights, smells, noises, crowds. Uninhibited and spontaneous gestures, frozen in time. 

Here are two small children, a boy and girl no more than three and six; inside the small square Kodak print they play near the shoreline on the beach at Westgate-On-Sea. It is 1956. Front and centre the smiling face of the boy, deliriously happy mucking about in the water; the girl, overcoated, turns toward the camera - no doubt called to attention. This is not a perfect photograph, it is not a perfect print either. It is a perfect memory 

No-one told the man who took the photograph how to take a good photograph. He would read the manual that came with the camera. He would take a photograph, in all likelihood, spontaneously. His composition is almost flawless; the story he tells is perfectly clear. It is a wonderful holiday snap and is a wonderful memory of a day that I recall quite clearly. That, for me, is the mark of a truly great holiday snap.




On the backroads again! This time to a 50 acre farm north of Peregian on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. My gut feeling was to bale and grab the nearest helicopter

Trailer in tow, we headed for the low ground ostensibly to send Billy up high to make panoramas. Getting down the hill was a breeze, getting back up was as exciting as it was alarming.

Exciting for me. Alarming for the other half of Birdseye Photography.

Whilst a 4WD would have been preferable, our all wheel drive was indispensable. The trailer careered and groaned through sun-hardened bogs. Pulling for all its might, the Mitsubishi roared back up the hill without any of my cares in the world. We burned rubber where no rubber had been burned before.

I'm back to complete the job tomorrow and I booked a helicopter.


Our beloved Nikon D700 is back! 

I do like the Nikon D300, our back-up camera, but it's not the D700. 

Back from the repairer and sporting a new memory card reader, the D700's first job was to take a few amazing images of a property located in The Gap.

The Gap is a suburb of Brisbane and I guess it received its name due to its low-lying disposition twixt a few hills. I could be wrong and I could google the suburb to check, but truth be told I can't be bothered.

Oh bloody hell. I will, ok?

Dear listener: this from wiki: The name "The Gap" is from the gap between Taylor Range and Mt Coot-tha which was the only access to this area in the early days..

I digress. Still smarting from his bout of oxygen, Billy played up (actually, down). Another round of milking from the snoot and a massive dose of helium soon fixed him and he sailed magnificently to 400 feet

Just before the wind kicked in, we got a few shots like this:

On shoots like this I wouldn't trade Billy for all the helicopters in China.


Regular listeners will know that I am hardly if at all, immoderate. That means, online, I am, on the whole, moderate. This shouldn't suggest that I am all purr and no bite (sorry Mr P); I have given as good as I get (sometimes deservedly so). My emails, when push comes to shove, are sometimes caustic and unpleasantly insulting.

But, rarely do I resort to intemperate language.  

Since 1995 I have made brief appearances in many online forums, but never outstayed my welcome. For the past 10 years, however, I have limited myself to movie reviews (on Amazon as 'bloodknock1') and an occasional, but polite, comment here and there 

So, would it therefore surprise you if was to boast that I have been censored, silenced even, by the Guardian comment moderators? You see,  I was a commentaholic, trawling through all the Guardian news and magazine articles I could find to stir the pot, as it were. This trolling habit of mine lasted for over 4 years with comments from yours truly on subjects as diverse as fracking, sex and the over 60s, gardening and football. 

Word play and absurdity - my online raison d'être - was my passion - and it was fun and it was self-gratifying. Fun to research, fun to read serious articles and fun to make fun of them. And then, my little online fun world came crashing down on me. I started to be officially moderated; a few of my comments drew the ire of the community moderator. At first, some of my comments were simply removed leaving me red-faced and empty-handed with only my online handle exposed to the world, bereft of my message but the world knowing I had been moderated.

It get's worse.

My account with the Guardian is still intact, but my comments are to be pre-moderated. I have, in effect, been shut-down. 

So, in the in the interests of my own free speech, here, for the very first time in natural living colour, is a selection of my comments.

Judge for yourself. But, please, don't try and moderate me.


On historically inaccurate films:


I refuse to watch ANY film until I am satisfied that it is correct in every possible detail. Currently, I'm still working my way through a list of films from the 70's and hope to be loading up my Betamax any day now.


On Peter Conrad's review of Elliot Erwitt's photography:


I shall never ever partake in anything that has the name Conrad associated with it:The Hilton, Lord Jim, Canadian newspapers, art critics, Conrad Jupiter Casino, Conrad's Pizza in St Albans, Melbourne. Next on my list: anything to do with name Peter..........


On a 22 year old female addicted to porn:


In my house, we don't have enough sex on the telly....


On the worse gig we ever played:


Ian Anderson could have mentioned his gig in Melbourne - 1973. Billy Thorpe & The Aztecs, a local wannabe band were support. Their set was sheer torture from the opening riff to the ridiculous drum solo. that out of my system 38 years on....


On Angela Hartnett's salad:


Omit the oil and this is a super salad for any compost.


On what is meant by the word 'folk' in folk music?


Pop/rock/country is known as Country in the USA.
Rock/country/country/pop/rock/mor is known as Country in the USA
Country/Country & Western/Blues/Pop/Rock/Heavy Metal/Indie is known as Country in the USA
Folk/Country/Blues/Bluegrass/Rock is known as Country in the USA
Blues/Techno/MOR/Rock/Pop/Bubblegum/Skiffle/Classical/HipHop is known as Country in the USA
Indie/Reggae/Folk/Ffolk/Underground/Alt/Blues is known as Country in the USA
Rock/Pop/Blues/Wombles/Fffolk/Rock n Roll/Soul/R&B is known as Country in the USA


On a reader's take on what 'folk' music really means:


("bearded men playing banjos and singing about the life of a farm labourer at the time of the Napoleonic Wars"), 
Historically speaking, an impossibility.
You might like to fashion your arguement a little more by having a look at the life and works of Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams - both enthusiasts, avid collectors and recorders of English 'folk' music.
There, you will find the fuzzy lines that mark the division between 'popular' music and 'folk' music.


On what makes a photographer freeze:


So, I was in Paris when the war ended and noticed a couple snogging in public and was just about to take a photo when I heard a noise like a camera going off just behind me. Then, when I was in Spain on holiday in 1936, I was just about to take a photo of a nice soldier admiring the view over Cordoba when he slipped. I heard a clicking noise behind me which sounded like a camera going off.
I remember Diana Arbus once telling me "take, it, don't take it...I should care less.


On warnings of severe drought throughout England:




On the wrongs of digging bore holes: 


In South Africa they used Boer Holes. 
In Tuscany they used Boar Holes.


On the question of the legality of incest:


I, for one, wouldn't hold it against my sister......


On 1970's tv shows: 



On Alberto Juantorena: "and there goes Juantorena down the back straight, opening his legs and showing his class"

On Asa Hartford: "such a whole hearted player" (not long after Hartford was diagnosed with a hole in the heart).

"And the line up for the final of the Women's 400 metres hurdles includes three Russians, two East Germans, a Pole, a Swede and a Frenchman."

"She hasn't run faster than herself before"

"He is accelerating all the time. That last lap was run in 64 seconds and the one before in 62"

On fracking:

Fracking ridiculous.

On Freddy v Jason:

Just stepping out for a quick slash........

On women being funny:

I think my wife is hilarious.....

On 'Facebook:'

Please 'Like' me if you enjoyed this comment......


IVF can get stuffed....

On the sport of diving:

Diving is 80% psychological and 20% water....

On England's new manager:

I have been following England since 1963; here are few things I've learned since that time:
Football is a game of two halves; or four quarters. Sometimes, the first 15 minutes are the most important; other times it's the final 15 minutes. The most dangerous teams are those that just conceded a goal (except on the full time whistle, then they are mostly inconsolable). A draw is a better result than a loss, unless you are the winner in which case a draw is an inferior result. Control possession and you control the ball. Control the midfield and you control the ball in midfield, and the bits behind you as well.
Attack is the best form of defence, unless your opponent is already near your goal. Then, defence is the best form of defence. 

On how we made West Side Story:

Did you know......West Side was supposed to be East Side Story?
It's my most favourite musical and I'm not even gay!

On plagiarism:

What about self-plagiarising?

What about self-plagiarising?

On Greece's financial crises:

It's all just a big con...

On wind turbines:

I am pro-wind whilst my wife is anti-wind.

On Margate being in the top ten 'must see' places in the world:

Looks amazing! Love the way the buildings blend so wonderfully well: modern rubbish alongside nauseatingly awful mausoleum with clock tower. 
On my must visit list now, alongside Northern Cyprus and Northern Iceland.

On "My wife won't have sex with me:"

Will she have sex with me? (moderated) 

On Turkish Baths:

Take at least 12 bars of soap with you, that way you never have to bend down to pick one up. (moderated)

On the tv series The Tudors:

Love it! A reader responds to a post:  "Oh, and thanks for ruining tomorrow's episode" 

On art in Saudi Arabia:

Hirst's art will certainly sheik things up a bit.........

On referendums:

I, for one, am really sick of all this talk about referendums.
Anyone else agree with me?


Dear Queensland State Government Ethics Committee,

I wish to apply for the advertised position (hahaha, geddit? ) of head ( lol...'head') of the Ethics Committee.

I believe I have the necessary credentials ( in my boxers ) as you will see from my massive CV. Please find, below, my responses to the selection criteria. I hope to hear from you very soon.


Selection Criteria:


1. Who invented ethics and why? 

Ethics was invented thousands of years ago by a committee of greek scholars. The chairman of the day was Athena Starwoman. The greeks were worried about how unpopular the politicians were in the market place, especially amongst members of the Agoraphobian society. Ethics was devised as a tool to make greek politicians appear to be the most pristine of human beings ever invented. If citizens complained how comfortable and fat politicians appeared to be during the great recession of BC 6500, they could be shown the door and the latest newsletter from the Ethics committee.


2. Name a time when you have proven yourself to be very ethical. How did you go about achieving your ethicalness?

On 15 April 2010 at approximately 3.45 pm I became aware as to how very ethical I had become. I had just bought myself a full-bodied cab-sav from my local Dan Murphy's store; I recall it was an organic French wine imported from the French wine region of Bordello using well-paid 9 year old Pakistani children to crush the grapes. My electoral allowance paid for the wine for research purposes as at the time I was investigating reports that red wine cured fungal growth on the penis if left sitting in a glass for more than 10 minutes. I reported this expenditure to the Expenditure Committee. In showing the world how progressive Queenslanders can be when it comes to penile dysfunctions, I believe myself to have acted with all due ethicalness. Also, I sent a picture of my research to a close friend just to prove my work ethic.


3. What has attracted you to this position? How do you believe you can make a difference to the State of Queensland?

This position appeals to me because I am highly principled with a very strong moral compass and have never stalked young females. Also, I look very respectful and authoritarian which you need to be an ethical person. Queenslanders will learn to trust me because I will make sure their ethics are well taken care of and I will frown at scum and low-lifes who act unethically. These people deserve to die in jail. Also, fellow Queenslanders will understand completely how ethical it is to have well-paid politicians to look after them. As that great greek ethicalist, Plagiarist, once said: "you can fool all the people most of the time and don’t forget to never give a sucker an even break."

Thank you. 



What is the shadowy figure at the end of the corridor?
The image above was taken with a pinhole camera using Kodak 400TX during a break on location at the shoot of my 'Victorian Haunting'  photo-essay.  It is one of 8 shots taken with the pinhole and the only one to survive during the developing stage this week; I am gutted, dear listener, as I recall setting off the camera a few times around the old Lands & Titles Office in Melbourne; some of the rooms were distinctly creepy and I was excited at the thought of a few atmospheric photos
Nevertheless, I am thrilled with this photo; it nicely articulates the basement area - gloomy and forbidding - where we had so much fun creating our Victorian lady-ghost. I don't remember any of the team being so far down the corridor at the time I took this. Maybe someone was down there and I simply forgot, but I doubt it.
I have exhausted ideas for project work; the Sunshine Coast, as lovely as it is, does not inspire me one jot. I can, I suppose, shoot the coastline - but who doesn't?
On the other side of the coin, the digital side of my photographic life, I have aerial photography. It's exhilarating to say the least; I love almost every hair-raising minute on location and get impatient to start processing what the camera collects for me so far above my head.
Our last job - William Street, Brisbane at 400 feet - raised enough hairs on my head to crochet a rug. At 35 metres a bizarre gust of wind took hold of Billy the Blimp and slammed him toward the roof of a neighbouring building. Quietly and calmly I allowed Billy's rope to slacken off before I pulled hard, reeling him back to a semblance of order.  
It's on shoots like this I yearn for the coast.



Photo successfully downloaded from the internet from the Queensland Government's website, saved to my desktop and reproduced here without permission. 

Here's a nice conundrum, dear listener: let's say that you commission me to take a photograph of your house. Let's say that I spend hours processing this photo which I then pass on to you and you pay me for my professional work. Who now owns the original photo? You? Me? 

Let's say that you use my photograph on a real estate site and subsequently sell your house, as I intended for you to use the photo. Let's say you decide to publish the photo inside a book you've written about the house you just sold. The book sells millions of copies and you become an instant millionaire. Hollywood knocks on your door and offers you multi-millons for the film rights and you make squillions from the subsequent feature film.

What do I get? I get to purchase a writ with your name on it; we get to spend a couple of years in and out of court. We get to spend vast sums of money (most of which you have and I don't) on lawyers and continuing litigation. We rely on a judge of a superior court to sort out the mess.

Up to this point, then, all quite straight forward? As naiive and simplistic as my scenario might seem, we are on a small tour of the wonderfully fascinating world of intellectual property law

When Queensland State Health Minister, Lawrence Springborg, recently declared there had been a breach of intellectual property rights, he already had his head down a rabbit hole. Attempting to extricate himself from reality, Springborg further complicated his message by insisting the government was merely offering an ultimatum to the alleged perpetrators on behalf of a third party, the so-called intellectual property holders. 

In doing so, Minister Springborg sets an unusual and dangerous precedence. It may be the case that Minister Springborg relied on legal opinion (however ridiculous) in order to state his rather surreal pronouncements. More alarming is that a government minister would set out to censor printed material, however distasteful he deems it to be, through threats of legal action on behalf of a third party. This sets off alarm bells, in my mind, that echo back to the most oppressive regimes of the 20th century.

More pertinently, Springborg has only a layperson's understanding of what intellectual property law means. If it were as simple to prosecute as he believes, I could be a multi-millionaire instantly.

Then, you could keep my photo of your house and place it on a hundred billboards for all I cared.

(* For further reading, visit Grouch Marx's wonderful letter to Warner Bros over the alleged breach of copyright to the title 'Casablanca')




Regular listeners to this blog will know that the air dictates everything I do as a photographer. Without it, helium would have nothing to compete against. Billy Blimp would sink to the ground faster than my last gasp.

Vacuum cleaners also need air, otherwise they can't suck. 

What sucks about vacuum cleaners is that they are also trip hazards; the key to avoiding injury is to not fall over one that some idiot has left in the doorway of bedroom. Ignorance is not bliss as Mrs P will attest.

Two weeks after we took out income protection for me as the sole photographer, Mrs P obtained a dinner fork fracture as a result of my stupidity post-carpet clean. Forearm now in a heavy plaster cast, my muse and my creative director has been sidelined and some aerial jobs have been placed on hold.

These are frustrating times indeed - professionally and domestically.


Talking of frustrating times: once again I recently found myself scouring the 'net for a new laptop. With the elevated mast ready to be installed this week, I ran through a few checks with the equipment. Fashioning a make-shift mast out of 5 tripods, I reached dizzying heights of 5 metres. The camera atop the pan head, the pan head atop a tripod head, gigantic usb cable and pan remote attached to the aforementioned hardware, I sat down in front of my netbook and waited. 

And waited. And waited. And waited.......all worked fine: the pan head panned remotely, the camera fed its views live to the netbook and the tethered software blinked back all available settings. And yet, each image took an eternity to load in. Very much reminiscent of the first moon landing, I seemed to be anchored to a technology that was at once cutting-edge, yet still stuck in the era of  silent movies.

My giant leap requires $$s thrown at faster processing speeds; bigger RAM.

At one moment of madness, I found myself engaged in an online chat with a technology 'expert' kindly provided by Harvey Norman - that bastion of online retail shopping. What, I asked, could you find for me that would suit my requirements but at a ridiculously low budget? 

Finding an Acer Aspire, Mr Norman assured me that this laptop would be perfect for me on such a stupid budget (my words, not his). I broke the news to him that I had just found one for $150 less on ebay. Gobsmacked, he swiftly responded that the computer might be new, it might be cheaper than his store, but I should remember, I was buying it on ebay - and we all know what happens on ebay!

I laughed so hard, I could barely catch my breath.






Imagine you, dear listener, are a helium filled blimp who loves nothing more than frolicking under the warm caress of a Queensland sun at 200 feet. How important you are, carrying such expensive cameras and lenses, wafting along  thermals, bucking the breeze, happily inveigling your way into photographs. You ask for nothing in return except a modicum of respect for what you do; a bucket of sympathy whilst you lay dormant, and lonely, in your trailer during bad weather. You want for nothing except a gentle hand if a small hole appears on your being and the helium runs away; you get anxious and worry you might slip away and become flaccid and droopy.

You would think, would you not, dear listener, that nothing could be more terrible for a helium filled blimp than a tear in the fabric? 

Actually, there is something much worse; it is a helium-filled blimp's nightmare and it's name is 'oxygen.'

It is the 'O' in 'OH NO.'

Having sustained a small rip in the bottom area, Billy the Blimp contracted a massive dose of oxygen which poured in at an alarming rate, pre-patching, but which went unnoticed by yours truly. Now, since oxygen is heavier than helium, it follows that it will seek a lower area to settle. This, in turn, creates a weight imbalance since helium will, naturally seek the higher station. This imbalance means that for Billy, his nose and midriff wants to fly, but his bum wants to walk. Or scrape along; or bump along; or limp along. Oxygen has created a no-fly zone around Billy.

Now imagine this, dear listener: I sit, alone, on a Sunday morning, at the end of the trailer in a secluded industrial estate in Coolum. I have Billy's bum between my legs and his nose pointing toward the sky. His snoot, untied, is between my hands and I am milking Billy of oxygen. I am also allowing helium to flow since I cannot differentiate between the two as they rush past my hands. A car, or two, drives past and odd glances are thrown my way; I care little. So far, $150 worth of precious helium has been disbursed in the two hours of this operation. I tie the snoot, I let Billy loose, he sails and bucks and flops bum first. He goes back between my legs and we start over. We repeat this process four times. Then, at the moment I decide to pack up and go home, I give Billy a fifth chance. I attach a camera to his belly, stroke his belly, tell him how much he means to me and then release him. 

He sails, nose first, to 20 feet. His bum turns toward my frowning visage, cocks a snoot and sails happily and speedily upwards. He lets the sun caress his body, allows the helium to push itself against his fabric. He floats along the thermals; he is in heaven.

Out of earshot, I call my supplier and order a new blimp.


So, I'm stuck in a lift with a multi-billionaire property developer; beads of sweat popping along my forehead. I know him through newspapers, he doesn't know me from anywhere. I need to sell him the benefits of my aerial property photography service in just 30 seconds, or 10 floors, whichever comes first......I utter this breathtaking sentence:

"Have you any idea how bloody difficult it is to install a 20 metre elevated mast?"

Dear listener, perhaps we should step back in time to just a few weeks ago: having discarded interior real estate photography as a stand-alone service, and instead concentrate our efforts providing aerial photography services, it became apparent that we needed to add to our arsenal an elevated photographers mast. Days of research and much web-trawling later, we found ourselves begging a leading UK-based manufacturer ship to us a 20 meter elevated photographers mast. I say 'beg' because customer service was hardly their strongest point.

Two exhausting weeks and 12,000 or so miles later, the mast arrived replete with cables, pan and tilt, guy ropes and stakes packed into a 5 meter long cardboard box and weighing in at a wonderful 75 kilos.

That was the easy bit.

Stage 2: The mast, retracted, stands over 3 meters. The brilliant idea to have it bolted, upright, to the hitching frame of the trailer sounded wonderful when said out loud. In practice, a stupid concept of mine based on an idea from a friend who I forgave. Idea number 2 (still in stage 2): carry the mast horizontally on the outside of the trailer using a system of steel frames and brackets which would allow the mast to pivot into the upright position (at a standstill, not in transit, of course).  An admirable idea and worthy of some investigation as to fabrication and engineering; and yet, it also added more weight (as did idea 1 of stage 2) to the already burdened pack-mule that is the Mazda 3 (SP23).

Stage 3: Abandon stage 2 and concentrate on something that appeared to be missing from our increasing arsenal of costly acquisitions. Effectively, a decent sized vehicle that can carry, with consummate ease, our current load and with the addition of a 35 kilo, 3 meter (retracted) mast.

Idea 1 of stage 3 (which is really stage 2 as the previous stage 2 was abandoned): Buy a new bloody car. So, we have settled on a used Mitsubishi Outlander. This will require money to install hitching bar and tow ball wotsit and electrics together with modification to the roof rack to carry the mast which will be held by a pivot system which will enable us to pull the mast into place onto the tow ball wotsit. The imported version from the UK will set us back $11,000.  Instead, we will seek to have a complete system fabricated by local artisans.

When the whole system is up and running and ready to take it's first shots, I'll send photos to my new friend, the multi-billionaire property developer who, incidentally, alighted on level 3 and (if he could have been bothered) would have just heard this utterance coming from my direction: "Have you......?"  



The antonyms of humble are, variously, arrogant, bigheaded, complacent, conceited, content, egotistic, flushed, full of oneself, pleased, proud, puffed-up , self-congratulatory, smug, vain.

I'll take the third from last antonym, if I may. You, dear listener, may choose to describe me otherwise.

Here is a facsimile of the latest cover of Noosa' 'Lifestyle' magazine. This is a photograph taken by us (M and me) on location at Lake MacDonald, and on commission for a local real estate agent. We are very proud of these images, three more appear inside the edition. 


Regular listeners will know of my brief foray into the world of on-line photographic forums. I'm never one to be short of an opinion or three on most subjects and that includes the preciousness of the photographer. In the digital age of photography, photographers fall into the one of the following categories: those who are disdainful of photoshopping, those who are disdainful of those who are disdainful of those who choose to photoshop and those who couldn't give a rat's sphincter what anyone else thinks.

I fall into the latter category. 

However, this month I found myself sending a Facebook message to a photographer I'd never spoken to before enquiring as to her use of HDR. I merely was interested as to why HDR has become so much of a fad and why it bothered me so; of course, I got short thrift for my trouble, and it was probably well-deserved. 

This week, I received a Facebook post from the Sunshine Coast Daily. There was a photo with a blurb with a link to the article. In essence, the photo had been named 'photo of the week' (perhaps month, I forget), the article extolled the young photographer's virtues, and as it should. This young man clearly has an eye for landscape photography, understands the rule of thirds (consciously or otherwise) and certainly knows what people want to see. And what they want to see are martian sunsets replete with martian palm trees and martian oceans.

What rankled me most was his camera settings; published at the bottom of the photo, these made no sense to me. What rankled me second was that his sunsets were bright orange/red, a deep aqua blue and an uncomfortable fluorescent green; what rankled me third was that I could not understand where in Caloundra he could possibly have captured a sunset over the ocean.

There, I had my say. I will shut myself up now.



If I could prise open my head here and now I am convinced the interior would resemble Spaghetti Junction.

(For those listeners who don't know, Spaghetti Junction is the vernacular for the vehicular mess that was the confluence of motorways in the Midlands of England, the aforementioned title of which was first penned in 1965 by an English journalist).

We await delivery of a photographers mast which, we hope, will enhance our newly acquired aerial photography business. When I say 'delivery' I mean it in the sense of a confinement. The planning that must go inside my head is ridiculous and borders on the insane; either that, it will drive me insane.

Electronics, or should I say, wiring bits of wires together, has long held fascination for me. In my memory banks are images of me, at various very young ages, wiring all sorts of electrical appliances around the house. With only two (occasionally three) internal wires to choose from, this suicidal hobby of mine was handled with a deftness and a naivety that would have brought even the most seasoned accredited electricians to tears. Call it luck, call it England's voltage, call it madness, but I only ever got electrocuted once; even then, I had to wait 13 years of my life before I saw the flash of blue dance around my head.

Which brings me, in a very long-winded way, to my present predicament. This acute appreciation for wiring - from whence it came and whither it goes - is both a blessing and a curse. For this mast to work, or should I say, for the camera to work sitting atop the mast - sometimes as high as 20 meters - the wiring has to be exact and perfect and in the right place at the right time. The wiring will be attached to the pan and tilt and also to the camera which sits on the pan and tilt; this wire will travel the length of the mast to the ground station where control of camera angle and pitch will take place. Operating the camera requires another wire - actually a very, very,very long usb cable which will be attached to the camera and after a long slide down the mast will attach itself to a laptop inside which is a software programme which controls the camera's various functions and also affords us a live-view image of what the camera actually sees (so long as I remember to take off the lens cap).

This all sounds so terribly simple and ridiculously straight forward. Take it from me, thinking the whole exercise through is like playing cat's cradle in your mind's eye. Once you lose your thread, its like spaghetti unfurling on your fork. 


Regular listeners will recall me waxing lyrical about a refurbished computer I had scored on ebay.

It turned out to be a lemon! A lemon by any other name would smell so sour. 

Windows and me go back a long way; after my first foray into home computing (a Packard Bell, circa 1991) where DOS provided the platform for an array of odd tree-filing systems, succesive upgrades added enhanced, but generic operating systems. The arrival of Windows in 1995, which arrived on a series of floppy discs, provided PC users with a standardised operating system which revolutionised and tormented the PC user market, seemingly forever. 

For those, such as myself, who steadfastly refused to recognise any other form of computing system (effectively, ignoring Apple) as anything else but an inferior product, Windows 95, then 98, then XP, then Vista, then 7 and now 8 become our messiah, our sage and our oracle. We forgave the glitches, the confusing and user-unfriendly interface. We scoured internet forums for explanation and advice to seemingly intractable software installation difficulties, railed against the monopolistic hold on our PCs that Microsoft enjoyed, holding us as prisoners to Windows, pre-installed on every PC. Every upgrade came at a cost; every security breach a flurry of patches and updates. Every third-party software installation a minefield of blue screens, the thudding announcements that some files were corrupted or lost or didn't exist. And the maintenance! OMG - the daily maintenance required to keep the PC running: anti-virus tools, disc optimisers, defrags, disc cleanup, anti-trojan programmes, memory optimisers, speed checks, driver upgrades, blah blah blah.......nothing was too complicated for dear Windows.

And so to my Mac Mini: a tiny desktop box and matching DVD/CD drive that does everything for me; understands my impatience, warms to my naivety  Holds my hand and guides me through the installation stuff that used to make me want to rip out my hair. Oh, and that most mysterious of all Windows programme (was there actually a programme? I never, ever found one) - the (in)ability to transfer data from one computer to another without fuss and pain and a degree in computer programming.

The Mac does it all - seamlessly and without fanfare, thudding announcements, admonishments (what is an 'illegal application?' - what law did I ever break in the privacy of my own home and off-line??). Where Windows Media requires a basic appreciation of quantum mechanics, laws of physics and a PHd in Computer Programming simply to burn or rip a cd and then find it quickly in the library, the Mac simply does it all for you - just insert a CD and it simply asks what you want and off it cranks and does it. It transfers data from one PC to another with an ease that shocks and awes. It stores files and programmes simply without fuss; retrieves files and programmes with a deftness of touch, massaging my impatient mouse-clicking (a Windows-based tick I developed) with a smoothness that is at once sexy and reassuring. 

I love my Mac Mini and I think it loves me. Not once in our brief relationship have I resorted to desk thumping, hair pulling or rude gestures aimed at the blue screen of death or the boot screen. 

These are still very early days in our relationship; I am not enamoured with everything I interact with. But I do know this: the Mac is not a lemon - so, suck on that Microsoft!





Goat Island looking south to Point Cartwright and the sweep of Queensland's Sunshine Coast at 1,000 feet.


Having waved our t'ras to dear, musty, groovy,funky and mostly cold Melbourne, we now find ourselves transplanted (yet again) in Daft- as-a-brush-Queensland. 

Ah, the sea, the sea.

Proud owners, too, of an aerial photography business which has a steep learning curve attached, fueled by that most noble of gases, Helium. Billy, our blimp, transports a Nikon D700 under his belly to dizzy heights which allows me to happily snap away at whatever the subject matter at hand. Houses, commercial buidlings, empty spaces in space - you name it, I'll shoot it.

The business, established a few years back, originally specialised in real estate photography both on the ground and at altitude; my aim, now, is to unspecialise this and concentrate on all manner of property imagery, but from the air.

I am in photography heaven - I get to play with a blimp and take photos for a living. Ocassionally, I get to shoot from helicopters.

The beach, the warm air, blimps and helicopters. Who would have thought?






Our imminent return to the Sunshine State now in the grinding, groaning, lifting and packing stage, I find myself reflecting on the almost 5 years spent here in Melbourne. Perhaps a little too premature, surely these musings should come when I am drifting lazily in our pool or floating almost comatose near the shore line of the Coral Sea.

From a purely personal view of my journey thus far, I need time to evaluate the myriad of experiences, the people, the places, the latent skills I only recently discovered; the emotions that collided and colluded. Better, instead, that I turn my attention to stupidity and arrogance, those things that combine to rule our lives by virtue of the free hand that politicians and their servants (of the public kind) appear to relish with abandon in conducting affairs of the state.

Having seen, close-up, the machinations of civil service (and although I am bound to an agreement that would, rightly, stifle criticism of my previous employ) I can truly say that nothing will now ever surprise me. 

I am beyond incomprehensible with the inconceivable.

I've watched in disbelief at the arrogance and the foolishness of the Brumby government; strafing vast amounts of public monies at inane public projects - Myki travel card ($1,000,000,000 and counting), software for various government departments ($400,000,000 and counting) with a net benefit result to the community that defies comprehension. The Desalination plant now not truly wanted, or needed, that is considered too large for its purpose and is draining to public purse needlessly. Of the incoming conservative State government, arrogant and paternalistic, impatient with social engineering, focused on balancing books rather than assisting the lives of others: cost cutting programmes that necessarily affect the economically disadvantaged. Displays of tory-style law and order programmes emanating from knee-jerk reactionaries.

I have seen up close and personal how the public service machinations slip into gear; unelected individuals engineering and overseeing projects that count for nothing, save for the recipients of public money who must rub their hands in glee at the thought of a government tender in the offing. 

Unqualified and over-paid, these mandarins answer to no-one and have an almost pathological belief in their ability to deliver a sound and fully-tested end product to their clients: you and me. They fail miserably and without much fanfare. 

And so to Queensland, where the voting populace recently handed a mandate to one man (again!) to fix whatever it was that needed fixing in public affairs. A man who now, it appears, is already on his way to alienating the very people who appealed to his extreme conservative style of governance: cuts to public sector jobs (35,000), social welfare projects (pensioners losing many home-help programmes), further education etc and distressingly etc.

Will l I care when I'm floating in the Coral Sea? Nope. Will I give a tinker's cuss when I drift in our pool how many hospitals and schools could have been built with $1,000,000,000 wasted on a travel ticket scheme that doesn’t work and has a net benefit of zero? Not me......I'll be too far relaxed to care anymore.





On the day the post brought me an external sound card, a back tooth conspired with an abscess to extinguish my exultation with the arrival of the new toy.

Which, then, should I now describe in boring detail to you, dear listener?

Overwhelmingly, I suspect, the answer is not with my upcoming tonsorial adventures.

My new found friend: Creative Sound Blaster x fi surround 5.1 Pro. An external sound card of the plug and play variety and one which throws out wondrous dynamic surround sound with an amazing clarity. Clear and powerful, the 5.1 sound I got from 'The Bourne Ultimatum' DVD freaked the cat and sent him scurrying for the nearest exit.

That made me laugh so much I was crying with pain.



The book launch has been and gone, and with it so many memories of the Court which I will take with me on my soon-to-be- announced retirement. 

A wonderful gathering with delightful speeches by the Chief Justice, Marilyn Warren and author, Dr Sue Reynolds, officially set this gorgeous tome off on its maiden voyage. I was proud to be a very small but seemingly integral part of Sue's work, and even more so considering how many years her book was in the planning and in the research (which, incidentally, was originally, Sue's Doctoral dissertation).

Under strict instruction from Mrs P to resist wankery and self-backslapping, I found myself in excruciating pain early in the proceedings, biting down hard on my tongue, when Dr Reynolds was heaping praise upon my work! Anyone would have thought the book could only succeed with my photo of the library adorning the covers.

This is, after all, a brilliantly researched and beautifully written book concentrating on a very local, little known but incredibly important part of Melbourne's history.  A history of a much loved and treasured law library steeped in lore, located in a building which is at once awe-inspiring and brilliantly over-stated. A diamond, set fast in a ring of mediocre, modern architecture. It is also part history of one man who defined the early years of Melbourne and who made such an impact in his day that modern-day denizens of Melbourne cannot speak of its history without uttering Sir Redmond Barry's name. See what I mean?

Anyone who loves history and is keen to understand, in particular, Australian judicial history, should purchase this book.

As a bonus, you also get to see my photo paraded in a centre-spread! 



Ebay! Love it.

Regular listeners to this Blog will know that I am not particularly attuned to numbers and to things that add up but probably shouldn't. 

But, give me cables and wires and RCA plugs and DIN plugs and connectors, then I'm in heaven! Which, oddly enough, means I have a very good idea how to connect up VCR's (when they existed), CD players, DVD players and all manner of electrical and electronic things. A throw-back to my childhood I suppose, when I considered myself adept at dismantling any number of contraptions, gizmos and assorted household items. 

Putting them back together an entirely different story. 

I have just spent 8 hours of my life paying homage to a new member of the family. A refurbished computer which replaces old-celeron-faithful. Photoshop and its plug-ins groaned and creaked under the weight of an aging chip and made for some delicate memory-bending techniques on my part. 

But no more! This new pearlman-hybrid contains a speedy chip and gallons of memory with which to drink in negatives I scan on a regular basis. That it took so long to configure and cajole and to vet (it came with its own pack of viruses) is testament to my patience with number-crunching without really understanding how it comes together. 

If I can re-install Photoshop without an algorithm in sight, then I deserve numerical accolades.




This was swinging London, seen through the eyes of a very trendy photographer, models, pop-stars, sycophants and the great film director Michaelangelo Antonioni.

Was Swinging London truly like this? The film was shot  in and around Carnaby Street (of course) and Chelsea (of course) where London truly swang; where the 'in-crowd' hung out, where the cool clubs were. And the cool pubs, and the cool fashion houses. Where the cool warehouse-studios were located where the likes of David Bailey plied their trade.

For us pubescent kids though, the Swinging 60's in London was a foreign country - not too many miles away but a million miles from our reality. But the ripple-effects were as amazing as they were exhilarating. As the decade wore on there was almost a tidal-wave of liberation from the drab and dreary post-war London from whence we were cast. Everything that could be challenged became challengeable. Music, film and theatre banged on the doors of the status quo with us gleefully hanging on to the coat-tails of those knocking the hardest.

So many great films from that era inspired my generation: IF - THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT - WOODSTOCK - EASY RIDER - ZABRISKIE POINT - films borne out the tumultuous decade that was the 60's and ushering in a new decade of hope and peace and love, but a decade that ended (it seemed) with the assassination of John Lennon after 10 years of glam-rock, punk-rock, Nixon and Watergate, the end of the Beatles, the three day week, sideburns and safari suits.

But I digress. Blow-Up, like Coppola's 'The Conversation' which it spawned a decade later, intrigues because it taps into other worlds, of other lives lived beyond our wildest imaginations, that exist on the periphery of our understanding and our experiences. And so, those mysterious forces that might do evil, that may have committed terrible sins then become even more fantastic and mysterious, more intriguing and surreal.

When enlarging a print, our photographer notices something in the bushes located behind his subject. He enlarges his print further and sees a figure, shadowy and menacing. He enlarges the image further and believes he has captured the moment of death, of someone murdered at the instance he took the photograph. A 'who-dunnit' about a murderer who may not exist committing a murder that may not have happened.

Time may not have been kind to this film, but I urge anyone who is interested in what the swinging 60's was all about, who loves photography, who loves murder mysteries, to track this film down. 





Here is an image you were not meant to see, because I wasn't meant to be where I was when I took the picture!

Having nurtured the germ of the project which was to shadow my judge, I set about feeding ideas through and around my head. I came up with many, workable scenarios, one of which had me posing a bench of judges in their finery beneath a portrait of the first Chief Justice of Victoria, the wonderfully named William a Beckett  (there's an accent on the 'a' but can't find the stupid thing)

Having settled on a few ideas I set about seeking permission from the Court. The Court promptly knocked me back; the idea of chambers, any judge's chambers, being used for this sort of treatment was not acceptable and I was asked to re-think the shoot and re-submit.

You're probably wondering over what time span all this took place, and I'm really glad you asked.

From conception to planning to submission to knockback was around three months; it took me another two months to get a new proposal off the drawing board and into the hands of the judges.

And, thus was born the photo-essay that was to become an exhibition, soon to be a book and hopefully, one day, a musical. Simply, my project was to explore the Supreme Court through its finer detail and hidden nooks and crannies. When I was given permission, almost a year after I first saw my red-robed figure do battle with his copier, it was under the proviso that I was not allowed to photograph the judges' chambers, reading rooms, toilets (as if) or common rooms.

This brings me, neatly, to the image above. It is one of many corridors that only judges, associates, tip-staves, cleaners, secretaries and assorted maintenance staff ever get to see. That I found myself one day in such a place is testament to my unyielding immaturity. 
Show me a man at 57 (as I was then) and I will show you the boy. 

The photos in this photo are a collection of portraits of every Supreme Court judge ever too have graced the corridors; I took it surreptitiously and it has never seen the light of day, until now. It is our secret.

To be continued.....

Oh, the 'Blow-Up image? This for another blog.


Just the other day, I was reminiscing  someone asked me about my Photo-Essay 'Court - A Visual Journey through the Supreme Court of Victoria.'

How wonderful,   I thought that I should happen to think of a new blog  that someone should happen to request from me a visit down memory lane at the very moment in time when I am about to celebrate my first official published photograph. Why the hell should I feel humble, sod it. I'll give them what I want to read, all about me

The genesis to the idea of this, one of my first forays into photo-essays was formed, by and large, inside my head; a place where many odd occurrences abound on a frequency that would astound neuroscientists. (Actually, I'm just guessing this, but it sounds like I know whatever it is I'm talking about). If I remember correctly, it was during one of my first ever visits to chambers where I had an appointment with a judge to discuss some trivial piece of housekeeping to a proceeding he was presiding over.  Walking through the very impressive and Dickensian courtyard I took stock of how far I had come in life and was gazing, poetically, at the wonderful trees along the walk. Mouth open, as always, a flock of pollen (a gaggle? a jug? a conglomerate?) sucked its way inside my throat and disappeared down my gullet; I spent the next 15 minutes lost in a maze of 19th Century corridors hacking and coughing, when a cleaning lady seemingly popped out of nowhere, but was probably a toilet, and said to me "Good Morning Your Honour." (when one speaks to judges, one speaks with capital letters).

What was I to do? I hacked back, "Oh yes, of course, good morning, umm, Miss" And sauntered, happily with my new station, around three or four of the same six corridors for what seemed like two hours but was, in actual fact, 1 hour and 45 minutes.

And then, there was the moment, the epiphany I had to have. I stopped dead in my tracks at the top of a staircase and saw this figure one floor below me, a fully-red-robed figure replete with a small curly wig battling with a photocopier. Firstly, cajoling then hitting the buttons into submission until the copied paper spewed through the side. And he, the figure, cast a look of total disdain at the machine; a look of absolute disgust and derision; and at that moment I truly believed the figure was about to pass the most horrific sentence over poor Mr. Sharp.

Blinded by the light bulb that had just popped over, in and around my head I hurried to the nearest notebook where I could jot down notes to a new adventure for my cameras. I wanted this red-robed figure to pose alongside his robotic nemesis, I wanted to shadow him and take candid shots. Inside his chambers I imagined all sorts of wondrous images I would conjure with is dazzling props: the wigs, the gowns, the robes, the books (oh, the books!). The glory! The glittering prizes that would await.

End of part one  (wow, that was amazing....I'm actually better at this than I thought)


BARRY TOWN........


 Allow me to introduce to you Sir Redmond Barry, KCMG, Kt., QC, Judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria from 1852 - 1880 (the year of his death); famous for sentencing Ned Kelly to be hanged.

Barry laid the foundation for the establishment of the Supreme Court Library and founded the Melbourne Library where his dapper image, cast in bronze, stares ever-so-haughtily across Swanson Street.

He is also my subject to the main image on these pages - ever watchful over the library.

This image was chosen to adorn the dust jacket to a hardback tome entitled 'The Library of the Supreme Court of Victoria'  authored by Dr Sue Reynolds, Senior Lecturer at RMIT in Melbourne and the book will be launched next week at an informal gathering hosted by the Chief Justice of Victoria, The Hon. Marilyn Warren.

No pun intended, but I am deeply honoured. And deeply excited and deeply happy!





My new lens arrived last week -  the Ukrainian MIR-26B 45mm - together with a set of Pentacon 6 Extension Tubes. This is new territory, for me, within the field of medium format film photography. 

Whilst the lens hardly matches the pedigree of its more illustrious cousins (of which, I hasten to add, are far and away out of my purchasing power), it is good enough for me.

At 45mm - equivalent to and 18mm lens on 35mm cameras - it is super wide-angle. 

The extension tubes allow any lens to get up close and very personal to a subject. The photos above cases in point. Simply, the tubes are mounted to the camera firstly (the number and size of each tube used dictates how close one can get to the subject) and the lens is then mounted on the front tube. It rather looks like an odd sort of telephoto set up!

This is a very exacting craft, and one where I have much to learn. The images above required a deal of adjustments to camera, subject and tripod to get exactly the right focus. Being the impatient type, I left my waist-level finder attached to the camera resulting in strained back and aching toes. Of course, the finder is not ideal for focusing in such close proximity and so a lot of what I saw was then subtracted with guess work.

I used 'Rollei Retro' 400, 120 film. My settings left a lot to be desired - but the tubes are a different beast to anything I have ever shot with, so I refuse to embarrass myself here!

As a matter of interest, the shells on display here come from 'our' beach at Marcoola on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

BACK OFF......!!

Mrs P........."Enough, already"


An exciting day: the second-hand polaroid back for my new medium format camera arrived. Here's a first image form both the camera (the Kiev 88cm) and the Polaroid back using Fuji instant film.

Shot at 1/60 @ f4 with lamp light to my left as the primary source, I love the texture and the richness of the blacks.The photo scanned and then processed in Photoshop 4, just slightly adjusting the curves. Otherwise, what you see is what I got from the instant film.

This is shot 4 - Mrs P, at this stage, had probably heard enough of my ramblings about how brilliant the back is and how I've always wanted to use instant film and how useful instant film will be and how amazing I can switch film types any time I want and ad nauseum..........

Now waiting for my second-hand lens from the Ukraine - wide angle (it's a 45mm lens, quite a decent degree of viewing, roughly the equivalent of a 18mm lens on a standard SLR camera) and a few extension rings for taking very close, close-ups.

My ebay spending days coming to a close! Damn.


Consider the photograph above. It was taken during a snow-blizzard in New York by Alfred Stieglitz in 1893. It is technically a brilliant image; it is a dramatic and unforgettable image which manages to convey so many elements that combine to induce powerful emotions from its audience. 

Yet, it is an image that represents one part of the whole. Seen as a whole, the image Stieglitz actually took that day (one of many glass plates he exposed in and around the city) takes on a completely different life; it is an image that contains other elements which might dominate and intrude on this scene. This, then, is just one version of the scene that Stieglitz recorded; and it is this one part of the whole that Stieglitz concentrates his artistic energy to help create. Remember his mantra?

"The making of the negative is not the making of the photograph."

Today’s online Guardian Newspaper includes a new photography blog which, by way of an introduction, invites readers to share those thoughts that matter to them within the realm of all things photographic. 

There are already two stand-out issues to have surfaced: who really deserves to be called a photographer (and the apparent 'democratisation' of photography) and the increasing use of software to manipulate photographs.

Let me deal with the former if I may, and that will hopefully help me segue into the latter and neatly bring to the -foreground Stieglitz, in my next post.


The Guardian Photography Blog: Part One



(unless you're good enough)

I'm quite unclear as to how photography become so precious.

One would find it difficult to argue against such simple, and I would suggest fallacious statements (very much like the god principle or the flat earth theory) that would elevate photographers alongside concert pianists, the masters or even surgeons: one doesn't become a pianist by virtue of becoming an owner of a piano, one doesn't become a great painter simply through the ownership of paint brushes etc.

Owning a camera, then, does not make one a photographer.

And yet, I have seen the most beautifully crafted family snapshots taken with instamatics or box brownies that defy the cameras’ simplicity. Framed perfectly with almost perfect tonal qualities, perhaps testament to the Kodak mantra from decades ago, the authors would, perhaps, have been regarded as hobbyists or amateurs. But their efforts cannot be ignored, or dismissed, by virtue of the fact they were not photographers.

We need to define what the word photographer actually means.

We also need to define what constitutes a good photograph (or, more importantly, what constitutes a bad one) if the argument against the democratisation of photography can be a valid one. Incidentally, the advent of digital photography did not herald the era of democracy in photography. I think Kodak were largely responsible for that 100 years ago!

I consider myself a fine-art photographer and do so because the body of my work falls into the accepted definition of what constitutes fine art photography. But because I have exhibited and sold many of my prints, I can, one supposes, elevate myself to the lofty heights of photographer.

The debate has brought to mind two photographs I chanced upon whilst auditing divorce records at the Supreme Court of Victoria. They both literally fell out of two files - perhaps two weeks apart - and concern infidelity. In one, the brother of a suspicious husband snapped a photo of the wife's alleged lover. The photograph, taken in 1949, presumably using a Kodak camera from the era, is breathtaking in its audacity. The framing perfect, the subject caught in a candid and off-guard moment notices the camera just as the shutter is released. It is photo-journalism at its absolute best. The subject, handsome and virile in that typically 1940's style is both menacing and quizzical.

The second photograph concerned a couple caught in flagrant delicto by a 'raiding party' employed by a husband to collect evidence of adultery, circa 1968. It, too, is an astonishing image which displays so many elements it's a chore to even list them! Looking away from the camera, the wife is sitting up in bed fixing her disdain on her husband who is off-camera. Her lover, still lying, stares incredulously into the lens. The bedroom furniture, the bedclothes, the lighting are the props for this mise-en-scene. It would have been an immaculate still from a film-noir classic.

I have no doubt the two photographs were taken by amateurs; hobbyists at best. I have no way of ever knowing as to the consistency of their other photographic output. It may well be, having read the letter from the brother who took the first of the photographs, a very normal style for he makes neither fuss nor surprise as to the result. He is quite matter of fact and eager to present to his brother a face that fits the crime. 

The second of the two images was captured purely for the purpose of becoming a piece evidence to be tendered in court. In any event, the protagonist would have had just 10 seconds to compose his shot once the lights were turned on. 

I wish I could replicate those two images. Perhaps one day I will. I would like to believe I have the imagination and the necessary artistic flair to conjure and reproduce all the elements, emotional and organic, displayed within the originals.

If I could do that then i believe I really would have made that difference which would mark me as a very good photographer.




“I’ll tell you what you want, mate! You want a bloody photographer! Not a creative artist with some imagination.”

“I’ll tell you what I want! I want a last supper with one Christ, twelve disciples, no kangaroos, by Thursday lunch, or you don’t get paid!”

“Bloody Fascist”

“Look! I’m the bloody Pope! I may not know much about art, but I know what I like!”


A recent article in The Guardian asked a familiar, and contentious, question "Is Photography Art?"  I refuse to be drawn into these debates; I have a fast opinion because I am necessarily opinionated. My view is, of course, no less valid than the next person’s. What I despise is the wrath and the fury hurled from high – post a comment yourself and see what happens! I did. Mine didn't really add, or detract, from the discussion; what I posted was an ungracious swipe at a certain member of ‘Magnum’ whose images leave me nothing, if not cold. For my troubles, I got yelled at through the ether: “anyone can paint, not everyone can paint a masterpiece.” Which I thought was a rather odd response to my post – because, if anything, it validated my opinion.

For the record, my post went like this: “Martin Parr – proof that anyone can take a photograph.”

It might, on first appearance, to be a rather egregious attack on a fellow-photographer’s reputation and his art. But there are layers to the post that my interlocutor has missed.

Take, for example Andreas Gursky. Here is a photographer who hit the mother-lode, photographically speaking, and who has done more through the outrageous sale of his image “Rhine Two’ in elevating the photographer to that of artist.

Gursky’s image of the Rhine at autumn is a digital image, digitally enhanced and has been digitally altered – pedestrians, dogs, cyclists and even a factory were removed from the original image. The ‘final’ print (if that were digitally possible) is a massive 140 x 80 inches sold at auction for over $4m.

This is an impossible predicament for photographers; for whilst it’s true that many great images of the past may have been ‘staged’ or enhanced or altered at the development stage, it does not take away their majesty and their influence through the generations. One wants to believe that Capra’s soldier really was hit by bullets. Maybe he was. One wants to believe that Henri Cartier-Bresson waited hours for the cyclist to shoot past his vantage point. I'm sure he did. It doesn't matter.

Does it matter that Robert Doisneau's Parisian couple so eloquently caught kissing was staged?

Robert Capra’s incredible images taken during the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach were purely accidental; the shots were intentional, but the development wasn't  The result of a processing lab mistake has given us a most surreal and disturbing insight to a most horrific event.

What, then, of Gursky? Is he any more unreliable than a painter who paints over or paints away part of a scene so that the story can be told without distractions? Is he cheating in the sense that his landscape doesn't actually exist at all? Is the image really a “metaphor for the modern world?”

Or is it just another ordinary photograph cleverly processed in Photoshop?

So, back to me:
The photograph above was taken about three years ago. It was shot at low light using a Canon G11, processed in Adobe ‘Raw’ and the contrast manipulated in Photoshop. This is, also, a fairly early attempt at using the ‘Alien Skin Exposure 3’ software and is typically naive.

Nothing else was done in Photoshop, save for one minor adjustment. The image was just as I had seen with my eyes. Not staged, not manipulated and with no trickery involved; it is just a piece of flim-flam, a play on illusion if you like. But, is it art?




Photography websites suck....

Here's a link to a favourite blog

Lewis speaks my kind of language - literally and figuratively. I love the way he dismantles those ridiculous web pages that tell us how dreadful we must be at taking photographs. Their advice is mostly rubbish and should be ignored with vigour. 

A friend (also a fan of my work, so yay for me) once asked if I could pass on tips to taking really good photographs (notice how I paraphrased this question? She probably asked how she could take 'good' photographs). I replied that I have just three entries in my photographic rule book: frame it right, keep it simple and as you press the button close your eyes and hold your breath.

A few months ago, I bought a most handsome two volume set of books celebrating Alfred Stieglitz's 'Key Set.'  There, in volume two, are some of his most ground-breaking prints from the series 'Equivalents.' Page after page after page of images of clouds; and as I got impatient and (I hate to admit this) bored, it dawned on me that I was disseminating the images from a most totally ill-informed vantage point. I was looking at Stieglitz prints through the eyes of an adult living in the 21st Century.

Steiglitz's 'Equivalents' was ground-breaking because it was, technically, brilliant; both from his and my time. Now, anyone can take a photograph of clouds. I don't have any issue with this; photography is democratic, and that's my point. But today's Box Brownie is a camera so powerful and so intuitive we have lost sight of what photography is really all about. "You take the photograph, we'll do the rest" was the mantra from Kodak in the early 20th Century.

I am, photographically speaking, illiterate. I have grappled with its mysterious by-ways for over 40 years and I'm now no nearer to fully understanding what I'm doing than I was when I started.  Except for this: I take much better photographs now than when I first started out. I have done my fair share of research, research, research on the 'net and I think I'm fairly intelligent enough to sift the crap from the wheat. But it has taken many years of trial and error and years of self-study to get this far. That I succeed in spite of myself and despite the musings and convolutions over the Internet, is testament to this: that the taking of the image is not, in itself, the finish of the photograph. This was the Stieglitz way - and it pre-dates computer software down through seven generations. But it is in the execution of the three disciplines - taking the photograph, developing the film and fixing the shadows - that the craftsman learns the real art of photography. It is simplicity personified; yet it takes years to master.

Just to emphasise my point: I recall a discussion I once had with a German printer (a man, not a machine by the way). He had been involved in printing photography for over 50 years and told me of many of the greats he had printed for. One thing never ceased to surprise him during his career: that the great and important images he had processed were borne out of generally crap negatives!

The digital age has nicely pulled photography back into the realm of the democrat. Now, Nikon and Canon et al ask that you need do nothing more than take the photograph and they'll do the rest. How much further you need to travel along your learning curve is entirely up to you.  

Which brings me, neatly and unsurprisingly, to my love for the Kiev range of cameras.

The Kiev 60 (the mighty brick) and the Kiev 88 film cameras were designed, I'm sure, with just me in mind. Uncomplicated in a way that loudly and proudly pre-dates the Internet , the cameras are what they are, with all their quirks and their unpredictability and in their simplicity of execution. They are borne from the wells of a most oppressed society and yet are decidedly most democratic.  They speak my language - "click, clunk."

I could never have learned that on the Internet. 


My own Atget......The pains of ebay.


A belated Father's Day gift from Number One son of a framed Atget print! Oh, the joy. 

This is a photo of 'Rue St Rustique' in Montmatre, and was shot in 1922. It's provenance as follows: the original was acquired in the late 1920's by Berenice Abbot and printed by her in 1956. Please click on the link for more inforomation. 
It's a wonderful photograph, Atget has captured the street  so beautifully, as was his prowess. There is also a wonderful play with the light - the sun was quite low off to his left, and through a side street it cast an amazing shadow of a tree onto the side of a house. It's as if Atget had someone paint the outline of the tree just to fool us!

A true genius.


Those who ocassionally read this blog will know that I am expecting a new medium format camera. I'm still waiting! And were it not for my enquiring mind and equally enquiring emails, would the trader have informed me that there was a two week delay due to some strange goings on with their mailing habits?

Needless to say, I have slapped a terrible review on ebay. I vote with my fingers!



One of my favourite photographers, Jonathan Critchley, once wrote how much he hated anyone to criticise his work. That, he said, was the sole reason why he wouldn't be a part of online photography forums. And I heartily concur.

They are an anathema to me; why, I wouldn't join any conversation that would have me as a contributor. I would rather stick tooth picks under my eye lids than post one of my photos on, say, flickr. Give me facebook 'likes' any day.


Talking of Jonathan Critchley: it reminds me of one of his articles in Black & White Photography, apropos crticism. At the opening night of one of his London exhibitions, he glanced at the gallery's visitors' book and spied this little gem:

'I do love your photographs, but wonder if they would perhaps look better in colour?'

Photography is a personal journey - for both photographer and viewer; we all take from the images whatever we find inside of them. 






There are, it seems, as many  photography competitions on the internet as there are stars in the sky. Go on, google 'photography competitions' and see how many there are. A veritable cluster of brightly lit invitations to fame and small fortune. 

Ah, the glittering prizes to those who have stout hearts. 

Who wouldn't want recognition, in cash or otherwise, for a well-crafted image? I know i would. But the thought of competing with so many others in any photography competition, legitimate or otherwise, fills my ego with dread. For the novelist, there's the fear of the rejection letter. For the photographer, there's the fear of the email announcing the finalists - and you don't feature. All those careful measurements for the frame and matt board that won't be any use now at the special exhibition showcasing the finalists. 

Not for me. I know my photographs are the best; they only have to compete with each other.


No wonder the postage was expensive.....

Had to buy a replacement 'High Slide' for the below-mentioned light meter. Couldn't find it anywhere in Australia so resorted to B&H Video in NY NY. The slide is about 1 inch x 3/4 inch and it was posted in a padded envelope roughly the size of Brookly Bridge. 
A whole episode of 'Border Control' could have been produced around this package!




I flunked both math and arithmetic at high school; and well you might laugh, math being one (or a few other) things and arithmetic being a shorthand version of the former and intended as a study for non-numerical dummies such as myself. Strange, given my love and fascination for detail - any detail – to which I have an innate aversion to adding, subtracting, and dividing and all nomenclature associated with numbers. My hate and disdain for math is, singularly, the reason why I never became an Astronomer. 

Why do I wax so? Well, the image above - had i perchance seen it prior - would normally have sent my brain into free-fall, but I am blessed with children with abundance of generosity at xmas and birthdays and so found myself, two years or so ago, the proud owner of the Sekonic L398A light meter, shown here in all its number-crunching, exposure-dialing and EVness glory.

Here's a photographic confession: I am technically illiterate! Even after some 40 years I have to stop and really think hard about camera settings. Occasionally, I have to really concentrate on my f stops: does, I ask myself (for example), the lower f stop mean a wider or narrow aperture? If not, then which one is it? And if so, then what was my shutter speed again? You think I'm joking? Sometimes I feel imprisoned by my own number-dyslexia; thank the heavens for the sunny rule then!

So, onto my saviour - and as perplexing a gizmo as it may well be to someone like me, the Sekonic is both a boon and a handicap. It takes all the guess work out but also takes all the nervy fun out of all the guess work I put in. I might not know what the EV is for  250 secs @ f5.6 if it smacked me in the mouth, but I have so much fun guessing!


I'm in awe of 'reality' tv. Just when you think there is little left to discover about first world humanity, along comes another programme which drastically alters ones perceptions. Or enhances them; or destroys them. Cooking, I think, is the main ingredient to reality tv; add wealth and glamour (life unattainable, like a 'soap' but more 'real') add a soupcon of building dreams and slop over a bucket of real estate jus to bring it all together. Et voila (that’s yer actual french).

I briefly watched a photography programme (as opposed to a programme about photography) the other night and it bored me witless. I didn't quite catch the theme, but gather that a guru of sorts handed a photographic project to a couple of budding magnum types and then evaluated their work on two massive flat screen tvs which was filmed by a tv crew and the resultant edited effort made it onto my flat screen tv. And I was so bored, I found myself counting my cat's teeth.

This (the programme not the cat's teeth) reminded me of two other entries into the world of 'reality' tv by photography. One, from the UK, was a concept built around a stripped back version of Masterchef and I hated every last second of it. The other, from ABC in Australia was based around a photography competition for amateurs. And I hated every last second of it. No teeth counting here, just plenty of teeth gnashing. 

But why? Am I a photographic snob or, worse, elitist? Perhaps insecure about my own art that I worry about how good other photographers can be and who get lauded on reality tv and, ipso facto, why not me? Or perhaps there is this nascent understanding about what can and what can't work in 'reality' tv land. Dumbing down photography maybe? Or more pertinent, in my view, is that the medium of photography does not translate itself inside the medium of television, and specifically 'reality' television. 

Better yet, why not make a programme about a bunch of famous photographers discussing their most treasured image they never actually photographed? Now, that would truly be the most unreal of reality tv to get my cat's teeth into.



My love for medium format film photography, specifically for the wonderfully quirky family of Kiev cameras, will shortly take me a world of Hassebladdery, film backs and some serious fun.

The Kiev 88 CM (pictured), upgraded by the good folks at Hartblei, is the Soviet clone of the famous Hasselblad 1600F but for almost one millionth of the price! 

Whilst this new acquisition won't take to the dizzy heights of professional photography, it is quite a step-up from the mighty and beloved Kiev 60 that kick-started my love affair with medium format film photography. 


Some Kind of Illusion: Inside the Magical World of Tim Ellis



My new project kicked off last week: in the company of renowned magician Tim Ellis. In between gigs in Hong Kong, South Korea and the Phillipines, Tim graciously afforded me almost three hours of studio time at his glorious converted warehouse apartment in Northcote.

Like a kid in a toy shop, I gleefully stage-managed Tim around his studio replete with some props and happily snapped away. 90 images in the bag, both film and digital, I raced home to process them. The portrait above is a sneak preview of what's to come when the project is completed.

Next up: location shoot, stage shoot and backstage glimpses. Happy days! 




An early morning flight from Melbourne followed by a speedy train trip to St James' station and then a very speedy walk to the gallery. This was a 'coming home' experience; an overwhelming sense of familiarity and connection awaited me in the three gallery rooms that housed 200 of Atget's prints.

I could wax lyircal for hours about this exhibition and I mention it to those with even the slightest whiff of interest in photography. 

My fondness for the old man of photography simply exploded into adoration after two unforgetable hours in the company of his actual prints.

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