Category Archives: Photography

Sexual politics. Morocco. 1982

This photo speaks volumes about the position of women in Morocco.

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The little boy seems to have more status than his (I presume) mother. The boy, like a little prince sits with a confident air, like someone who knows he is the heir apparent, in western clothing while the woman is bowed down by the weight of her responsibilities, face covered.

I know the reason for the veil and the woman’s clothing, but it seems to me, strange that a male child has more freedom of self expression than a fully grown woman. Where did the idea of female inferiority come from in the first place? Some feminists would have one believe that it’s the men who oppress the women, but isn’t it women who raise the men?

I’m surrounded by smart, strong women and I just don’t get it.

Big skies in Queensland 1990

Here’s some colour and natural beauty to compensate for my last couple of posts.

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These shots were taken on the road between Jondaryon and Bunya Mountain in Queenland, Australia, with an 18mm lens on Kodak EC100.

On a bit of a sad note, all the transparencies I had in the folder with this series, are blighted with tiny spots of fungus. It’s not apparent in the images here because the resolution isn’t high enough, but I won’t be able to make any large prints out of them.

I know the are a lot photographers out there who are convinced that digital photography will never replace chemical based photography, as for me, I’m a total digital convert. When I look through all my old images, I’m devestated by how many of them have fungus on them. I know I should’ve stored the better, but living in hot and humid Queensland for five years made that next to impossible unless I wanted to totally seal them and never look at them. Lets face it, gelatine is just sooo medieval. Film emulsion is the next best thing to a petri dish filled with agar agar, basically, it’s a banguet for fungus.

Digital photograhy is getting better every day. Even my little compact Canon A95 is giving me better than exceptable results. I look forward to the day in the not so distant future when digital cameras produce the same, if not, then improved, resolution and contrast range.

Water pistol party, Brisbane 1989

The following photographs were taken at a party thrown by some bouncers who worked with my cousin Andrew (second photo down in the middle) at the “Port Office” pub in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Brisbane can get very hot and a water pistol party sounded like fun and a good way too cool off.

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Choice of weapons was important

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Choice of drinking companions wasn’t.

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If I rememder correctly, the conversation that lead to this image went something like this: “You call that a mole! Check these out!”

Hitchhiking by air in Cambodia (part 2)

This is part two in a two-part chapter in my “All the dumb things” series

The other types of aircraft I used to air hitchhike in were civilian cargo planes. In 1974 there were still a lot of old WWII aircraft flying in Cambodia and I got to see first hand, aeroplanes that I’d only ever seen in books. The most common were the Curtis C-46, Douglas C-47 (aka as the Dakota or DC-3) and also the Douglas DC-4.

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The Curtis C-46 above was operated by the imfamous Air America
(I never asked them for a ride… they were just sooo serious)

The planes were usually loaded with rice or fish as a cargo. Incidentally, the area around Tonlé Sap Lake is one of the most productive food producing areas in the world.

Most of the civilian pilots were Philipinos and generally as such, were a friendly happy-go-lucky bunch. Most of the cargo planes had two crew, the foreign pilot and a Cambodian loadmaster. The relationship between the pilot and loadmaster, looked to me, like that of master and servant. There didn’t appear to be much crossing over the gulf of class, education and culture between them. The pilots didn’t fraternise with the loadmasters in a social way. The pilots sat up the front in the cockpit and the loadmasters sat in the fuselage with the cargo, each by themselves.

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I once commented to an American journalist who could speak Khmer, that I thought it must be fascinating to understand what the locals were saying. His response went something like this: “not really, the average Cambodian is an illiterate farmer who has no concerns other than his crops and that is all they talk about”. So I suppose, that attitude goes some way to explaining why the pilots had any interest in having anything to do at all with a young naive fool from Australia like me. At least I spoke English and prattled on about other things besides farming.

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The hand loading and unloading of a cargo plane by the loadmaster and a few locals from where ever we landed, took quite a while, so the pilots used to have a fair amount of time to kill. It was during these times I got to have extended conversations with the pilots, as they waited, smoking, in the shade under the wings of their planes. Most of them saw themselves as nothing more than glorified truck drivers. Flying air-cargo in 1974 by yourself (no co-pilots), in old dilapidated, ill maintained crates, during a war, landing quite often on dirt roads, in the heat and humidity of Cambodia was a long way from being glamorous and they knew it. Most of the pilots looked like they were in their fifties and I’m sure the novelty of flying had worn off many years beforehand.

Cambodia at the time didn’t seem to have any law other than that which could be bought. Which in turn meant that any safety codes that were deemed “inconvenient”, were just ignored. Nothing seemed to get “enforced” anywhere in Cambodia at that time. A lot of the aircraft I flew in looked like they didn’t get much maintenance. For example many of them had some broken windows and dents along the side of the fuselage.

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 The cockpits in many also had loose cut wires sticking out in the air. One DC-3 I flew in had a metal maintenance plate in the cockpit that said something like: Air India, Bombay, Last maintained 1947. At least that was the last time it probably got a real thorough maintenance.

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On a few occasions I was present when people tried to load more weight, in cargo, than the plane was rated for. The pilots would be yelling at the loadmaster not to load any more, while the local, whose cargo it was (these sorts of things usually happened when we landed on dirt roads out in the middle of nowhere), would start to get out large wads of cash to try and smooth out the matter. Not once did I see a pilot knowingly allow too much cargo to be loaded. They always stood their ground. After all, self-preservation is a strong motivator. Large wads of local currency weren’t impressive in Cambodia. In one of the banks I frequented in Phnom Penh, due to the rate of inflation, they used to use bales of 100 riel notes to hold up the customer counters.

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The pilots had a fatalist attitude towards the state of their planes. One pilot told me that when he was flying his DC-3, he was always looking downwards at a 45-degree angle looking for landing places, just in case the engines failed. He said, very matter of factly, “these DC-3s don’t glide too well, they just sort of fall, at about a 45-dregee angle”.

Now days you’d have to hold a gun to my head to make me go up into the air in such aircraft. Then again, I don’t go into countries that have wars in them anymore either. Safe experiences don’t tend to lead to entertaining horror stories, which of course, are what tales of (mis) adventure consist of. In short, adventure often stems from bad decision-making.

By cadging flights, I got to travel all over Cambodia, which was illuminating on many levels. For instance, I know for a fact, that Kissinger lied when he denied that the Americans were carpet-bombing the country, and when he was caught out, said that the American air strikes were confined to areas near the Vietnamese border. From the air, in some areas far from the Vietnamese border, vast swathes of land, densely pockmarked by perfectly round pools formed in bomb craters, were visible in every direction, as far as you could see.

Here’s a link to map prepared by Yale University showing how far from the Vietnamese border the Americans bombed: http://www.yale.edu/cgp/us.html

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In this particular case, I don’t think that carpet-bombing caused the craters around this defensive position.
On a technical photographic point, the dark streaks are caused by insufficient agitation during development

It was also instructive to see how rag-tag and disorganised the government forces were once you got away from Phnom Penh. They were more of a militia than an army. When I look at the photos I took when I was in Cambodia and I see the photos of the boy soldiers (kids really, just like me at the time), I always feel an uncomfortable twinge, as I wonder what happened to them when the Khmer Rouge finally won the war. Many of the soldiers had anti-Khmer Rouge tattoos. The poor and the ignorant always get dealt harsh blows by changes in history.

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Enough of that morbid stuff, here’s “all the dumb things”.

One time when I was flying in one of those old scrap heaps I noticed a window with a large jagged hole in it. I tentatively stuck my hand a short distance out and felt the warm air rushing past at about 380kph (approximately 150knots or 170mph). I made a small wing out of my hand and was playing with the air (like when I was a kid in the family car). As timed passed, I got a little bolder and stuck my arm out further and further with (surprisingly) nothing bad happening. One of the things that I always wanted to do on a plane was look straight down at the ground, I was getting a bit bored with looking across at the horizon all the time.

Sooo…

I stuck my head out of the window and immediately the force of the wind rushing past my, much fatter than a hand, head, almost snapped it off. The loadmaster couldn’t hear me screaming for help, above the sound of the engines. There I was, all by myself, without anyone but myself to save me. My neck was bent at a severe angle while it was being pushed into the jagged plexiglass teeth of the broken window. My head was fully out of the window, being pressed, hard against the outside of the plane.

I couldn’t just pull my head in and I was starting to freak out. The force of the wind was so strong I couldn’t straighten my neck to get my head back through the hole and inside the plane. Every time I tried to pull my head in, the jagged plexiglass digging into my neck, dug in further and held me fast. I felt that I was going slit my throat (don’t want to cut the carotid artery now, do we?). I eventually got out of my predicament by pushing myself, with one hand against one of the fuselage’s ribs (against direction of the air-flow) and then reaching around with my free hand to grab a hold of a large hank of my hair and pull my neck straight enough to get my head back into the plane.

Won’t be doing that again!

For you photographers out there, the film I used was Tri-X. I had the film developed locally and since the ambient temperatures were so high, most of my negs were over developed and that’s why they look so grainy and the skies look so blown out. The higher temperatures also meant that the development times were accelerated, making problems caused by insufficient agitation (bromide streaking), much more likely.

Part 1

Cos-play-zoku in Harajuku, Tokyo, Japan

A year and a half ago I revisited Japan with my wife. I hadn’t been in Japan since 1976, so I thought it would be interesting to see how the Cos-play-zoku scene on Jingu Bashi (The bridge that leads into Meiji Jingu, a most beautiful park) in Harajuku had changed over the years.

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In the mid seventies the punk scene had just started and rockabilly had been rediscovered. Which meant that those were the prevailing fashions on display on Jingu Bashi . Lots of Japanese interpretations of Elvis and Sid Vicious were strutting their stuff. I thought I’d illustrate this with some photos but when I looked into my box of mixed up slides I decided that’s a huge task for another day.

Meiji Bashi is still the place to go if you want to see people, wanting to be seen and have their pictures taken with tourists.

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The more recent (mid 2005) cos-play-zoku fashion seems to be divided into three main groups. The first being a type of sleaze-punk-gothic.

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The Japanese love “cute”, so one can expect a little “cuteness” to be thrown into the mix.

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The second type of style one will see is a sort of pierced fetishised French shepherdess-baby doll. More Japanese cuteness gone awry.

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When in Japan it’s not uncommon to come across sexualised images of pre-pubescent girls. My wife and I were shocked to see a book in an art book store in Harajuku, that consisted of nothing but drawings of pre-pubescent girls in various fetish costumes with black eyes or fat bleeding lips in provocative poses, lifting up their skirts to expose infantile crotch. Very bizarre. I can tell you one thing though, if you published something like that here in Australia you’d attract the attention of the police, quick smart. So it looks like there is a desire in some sections of the Japanese populace to conform to such tastes.

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There has been a disturbing trend here in the west to sexualise children in advertising and I think the warning signs about where this leads to, are walking on the bridge into Meiji Jingu.

The third type of fashion that may be seen on Jingu Bashi is a sort of “Hello kitty” look. To me this is a more “pure” type of teen Japanese visual expression. Cute as a Kewpie doll and as colourful as a pachinko parlour whilst still being quite childish. This cartoonish style seems to be based on the manga aesthetic that was invented and developed in Japan.

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