These two photographs of hay stables in Valais, Switzerland, are 45 years in the making. I took the first image in 1972 during a school camp with my first camera, the fabulous Kodak Instamatic. This started my lifelong fascination for photography. When I received the prints from this film, I was annoyed at the glitch in this one image. However, four decades on, I feel that this imperfection makes the photograph perfect for me. It showed me that with a camera, it was possible to capture a sense of time and space that could last a lifetime.
This year I returned to the region for the first time since I made this photo and I was excited to recapture this moment. Of course that is not possible, just like standing in the same river twice. However, I managed to make a photo of a past moment, which is now destined to become a new memory.
Both photos were taken in the Fiesch region, Valais, Switzerland, 1972 & 2017
It’s 1983 and I am having to speak English all of the time but that’s good, because now I can! Three years earlier I had packed my bags, plus one wooden box filled with records, and moved to Australia. I did this all by myself, I left my mother and my younger brother in Switzerland, promising, that I would do all I could to ensure them a visa to migrate as well. They would join me five years later. I remember my English teacher in Switzerland telling me, that once you dreamt in another language you had mastered it. It actually only took me about three months to have my first English language dream, I was amazed! Mind you, I still couldn’t understand a bloody thing. I think it was more a case of culture shock, rather than me being a language genius. Besides, when I got off the plane in Melbourne, I first thought that I had travelled to the wrong country. As far as I could work out, no one spoke any recognisable English here! Australian lingo was a long shot from the nice Oxford style English they tried to teach me in the evening school back in Switzerland.
One of my first jobs was as a delivery driver for a French bakery, the place was run by an erratic, always hung-over French man who simply gave me the job, because I wasn’t an aussie. Suited me just fine plus, I learned to drive a small truck on the wrong side of the road in a big new city. What could possibly go wrong! Besides managing to have a small crash on my first day, all went well! In fact I really loved the job, I was out for most of the day driving around and taking in my new world. And then there was the car radio, I discovered a small public station, that was obviously the cities lefty voice. It not only helped me to hone my language skill, I also received an education in humanitarian issues. And if it wasn’t for 3CR I may have never have heard of Ivor Cutler, the great Scottish poet. I had been a reggae fan for a number of years but there was one sound I had never heard of before; contemporary Koori music. A mixture of reggae, rock and protest music all held together with the ancient sound of a didgeridoo! This was a real eye and ear opener for me.
Melbourne had a great live music scene and I was fortunate enough to live only 5 staggers and 3 rolls from a wonderful music venue, run mostly by Maori bikies. It was here that I discovered my soundtrack for most of the early 1980’s. I saw this band a couple of times and loved their energy, commitment and passion. No Fixed Address are now considered an iconic Australian band and this song is bonafide Aboriginal anthem.
“Seeking what is true is not seeking what is desirable.” Albert Camus
This year has been a busy one for me. I was lucky enough to travel for my photo and art projects. My work continues to concentrate on time and space. I am exploring the essence of a place through its people and their environments. In 2013 I visited some of my favourite countries; South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Switzerland, Turkey and of course my current home base, Australia.
The age of digital photography is both a blessing and a curse, resulting in 1000’s of images being taken. Selecting the right photos is more time-consuming than taking them. My working philosophy this year has been to narrow the images down to the essential, that is to capture the emotions of the people or places I am photographing.
Here is the selection of my 12 best images from 2013.
The pear trees are as old as their marriage. For the past sixty years Herr Straub has been removing the unripe fruit in the autumn then storing it until St Nicholas day, when it will be ready for eating, or transformed into a host of pear fladen by Frau Straub. While he attends to harvesting the apples and pears, she collects the quinces from the tree in the garden. Overhead the birds circle then alight on their favourite tree branches.The Council asked Herr Straub to cut down the trees that line the stream meandering through his land. The trees that have given him a livelihood, are also home to a diverse range of birds and insects and they stabilise the waterway. Herr Straub refused.
The Straubs are farmers who know that if you look after the land, it will look after you. We say goodbye and Herr Straub brings us a pear; the only ripe one he has collected. We suspect he had kept it aside for Frau Straub, and accept his offering with thanks, assuring him that we will share it.
The Museum für Gestaltung in Zürich, Switzerland, is currently showing works by Martin Parr. The public is also invited to share their interpretation of ‘My Switzerland’ These are my entries for the exhibition from 10. October to 3. November 2013.