Project 45

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

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Fabulous 2016!

Photography helps me to make some sort of sense of the world!  With every photo that I make, I take small steps in interpreting and connecting with my environment and the people that I encounter. In the last year I have experienced some major lifestyle changes. I moved interstate and am now back living in a city.  After almost fifteen years in a small coastal town, I love the vibrancy of living in a more multicultural place – it feels like home.

I have been a regular visitor to South Korea for many years and 2016 was no exception when I spent five weeks photographing and exploring the east coast from Busan up to the North Korean border. Korea continues to be a favourite place to visit and photograph.

During my stay in Korea I received news that my eldest daughter was going to have a baby!  The happy thought of a new member in the family has warmly coloured the feel of this last year and we are looking forward to greeting our first grandchild later this month!

The past twelve months seemed to be dominated with kids and dogs.  Despite the old warning to ‘never work with children and animals,’ this was exactly what we seemed to have done for a big part of the year.  Not only did my youngest daughter come home with a rescue dog, hello Maxi!, my wife and I finished the year off with a ‘Healthy Dogs, Healthy Peoples’ project in far north Queensland.  Working in a remote aboriginal community was a rewarding and challenging opportunity and for us another chance to use storytelling and photography as a form of  communication.

Every year I try and select a set of photographs that best reflect the past year. Here are 16 from 2016.

The Ghosts Of Okpo Land – Abandoned Amusement Park In South Korea

I am a regular traveller to South Korea. On Geoje Island, I learned of an abandoned amusement park overlooking the town. The fun park, called Okpo Land, had been closed down in 1999 due to a series of accidents, the last when a young girl tragically fell to her death from a ride.

The park, perched on top of a hill, was in the process of being reclaimed by the surrounding bushland. Although it was deserted, graffti, rubbish and empty beer bottles were evidence that it was still being used as a ‘fun park.’ On that day, I was the only person there, but I had an eerie feeling that I was not alone. Was it my imagination, or was there really a restless spirit inhabiting the area?

I have since returned to Geoje Island but Okpo Land has now been demolished to make room for a hotel. To honour the people who died at this site, author and storyteller Morgan Schatz Blackrose, and I have published a book dedicated to the lost souls of Okpo Land. You can download it as a PDF file for free here:  carousel

Soundtrack To My Youth – Part 6

In a new ancient land

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.

No Fixed Address ‘We have survived’

Soundtrack To My Youth – Part 5

As far as I was concerned, the late 1970’s were all about long music and loud hair and I wasn’t having a bar of it!  My way of thinking went something like this; “you musicians  want to be so modern then why do you still have long hair and insist on using a guitar?!”  Judgmental …. me …. never! Many of my friends were into bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and even Status Quo.  (I was nearly responsible for killing the entire band in 1992 but that’s another story) It’s not that I didn’t like rock music, it was just a bit too predictable for me and I couldn’t be bothered to spend time or my money on that kind of music.

My outlook was towards the future.  I wanted to leave my home town, Switzerland, Europe, in fact I wanted to travel to another planet! Did I mention that I was also fascinated with astronomy and space travel? My interest in the possibilities of intergalactic travel led me to discovered a new kind of music that would allow me to do this, at least in my head.  By the end of the 1970’s I was spending time in my own alternative universe thanks to bands like Tangerine Dream, Pink Floyd, Jane, The Far East Band and basically anything that I could find on the Brain record label. And no, I never inhaled! I just loved the sound of synthesisers and I am absolutely thrilled that these days, I can have my own space music lab in my room.  In fact, I carry my synthesiser on my phone.  How cool is that!

As the decade came to an end, I was gearing up to leave Europe an start a new life in Australia; I was moving to Melbourne!  My music choice today reflects that transition from a provincial town to the big city on the other side of the world.  I have this recording in my collection as a glow in the dark 12 inch single, its a old party trick favourite. If you happen to come around to my place to listen to music, you will be treated to this ‘light’ spectacle!

Kraftwerk ‘Neon lights’

Soundtrack To My Youth – Part 1

Music can be a time capsule, but the meaning of the song or tunes also evolve with time.  I have chosen to trace some key events in my earlier life, from growing up in Switzerland through to moving to Australia in my early 20’s.  This soundtrack to my youth is a seven part series.

Becoming a teenager was all about small rebellions and one way to cause a ripple in my environment was to listen to my own choice of music.  I wanted to listen to stuff that wasn’t on the family radio.  In about 1972 my mother purchased a record player and we had a handful of LP’s, mainly easy listening and some light Jazz.  I remember that one of my favourite records was Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World”.  I played that and Louis Armstrong a lot.

Then something big happened, I got my own radio! Now I could listen to what I wanted whenever I wanted.  Mind you there wasn’t much on the radio in well behaved Switzerland in those days. There was the weekly Hit Parade, a must listen if you wanted to keep up with the kids at school.   Listening to music, was rarely about lyrics for me, as the music I listened to was mostly in English and I couldn’t understand anything beyond ‘yea yea’ and ‘I love you’.  But I could understand emotions and feelings,  most of all I got rock and roll. In 1974, I was 14 years of age, I discovered an American GI radio station from Berlin on my AM radio. Every week it presented an hour long rock n’ roll revival show, complete with old radio jingles from the 50’s.  I was hooked! One of the first LP’s I bought, and still have, is a Little Richard album which has a selection of hits on it plus some more obscure tracks.  I bought it for the two recognisable hits, but for me the stand out track was this slow bluesy, soulful number.  It also paved the way for my Soul music obsession which was to follow.

From an early age, music became a form of travel for me.  This had something to do with my mother who started to travel in the mid 1970’s.  Freshly divorced she went on to explore the world beyond the iron curtin and travelled to Hungary and Romania in 1973, returning back with folk music recordings.  This was a real eye opener form me.  There was a world outside my window waiting to be explored.  An idea that is still with me. My dear mother has since passed away but I still carry her philosophy that everyone is potentially good at heart.

Little Richard ‘Don’t deceive me’

 

Merci Marc!

There he was, climbing up a wall with a ladder to get a better view of what was on the other side. A quote stated something along the lines of ‘there are times you have to change the viewpoint to get the right image’.  This small image of photographer Marc Riboud demonstrating how he created some of his iconic photos, struck a chord with me.  I was in China visiting the 2010 exhibition: THE INSTINCTIVE MOMENT – A Retrospective, at the Shanghai Art Museum.  I was aware of his more famous photos, the Eiffel Tower painter, the woman placing the flower in the gun and the fabulously framed antique shop dealer photo from Beijing. These images by the renowned Magnum photographer were all there to see.

Shanghai was about to host the World Expo and the city was busy’ cleaning up’ its urban spaces.  This translated to, among other things, the destruction of many old, traditional neighbourhoods, the so-called Longtangs.  The homes were bulldozed and the occupants moved into new high-rise buildings.

Prior to seeing the Riboud exhibition, I snuck into an old Longtang neighbourhood that was in the process of being demolished.  To my surprise, there were still people living among the rubble, refusing to move. I spend a couple of hours taking photos and got out before I ran into trouble with the local authorities.

Having seen Riboud’s photos, many taken in China between 1957-2002, I kept thinking about that little photo of him looking over the wall.  This was a metaphor for me, to look beyond the obvious and to take some risks in my photography.  The next day I went back to the Longtang to take more photos.  As I wandered among the rubble, I saw it, a wall that prevented me from seeing what lay beyond it.  Instinctively I climbed it to look over.  The moment I had reached the top I saw a lone man cycling past a grand old house that was still standing. I lifted the camera and captured a photo that to this day I will remember as my Marc Riboud moment.

Merci Marc, you inspired me to focus closer on the moment and the emotions that can be found within that reality.

“Seeing is the paradise of the soul.”

Marc Riboud
(24.06.1923 – 30.08.2016)

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‘Merci Marc’ by Roman W. Schatz, Shanghai 2010