On a public holiday in Melbourne

ANZAC Day fell on the monday on Easter Weekend, so Tueday was made a day off in lieu. After the painter finished his work on a wall in my flat, I set out in the beautiful afternoon sun towards, well, no idea! First it was Fitzroy Gardens, but without finding a suitable parking spot, I kept on driving till I hit Johnston, and then turned into Smith Street. The light was nice, and that sense of authenticity of Smith Street I always enjoyed, compared to, say, tourist-oriented Lygon Street or more yappie or gen-Y but Branswick Street. I found a spot towards the Gartrude Street corner, and walked back up north. Let go of expectations, open my senses. Here I go, my photowalk on Melbourne street.


I realise that this blog is not in the best format to present images, but if you don’t mind clicking on the image, I’d appreciate your looking at them in a slideshow format.

I never thought I’d like ’75’, but it does have a rather handsome face and hint of the power it has under its hood… Anyone recommend a decent condition V6 model I can afford? Or 1750GTV would be even nicer… Oh, and a service garage with a lot of experience in fine tuning old Alfa… for a reasonable price, of course. Ha, it’s all in a day dream.

Now, down shifting, I drove onto the Gardens in Melbourne and walked around the water and CBD.

I’ve decided to try something I don’t do very often: using a bit longer lens on the street. Street photography, to me, is about your presence, participation and immediacy, therefore can only be done with wide angle lens. It has to do with history, back to the time photographers like Henri Cartier-Blesson would walk around town with his leica and its 28mm. You’ve got to be in there, another step closer than you are comfortable with, to get a shot that speaks for itself. Long lens, like TV drama and movies, are for stepping back and watching from your couch. But on this holiday, I decided to put myself in that arm chair and see what the view is like. 85mm it is.

So that’s how I spent my Easter weekend. How was yours? Did you find your inspiration?


Engine workshop

Last week I had an opportunity to spend a bit of time in a quiet engine workshop. Outside it was drizzling on and off, almost soundlessly beating the roof above us. Through the skylights soft light gently blanket the machinery, engine parts, dust and oil. I wish I had an old sport car to bring in for some TLC.

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Easter weekend on the beach

My friend kindly invited me to join his and his partner’s family for lunch on Easter Sunday. After being treated to his homemade lasagne (which is quite a serious affair) and some laughs, I made my way back but chose to drive along the sea. As soon as I hit the seaside at the end of South Road, the light was beautiful and inviting. I pulled the car into a carpark, threw some coins into the machine (it is quite unusual that I use a paid parking – always use only free parking :p) and walked down with 7D strapped to my wrist.

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Kite Boarding

After walking on the beach along Beconsfield Parade, I needed to go back to my car as its free parking was about to expire. But I was pretty happy with what I was seeing and the slight chill in the air (I prefer the cold to hot), and I decided to stay a little longer. I drove the car down the Parade and found a spot closer to St Kilda. And I walked down to the sand again, when I saw this guy walking ahead of me…

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From Day to Night

Some days I go out onto the street without a single expectation. Camera ready at hand, I walk. But some of those days, I come home without a single shot made. On this Friday walk without expectation, I felt something. This could be a beginning of something new. Or it could be just a faint flirtation that just goes as quickly as I found it…

5:46pm Flinders Street. The large cloud dominates the sky, reflecting the setting sun that I cannot see. The city's evening is dark.

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Street photography – Joel Meyerowitz in NYC 1981

Street photography is something I’d picked up in the last few years, as a substitute for the travel photography while I am not actually traveling. Traveling is great, being an ‘outsider’ you are free from the fear of being rejected from your territory after pointing cameras to the people on the street. But as you come to realise, you can do the same thing in your familiar city. As many street photographers, including Joel in this fantastic video, tells you, it is about getting over that fear, fear of people getting angry and coming after you for photographing them on the street. I also heard the same thing from Billy Plummer, a very talented photographer who used to teach photography in UK and now working in a creative job based in China, whom I was fortunate enough to meet when I visited my friend and his colleague in Guangzhou. He told me, ‘Yes, we all fear that. But you’ve got to go out, try it, again and again, until you realise, it’s ok to do it.’ He taught that to many of his students while he was teaching photography, and he is living it. Look at the power in his street photography, and you know he is right.

If you like street photography and want to know about what makes them what it is, how the photographers work, all that, this video on Joel Meyerowitz is fantastic. It is about 60-minute long, but it’s got so much on his approach to street photography, as well as different, more detailed images he makes with a large format view camera. As an artist, each of us goes through stages where we are attracted by something and driven to express something, communicate and send some message through the body of work, but that, whatever inspiration and driving force, may change over time. I still remember the sensation that ran through me when, for the first time in my life, I made a beautiful portrait (or more like ‘snap’ that looked like portraiture, really) which made everyone arround me cheer me on. That was 21 years ago and I made that with my first Canon SLR camera. I remember what excited me when I was photographing on the cobble streets in the sub-zero Switzerland. And I remember what excited me when I was working on an abstract / street project last year, right here on the streets of Melbourne. Through all that experience, I see things I see, the kind of things that I could not see or understand even when other people talk of it. So that’s where it comes down to – you just got to keep doing it, then you’ll see ‘the next’. While you are being smart in your couch and saying ‘that’s about as far as I go with my limited creativity’, you will never see it.

Enough about me… have a look at this video. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. If you like to find out more about street photography, like this video, visit In-Public, a website committed to street photography.

The video is embedded on this In-Public article.