One evening I was walking along Swanston St with my friend and came to this scene. The bassist (whose name I’ve yet to learn) who plays catchy tunes like Super Mario is a familiar sight on the weekend street. Continue reading Nigel and the Bunny
The city streets in the CBD were closed off of all cars, trams and bikes, and the massive flow of people filled the tram path and laneways. It was a very unusual sight in Melbourne. But first, some food. Fortunately, a table was just vacated at the French crepe restaurant off the crowded Flinders Lane. We sat down to watch the typical French ways of the waiter and enjoyed the good food.
We were just going around the block, and avoiding the main streets that are way too crowded, we managed to check out some of the recent additions of graffitis on the laneways.
I’d picked up the brochrue for the event so I was relatively aware of the rich list of street, open to public free performances, including jazz by some well-known local performers, light art on the building walls, galleries were also going to open its door all night to host special exhibitions. But I had no idea how massive it was going to be. I got on a train and saw lots of people filling it, and yet I still thought they were all going to some music concert or sporting event. Little did I know the streets of Melbourne were full of people like New Year’s Eve!
Tired of walking, many people found a place to sit down inside galleries and, like us, ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Images http://www.acmi.net.au/ ). I wonder if ACMI has ever seen so many people filling its permanent display down stairs! My faint hope of seeing some of Andy Warhol’s 16mm footages were quickly scratched off, when we saw the queue building up at the stairs (little did we know, again, it would be almost 5 times longer by the time we had enough rest downstairs and came back up!).
Stepping outside, the crowd was going through the Bollywood dancing sequence with dancers demonstrating on the main stage and the big TV above it. We stepped across the crowd to go down towards the river, when the music changed to Latino. Our friend was just talking about how she wished they put on Salsa a minute ago, so I yelled them back and went back up to find a spot in the square. Her friend, who just got off the plane from UK for a holiday earlier today, has never danced salsa, and found himself learning the steps with everyone in the crowd. I managed to find a group of 3 girls and asked one of them to dance with me. It had been ages since I (tried to) lead a girl to the tunes of salsa. But it was fun dancing for a good half an hour, thanked her good bye, and then we tried the African dance that followed.
Up on the Princess Bridge, artists were working on the illuminated letters of WHITE NIGHT. It always amazes me how those visual artists can come up with such designs that fill that space and bring about such interesting experiences.
Well past 2am in the morning, again, feeling a bit hungry and in need for a place to sit down, we headed down Southbank.
3am, the cafes at Southgate are all closed. Same goes for the river-side cafes at Crown. We settled for the coffeeshop at the foyer leading into the casino entrance. At least they had cake and drinks we needed.
Bidding good night to friends, I walked solo back the southbank towards NGV. Almost 5am, still got a couple of hours to check out the two photography exhibitions that are on concession entry fee tonight. Upon turning up the steps back up towards Arts Centre I now recall the art exhibitions on tonight. The music was playing loud in that tent in front of Arts Centre, which we so should have checked out, but I personally preferred the NGV. And then I saw that installation – the one that gives you the sensation of touching the cloud.
It’s this big pile of what looks like the bubble that build up on the surface of water in washing machine. It seems the stuff keeps bubbling out so some pieces may fall, or stretch out close enough to people, who would then grab some piece off (yes, you can touch the cloud!), and gently lift it up to float above our heads. Like cloud, really. It was pretty cool sight. Expression on people’s faces said it all.
By the time I’d seen enough of this, I decided I was just too tired to properly appreciate photography exhibitions right now. There is still the exterior wall light paint that I wanted to photograph, and there are more on the street, I was sure. Picking up the heavy gear and tripod reluctantly from cloak room again, I stepped outside again.
6am – the morning was approaching. Everyone was looking forward to the first light of the day, leaning against the Eastern side of the Princess Bridge.
Big crowd was building on the other side of the bridge, though, with the band and a large group of chorus singing what sounded like Big Band marching and funky music. Some people cannot hold themselves down and start dancing, clapping hands, cheering to the music. Then the band moved on to under the roof of the station, where I could hear their sound much better. But the time was up. With the last tune of the Saints Are Marching In, they wrapped up their performance, and with the happy exhaustion on their face, the band pushed through people back towards the bridge.
And then, all of a sudden, the another day was already here.
How did you enjoy your White Night?
Last week marked the 150th anniversary for National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. Happy birthday NGV! Here are a few shots I made during its pARTy weekend. Continue reading NGV 150th
As I have previously announced, there will be a great event on experiencing Japanese traditional and modern culture. Japan Culture Festival is hosted by ‘Japaneasy’, a Japanese language school in Melbourne and is held on Sunday the 7th of November at Collingwood Town Hall.
According to the update the organiser sent out to the workshop volunteers, there will be quite a few interesting demonstration of Japanese art and culture, some common like tea making and origami, others a bit rare… you come and see!
To make the best of your day, come early just before 11am. On-stage performances start at 11 and each one will be played out only once, I think. During the lunch hour, there will be Japanese food available from the stands, so grab some snack and sit at the seats upstairs, or check out some of the workshop tables. In the afternoon there will be more live performances. Music, dances, fashion, some modern and contemporary, some traditional. I’m already excited.
The parking can be a little tricky, so it is best if you got there by public transport. The Town Hall is just a few steps from Collingwood station.
More information is available on Japaneasy’s site, so be sure to check it out. If you have a kimono that you bought in Japan or was given to you by a friend, put that on to get a free admission, or bring it down and learn from a ‘kitsuke’ (kimono dressing) teacher how to put that on in the future.
I will be walking around the venue photographing as the official photographer for the event, so feel free to stop me for a photo with new friends you made on the day! The photos from the event will be made available via online album on a later day (I will tell you about it on this blog, too!).
I was at NGV on Sunday. It is one of my semi-regular routine when I’m in town. Being a member of NGV, I make the best use of access to the member lounge and its free coffee. I noticed there was that familiar set of instruments being set up in the hall while making my way to the member room. I had my quick coffee and left rather noisy lounge, I met one of the security guys and started chatting. While we were chatting about his work, his interest in photography, etc. his colleagues passed us by and updated him on the schedule for the event. Apparently it was the event organised around Indonesian Culture Day in Melbourne, and there were going to be some music and dances. I decided to stick around for it, rather than moving on to the other building of NGV (Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square).
There was nobody inside yet, but I was told there would be a couple of musicians playing outside before things got under way inside. Beyond the glass pane with water screen, I saw a couple of men sitting on the ground in the forecourt.
I was down on my knees waiting for the people in front of me to move on, when this man came to talk to me. Agung was clearly a part of the group performing today. People talk about Thailand as the place of thousand smiles. And I’ve seen many friendly smiling people on the train and local restaurant and all those non-touristy place across Thailand. But he reminded me of one of my best memories – Bali. It was back in the mid ’90s when I was leaving Perth where I’d lived for a year and on my way to my hometown of Osaka. The cheapest ticket turned out to be the Garuda flights that connected at Denpasar and Jakarta. I walked around the back streets and laneways of that town, where I’d see no other ‘visitors’ and talked to lots of local people. There were kids selling cigarettes and water on the street, and they’d tell me about their life. Some were Balinese, others were Javanese. Their stories were different but equally interesting, and I’d learnt so much more by talking to those kids on the street more than what I might have read in the subject about rural society in SouthEast Asia that I’d completed the semester before. Everyone was extremely friendly and smiling. They were nothing like those you meet on the beach and resort area where all they do is calling you a president and asking you to buy some handcraft souvenirs or massage or whatever else. Those people had respect for the visitors in their island and they did everything they can to make me feel welcomed. I walked into a school yard in the evening as the school just finished and kids were playing around and slowing walking home. Dozens of kids come running towards me and greeted me with hello’s. High-school girls had that shy smile of our younger days and still gave me the most beautiful smile as I captured them on my limited supply of Kodak Echtachrome films. Walking around the dark and dusty local market, I became friends with a guy who was organising bike parking. He took me to the canteen and bought me a drink of coke. It was nice to be in the shade upstairs of the market and the cold drink felt good. I realised later that having a drink in a local hygene condition especially with ice cube made in their fridge can be pretty dangerous for our stomach that are only accustomed to extreme hygene conditions of our modern society. I was on bed even while waiting for my flight at the airport that night, but I had no regrets. It was the place of friendly, polite and respectful people.
Agung reminded me of that.
See, that is exactly what I remember – those shy friendly smiles!
The performance got underway. There was a photographer who seemed to be making official images. I could tell he knew what he was doing and capturing the typical event photography, so I decided to capture only a few shots of the audience, almost forget about the dancing on the centre stage, but look for something among the musicians and those dancers back stage.
To be honest, I was more interested in real people working on the background, rather than familiar dances that were taking place under spotlight.
I was poorly prepared for this photo shoot. I had only a couple of lens: one standard/wide manual focus, the other telephoto, and nothing in between, thinking I’d only use my camera for street shooting that day. If I’d known I would have brought the zoom lens that would have been perfect for the job. I ended up switching lenses all the time, one not wide enough, the other too narrow for anything, and I didn’t have the one in between which I could have used for people in a few metre range. But it was fun. We photographers cannot possibly carry all the lenses on the book with us when we go out shooting. Even when we know what the assignment is going to include, we still compromise one way or the other. But what we ought to know is how to make the best of the gear we’ve got. We move around, gain some distance, step very close in, whatever we can physically do, to make our gears work. It is all fun. I love watching people at work and capturing the genuine moment. And genuine moments, here I got.
I was almost humming that first song of U2’s ‘All that you can’t leave behind’ album as the people smiling in the sun pass outside the window of my bus. Unfortunately my beloved B&O headphone was out of action, after having been pulled this way and that every time its cable got caught by my hand, bag, camera and while it tried to catch my phone before it hit the ground on rare occasion. So it was just the music playing in my head but it was just that kind of day. I might even go on to tell you that it might have been the most beautiful day of the year. And I was sitting in the sun on the bus heading out of my part of town, passing the hospital and university, and dropping me off near Lygon Street.
On the days when I have a good flow of creative stuff, I can feel that. I don’t know if there is actually some juice flowing in my gut somewhere, or is there a chemical content or some specific electric current running in some corner of my brain, whichever it is, I feel it, like a prediction, that ‘I have it today’.