(Ta) Da!

Everybody sing along!

Next picture in 3…2…1…

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Tuesday afternoon, summer.

Oh Vienna! Today is not going according to plan. The sun hides behind the grey overcast skies. The rain falls lightly, making everything damp. I hold my bag with one hand and an umbrella with the other. And my camera? It’s in the other hand – yes the one grappling with the bag.

It takes nearly half an hour before I conclude that my efforts will be better applied in an indoor setting. The weather report suggests the rain will subside.

Several hours later, I have now made my way across the city, from Belvedere Palace to the Museum Quartier. On foot. The rain has stopped, the sun seems to giggle as it shines intermittently through the clouds.

I climb the stairs and enter the imposing stone clad building that houses the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (Museum of Modern Art Foundation Ludwig, Vienna), more simply known as MUMOK.

MUMOK, with its sprawling collection of modern and contemporary art works including major works from Andy Warhol and Pablo Picasso, is my playground for the next two hours.

Oh yes!

A friendly member of staff inspects my ticket and suggests that I should ride the elevator/lift to the top floor and work my way down through the various exhibitions.

Modern art is fascinating.
It follows no rules.

(Except, of course, the rules that it chooses to make up along the way)

It is best absorbed – and even enjoyed – by adopting a state of mind that is open and free from preconceptions, expectations and notions. One must suspend judgement and embrace nothing and everything, leaving reason behind.

I am greeted by Heinrich Dunst’s giant pink letterforms in the corner.


I hear the sound echo through the chambers of my mind – confident, unabashed, unapologetic, defiant.

(Look at the image again and you might understand what I mean)

Simply marvellous!

I stand there for nearly a minute before I bring the camera to my eye, adjust for the lower light levels, set to f/2.4, 1/125, ISO-1000.

And soon it is time to leave.

Back in London, I change the white balance, re-frame the image, perform the final composition check and complete post-production editing.

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The image itself provides its title.

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An Eye For Composition

Stand back…

Next picture in 3…2…1…

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Wednesday evening, autumn.

I wait underneath a bridge. The overcast skies make for constant light levels, set camera to f/4, 1/125, ISO-1000. The camera lens is pre-focussed and I stand facing the mural that is to become the backdrop of my image. All that is left to do is wait.

Except, I am hungry and I have a train to catch.

I have taken this picture before. I have stood in this exact spot and waited before so I know what to expect. People saunter past the mural, caught up in their own worlds, barely conscious of my rather conspicuous form across the road, dressed in black and grey.

Today is about timing. Getting someone to be in the right position in my frame. And all this must fall into place in the next 5 minutes. Did I mention I have a train to catch?

Several shots later, I walk towards the station.

One week goes by. I select the single picture that will be shared with the world. The remaining photos are sentenced to purgatory – the twilight zone that exists between my main collection, archives and the trash bin.

Post-production editing is completed relatively quickly. No major issues to deal with today. I perform the final composition test.

The final composition test relies on guide lines that intersect at the main points of interest in the picture. These drawn lines are then superimposed on a solid colour background to check that the abstract representation that it produces is visually pleasing to me. It is my ‘add-on’ extension to the more commonly applied (and somewhat simplistic) “rule of thirds” principle.

This is my secret formula. It is not a novel idea by any means.

It is not rocket science.

20180912 London L1060900 layout guidelines
Today’s results are satisfactory. All checks are complete. I search for a suitable title.

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Rust and Stardust

Right, we know the drill.

Next picture in …3…2…1…

20180630 London L1055905 Rust And Stardust resized

It is evening. The summer sun is beginning to dip below the horizon. I hold my camera lightly as I walk along the streets near Paddington. A bridge suspended above the rail tracks, lined with ageing panels. Streaks of rust and cracked paint. Look through viewfinder, set to f/5.6, 1/45s, ISO-800.

Pause, compose, breathe… click!

I take the picture and continue on my journey.

A few months pass. It is late afternoon. The sky is overcast and the chill of the autumn breeze cuts through my coat. I enter the Tate Modern. The elevators glide effortlessly to the fourth floor. Sculpted pieces, hanging paintings, grainy photographs, blaring audio recordings and flickering  video streams – I admire the art in the enclosed spaces.

Look, pause, breathe, reflect.

I see a new way of seeing a scene.

A few hours later, I sit at my desk. It is past my bedtime. The selected image fills the LCD monitor. How does one capture beauty in service and silent decay?

Crop. Edit. Tweak. Save.

I search online for a suitable caption.
The words of a poem might work here.

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A Kiss For All To See

“Places everyone…”

Right, here’s the next picture we’ll take a look at.

Say “cheese” in …3…2…1…

20140209 London L1019014 Camden Our Love Our Selfie resized

Now this shot was taken in early 2014, on Camden High Street in Central London.
A typical overcast day, the start of the evening rush hour – I had just stepped off a red double-decker bus heaving with commuters when this sight greeted me.

Fortunately, my camera was in my hand and the shutter was pressed even before my brain had made sense of what I was witnessing.

“Oh yea, that’s a couple kissing on the street … no, wait –“
“A couple taking a selfie of their kiss on a crowde… hang on!”
“That’s a double-selfie…?!?!”
“A couple taking simultaneous individual selfies of their kiss on a crowded street…”

“…but why?”

Years later, I still can’t wrap my head around why one camera phone was deemed insufficient to capture that moment.

What does it say about their love?
About their desire for control?
About their ability to share?

Could it be a workaround to allow each person retain full copyright to their images and the freedom to post it on their social media accounts as they wish?

Or am I the strange one here?

(…I mean seriously – who goes around taking pictures of other people taking pictures?)

I’d love to know what you think in the comments below…

On The Side Of A Bus

I’ve decided what this blog is going to be about.

It’ll be a space to discuss and share some of the complexities of life I have grappled with over the years.

Deep existential questions.

“What is the purpose of life?”
“Why are we here?”
“What is love?”
“Who finished the milk and left the empty bottle in the fridge?”

But seeing as people way smarter [than me] have spent much longer deliberating on these puzzles and the answers continue to elude us all, I’ve taken the decision that perhaps we can start by looking at simpler things.

So here’s the plan.

I’ll take a photo that I took before and take the time to tell you a bit about it.
Then I’ll try and smuggle in some of my thoughts-in-process that could end up being half-baked theories, well seasoned with child-like naivety.
If I’m feeling really inspired, I might chuck in a poem as well.

Ready? 3…2…1…

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This picture was taken in the middle of central London, at Piccadilly Circus, on a bright and sunny autumn afternoon. Which in England means it was not raining.

Regent Street was closed off to vehicles, people wandered freely on the road, making agreeable noises about the weather, pushing prams and herding their offspring, purchasing a variety of products from smiling salesmen and staring at their phones.

I mingled inconspicuously with the crowd, eyes peeled, looking for a suitable subject to photograph when it hit me.

(…actually it didn’t hit me. It rode in front of me. And it’d have had to hit a lot of people before it got to me. But I digress).

A giant bus draped in advertising decals – striking patterns, bright colours and vivid imagery. A bold message promising that a change to market-leading sports footwear would lead to a dominant re-framing of [the wearer’s] world.

(Think Dorothy’s ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz but with way more street cred).

*Sigh* If only life were that simple…

I have to admit that advertising can be very effective in grabbing our attention and directing our actions. It’s just that we’re often being distracted by things that aren’t really that… meaningful.

Things like stuff.

Stuff to wear.
Stuff to have.
Stuff to put our stuff in.
Stuff to move our stuff around.
Stuff to keep our stuff safe while we’re out buying more stuff.

But what if we could use advertising to improve our collective sense of worth?

What if we could be constantly reminded of the things that make us human, the things that unite us? The hidden beauty in our world? The great truths of life and the wisdom of the sages?

What if we could look up every now and again from our smartphones are be reminded that we are all one?

And all this without being sold to?

The shared cultural experiences that were prevalent in the past are becoming rarer with each passing day. We are social creatures and have created online platforms and networks to address our need for social interaction. Unfortunately, online communities can’t replicate the sense of togetherness that one gets from sharing the same physical space as another.

Our theatres, playhouses, museums… are all working harder than ever to attract and hold the attention of younger generations. But I suspect the real issue is how to generate a natural curiosity that drives individuals to find out more about the arts, philosophy and life itself.

As with many things, it may be counter-intuitive.
It may be much simpler than we think.

To get people to come to us, we stop chasing them.
We stop selling our brand to them.

We take what we have and we give it away.

Perhaps a picture of an inspirational piece of art.
Or a poem, a quote, a phrase….

For someone to see for the first time.
(Along with everyone standing nearby)

Making its way slowly moving through traffic.
Emblazoned in large letters.

On the side of a bus.

The World Is A Buffet

“The world is a buffet
so many sensual delights
and yet I stuff my face with rice”

I remember the first time I went to an ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet.
It was mind blowing! So much food on display, an endless array of choices,
And no one standing around to tell me how much I could eat.
( I was a fat kid so hey! this was my own brand of heaven…)

I had it all mapped out – I would eat EVERYTHING!
Because, you know, this opportunity may not come round again.
And besides, leaving all that food uneaten might be a crime in some universe out there.

Good plan!

So I waddled over to the buffet with a happy happy smile,
Filled my plate continuously until chunks of food started to fall off the edges,
And then made my way back to my table.
I ate steadily, my thoughts consumed by the thought of all the food yet to be consumed.
It wasn’t long before I was standing back at the buffet.

Three trips later, I was done.
And I was barely into the main course options.

It was an emotional experience.
I had failed miserably to make a dent in the buffet.
And so much was still left untasted.

What went wrong?

The choices I made, as it turns out.

I had planned to eat several meals that afternoon.
That was the only way I figured I could eat everything.
I was unaware that it was unnecessary to eat a meal-size portion of every dish
To decide if I liked it or not.
I held the ingrained idea that I need to finish everything on my plate,
Even when I changed my mind or didn’t like the taste.

You see, my eight year-old self hadn’t realised two immutable laws of dining:
(1) The capacity of my tummy is finite.
(2) Regardless of the variety of dishes on offer, only one meal can be eaten at a time.

Over the years, I have found the same logic to be at work in life.

Life is finite. It starts. It ends.
Life is one. Everything has to fit into the one life you live.

Everyday, we are tempted

So many options to choose

We can be anything and anyone

But our time on earth is limited.

If you don’t like what you’re getting right now,

Stand up and join the queue once more.

Because the time is passing,

Lunch is soon over,

And the restaurant never runs out of rice.

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Life Is A Potato

Today is a good day to start.

Technically, today is tomorrow’s yesterday.

Which would imply that if I procrastinated this decision yesterday,
Saying “I will do it tomorrow”,
Then today would be the day to do it.

It is almost midnight so if I don’t post this now,
Then I will be doing so tomorrow,
Which would be yesterday’s tomorrow’s tomorrow.

And that wouldn’t make any sense.

Life is a potato.

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