I first met John Francis Carroll when he was busking at the Queen Victoria Market in North Melbourne last year.
His guitar playing was superb and I sat on a bench nearby for quite some time (lost in his music). I approached him during a break in his playing and asked if he minded me making some photos of him as he played and if it would be ok to share them online. I can’t remember that I did share them online at the time, but I certainly emailed him several images a few days later and said he could use them in any way he wished. I bought a couple of his CDs – Salmon Tails Up The Water (Celtic music, of which I am a big fan) and Musica Dalla Corsia (an even better collection of his talents) which I have listened to many times and thoroughly enjoyed.
He plays guitar, harmonium, bodhran, keyboard and Mandolin.
You can imagine my surprise and delight to get an email from him last week saying he loved one of the images so much, he’d used it on the back cover of his latest CD; Blues Instrumentals (of which I received several copies in the mail today but haven’t had a chance to play the CD yet, having been in the city half the afternoon for an appointment and some street photography).
As an amateur photographer, I must admit I get a thrill when anyone uses one of my images and credits me as the Photographer.
John plays at various venues in and around Melbourne, together with some function & festival work. He may be contacted on his website.
Keep any eye out for him if you’re a Melburnian – he’s well worth listening to.
It’s rare that I can’t think of a suitable title for a blog post, but Sunday in the City (of Melbourne) left me speechless and with more than a tear in my eye.
I’d been looking forward to my first visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens in about 18 months to do some bird photography.
After getting off the bus in the city centre, I walked down the main north/south street to the tram stop to find notice that there were tram disruptions and delays, so after waiting about 20 minutes, I decided to called the whole photography nature walk off and do a quick walk around the block in search of some street photography.
I had been through the new up-market shopping arcade linking Collins street to Little Collins street before and been quite amazed by the mirrored columns, ceilings and undersides of the escalators. The whole experience is like walking through some distorted hall of mirrors at a fun fair – quite surreal and definitely a unique experience. Many of the high-end ground floor shops are still untenanted.
You need real money to shop here.
The central atrium is filled with a modern ‘chandelier’ of hanging green/aqua light tubes. Both a work of art as well as lighting.
The previous arcade was very beautiful in itself and for the life of me, I can’t think why the current mind-blowing multi-million dollar display of vulgarity, which took 2 years to create, was ever passed by Melbourne City Council (or the town planning department).
I find it offensive. It’s a slap in the face of the homeless. It represents the extreme waste of money that really turns my stomach.
It’s one of modern western societies contradictions……….
(note: the slide show below was mostly made by looking straight up above me, except for one photo which shows a shopper riding an escalator).
When you leave this arcade and walk up to the main north/south thoroughfare linking the northern suburbs to the southern outbound highway (which runs along the west side of the Royal Botanic Gardens), you are confronted by the Bedrooms of the Homeless. Obviously during the winter, when night temperatures can drop to the low single digits, its warmer for the homeless to shift from their summer shelters along the river to the warmer inner streets of Melbourne.
After seeing the 5th makeshift shelter, where the occupant(s) was/were still fast asleep, I saw the 6th Bedroom looming up on the footpath and decided to make a photo.
I didn’t want to invade the occupant’s privacy so made the image from some distance away. An open umbrella was creating a wind break. Possessions and used food containers created a fence surrounding the homeless person and at this stage I was moved to tears.
This was the Home……… of a Homeless person.
I really don’t understand the wave of new multi-million dollar high-rise apartment blocks. Many are for the wave of Asian students who now attend our highly regarded universities at the northern end of the city) and are justified. But there are others which are not.
With some 8,000 homeless in the inner suburbs (32,000 in the whole state) and over 88,000 empty houses, the figures just don’t add up.
Some of the homeless have mental disorders like Schizophrenia. I see many on my bus running along my route to the city centre. Some have addictions – drugs, alcohol, over-the-counter medications – you name it.
There are those who prefer to live in the open without the normal links to jobs, debt and modern trappings and they are homeless by choice.
Then there are the teenage runaways with the pallor of despair etched upon their gaunt young faces. I wonder what drove them from home? Abuse, violence or drugs? Or just plain dysfunctional family relationships which made their home life unbearable? Perhaps even bullying from peers?
Most are just plain……… homeless………with no jobs to pay for affordable rental accommodation and utilities (let alone food and clothing).
……and then there are the travellers busking to make some money to advance their travel adventures. This Buddhist traveller was playing a variety of Nepalese singing bowls and from time to time, meditated or gave blessings to the passing shoppers. (the image below was made back in February 2013).
How does society justify multi-million dollar expenditure when a few hundred dollars would make all the difference to those living in poverty and homelessness.
Apart from Melbourne’s lane ways, there are an extraordinary number of gifted and highly creative Street Artists who display their craft in the inner suburbs.
Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, dates back to the early 1840s. Originally a working-class area of low rent and cheap shops, it is now home to many students, artists and bohemians.
I walked partway down one small section on the way to the supermarket in that area and made a few images of the Street Art (to share online) on the way.
(I must be the only person who carries a camera and lenses on the back of their shopping trolley to do food shopping 🙂 ).
Shop facades in Brunswick Street and surrounding side streets are usually unkempt and un-restored. Those buildings/shops that are painted, are often done with a ‘distressed‘ effect – I suppose there must be some kind of chemical which makes paint peel as it dries? Some of the shop signs are works of art in themselves and Street Art adorns almost every corner or main building. Even the 1st floor above the shops, which are residential, have the occasional window covered with a painted piece of art.
Even though I’m a Nature Lover at heart, I can’t help but be awed by these outdoor art galleries. Since I moved to the north-eastern side of inner Melbourne 12 months ago, my main bus route to the city centre leads me straight past many of these areas. One of these days, I’ll walk down the main road from the city through Carlton, Brunswick, Fitzroy and Collingwood (which are inner suburbs along the bus route) and photograph some more of this extraordinary Street Art.
Ehrrrrrr……..not all in one day though 🙂
I’ve often seen this young homeless man making cards on the pavement outside the department store and felt deeply about his plight. He has a backpack and a few drawing pencils to use to make a few dollars. I know he doesn’t like his photo being taken, hence the back view in this image.
I see his tattered old backpack holding his meagre possessions.
I see his take-away drink containers lined up like bored sentries on guard duty.
I see a few coins scattered in his shoebox.
His pencils are few (and his paper sheets even fewer).
But he is proud and likes to make cards to sell, instead of plain sitting in motionless despair (begging for a few coins).
I don’t know where he sleeps at night…whether he is warm in winter, or hot on steamy summer days, but I do care about his well-being.
I DO think about him.
I wonder if the passers-by see his plight OR walk around him intent on their shopping spree?
I’m a great lover of the mundane, (or ordinary), moments I see in Melbourne’s CBD. Somehow, capturing a small space, or person/people going about their everyday lives, in a photo, seems so much more than the sum of the whole street scene before my naked eye. The following 2 photos are of the same little café, but I couldn’t decide which image I liked best. Both look a little soft in focus as I had the shutter speed far too slow for a hand-held shot in the dimly lit arcade. I can’t normally hold the camera still below a shutter speed of about 1/40. The images below were at 1/8.
I love the stillness of the empty café with no human life visible. I love the soft light as Darkness falls. I love the suggestion that the day has ended and everyone has gone home to rest and recover from their activity.
In their own little space.
Feeding their Body.
Calming their Mind.
Replenishing their Soul.
I cannot imagine the internal workings of people who live at a frenetic pace 24/7. If I didn’t have time to Think – sit in Silent Contemplation, or listen to the Wind outside my window, I wouldn’t feel fulfilled or content.
Not many people seem to be comfortable with their own company these days. They are always ‘plugged in’ to a piece of modern technology that ‘talks’ and ‘entertains’ them. Well, in the inner city, anyway.
I’m in the middle of reading Freeman Patterson’s book Photography and the Art of Seeing.
Freeman Patterson writes about Thinking Sideways and Breaking the Rules AND “Chance”. “Give many happy accidents a chance to happen”. So I did!
But it wasn’t until towards the end of this afternoon, just before I left Union Lane in the city centre to go home, that this image suddenly appeared before me and I had to share it with you. I must admit I hit the shutter button pretty quickly and didn’t bother to check the camera settings (or where the focal points were aiming).
I wondered who the legs belonged to and why this young female was standing behind a half-closed roller door in a dark dingy freight loading bay with her teddy bear, baring a generous length of slim shapely legs.
And to give you an idea of where she was standing, here’s an image I made on Monday of the same freight delivery entrance and roller door – this time the roller door was completely open and there were NO legs anywhere to be seen 😀
My theory………..she was making an illicit transaction………. as I could hear a faint male voice nearby. After a few minutes the roller door went right down to the ground and I decided to head for home, none the wiser as to whom the legs belonged to.
I have a few other interesting images to share, but I’d better check them tomorrow morning in the light of day to check their exposure and contrast, as I was shooting with my 50mm f1.4 lens most of the afternoon and “broke a few rules” (as Freeman Patterson puts it).
Many of my street photography images made in the inner city lane ways of Melbourne have stories behind them. They may be my stories of an afternoon walk, or those of the people I photograph. I rarely tell them.
The image above is of the bluestone cobbled lane way behind some university buildings at the northern end of the city. I’ve never walked this way before yesterday, as it’s little used and probably just a lane way used as a shortcut to the back of some lecture halls or warehouse area. I can’t help but wonder about its history? Did horses and carts travel down its rough surface delivering goods in the early settlement of Melbourne in the 1830s (because it’s certainly very old, as is the bluestone cobbled lane behind my apartment building where I live in an inner city suburb).
Melbourne’s early buildings are mainly built of Bluestone quarried in nearby areas of the first settlement. Sydney’s early buildings are mainly of Sandstone (so are those in Hobart, the capital of the island state of Tasmania off the southern coast of Victoria).
I walked through this area yesterday in search of some new Street Art and I certainly found lots to admire.
But about 5 feet to the right of the first street art image (above) I spied a couple of chain wire gates some 2 1/2 to 3 foot high. I initially assumed they were the entrance to a cellar or underground access to utility pipes. The two shirts hanging over the gates gave me more food for thought. And then…….my senses were shocked to see what looked like food, a drink bottle(?) and an old transistor radio in the darker area below the white shirt (not visible in the photo below, but I can assure you they were faintly visible to my eyes). Behind the right hand gate was what looked like rough bedding.
Was this a night-time shelter for a homeless person? Were the shirts draped over the gates to block out the street lights at night?
Was this someone’s home? I have often seen homeless people begging in the inner streets of Melbourne (or quietly drinking with mates in dark corners of city lanes). Although I often wondered, I’d only actually seen bedding a couple of times before.
Did a homeless person live in this dark hole? Somehow, this thought seemed all the more shocking than seeing a beggar on the streets. The thought of someone crawling into this dark, dank, dusty, freezing hole in winter sent shivers down my spine and brought tears to my eyes. Melbourne is ablaze with enormous cranes and construction of new high-rise inner city offices and apartment blocks at the moment, but who spares a thought for these hungry souls who have no shelter in the worst winter storms and early morning freezing temperatures. Who gives a thought for some of these homeless forced to live like scavenging rats in Melbourne’s back lanes. How can the Developers and Governments of our current times spend millions of dollars on modern skyscrapers and refurbishing luxurious office accommodation?
Who helps the Helpless.
I really don’t understand modern society. There are certainly many philanthropists among Australia’s Rich & Famous. There are certainly many charities and volunteers who give freely of their time to the needy. The Australian Bureau of Statistics gives some figures from 2011 here
……and some more images from my archives (these images have been posted before on my old PhotoBlog).
I debated whether to erase the scratches and marks on the glass case (holding the old teacups), but then decided it added another layer of interest to the image.
The Royal Arcade has all the architectural details painted in Black, with black and white tiles on the floor in a checkerboard design. I’ve taken many photos but never been able to capture the atmosphere of this heritage listed arcade, but you can read about it here. Or check out some photos on Google images. In the meantime, the bright sunlight was shining through the upper windows in the arched roof and highlighting some of the shoppers and cafe patrons. Definitely no need to increase the contrast or definition in most of these photos.
When I arrived at the Queen Victoria Market in North Melbourne last Saturday, I found the Market area (600 stalls – both indoor & outdoor) packing up for the day.
Apparently on Saturdays, the market closes at 3.00pm (not 4.00pm as I thought – Sunday is 4.00pm). I had hoped to make some images of the crowded market stalls, which include fruit/veggies, a marble Art Deco Food Hall, fishmongers & meat refrigerated areas (as well as the clothing, footwear and all manner of other goods in the vast expanse of covered and uncovered market space).
So the best I could do was make a few images of the mostly deserted market, much of which looked a little dull on such an overcast day, and even more dull by the lack of bustling crowds. There were the occasional bursts of sunshine, but the image below was made when the sun disappeared behind the cloud cover.
(I always take photos when out & about, even when the activity & location is disappointing, as in my mind, photography is all about practice, practice & more practice). No photography means wasted opportunities. Especially now that I’m getting into B & W photography which requires some extra work in learning to see in a different way.
At least it didn’t rain.
I went up to the north end of Melbourne’s CBD to photograph some new Street Art during the week and came to a standstill outside the State Library of Victoria. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to photograph this type of crowd scene before. I was a little unsure how much to zoom in (or out) to capture the atmosphere. Of course, I had to find a gap in the crowd where there weren’t too many heads in the way too.
University Students, (and other interested parties), were staging a protest against the newly released Federal Budget’s changes to higher education fees. The Government has made this an especially difficult Budget Forecast and drawn some hard lines for Pensioners and Medical service co-payments too. As a person with chronic and somewhat serious health problems, (two of which are genetic), I just hope the new Budget does not affect my own health care – I can’t afford it (mentally, physically or financially).
To be honest, I was more than a little dismayed to hear that our Government is making changes which will affect those who can ill afford the cost (of extra fees).
OK, I know I am lucky in that I can go out for 2-3 afternoons a week following my Photography hobby which I love so much, but there are also times when chronic pain keeps me at home too. I choose not to take medically prescribed analgesics regularly these days. I am also very fortunate in that slow walking for a few hours usually dissipates my chronic pain………… and mindful living and a relatively stress-free daily routine gives me choices in how I deal with my health. I also have the benefit in being educated and trained in Alternative Therapies, which is a saving on some prescription meds.
But………..why don’t they, (the current Government), increase the taxes on the Wealthy to pad out the Government Coffers? We Health Pensioners didn’t choose to get sick, and the elderly didn’t necessarily choose to be living on the Government Old Age Pension (instead of being self-funded retirees). Many of the poorer class have worked hard all their lives and just can’t keep up with the rising cost of living, especially health care and education, let alone saving for old age (when they should be enjoying more in life).
In Australia, current trends show the middle class is diminishing and there is an even greater gap between the Rich and the Poor. Many more middle class people are ‘feeling the pinch’ in their living expenses and starting to fall into the Poorer class, or below the Poverty line. The number of Homeless and People with mental illness, or stress-related health problems, is rapidly increasing.
Ok, I’ve had my little rant now.
Back to Photography.
(note the hoof guards in the background of the last photo – something I’ve never seen before. I didn’t notice them at the time of making the photo, so didn’t change the Aperture to bring them into sharp focus. It was just a random shot of the horse leg protectors).
Once again, apologies to the long term followers that have seen these images before, but I thought new followers might like to see these candid images that sparked my interest in Street Photography.
As always, if you see yourself in one of my images and object to it’s public viewing, just drop me a line and I’ll remove it.
(But I really hope you don’t, as it’s these Candid Shots that record our Culture and Urban Environment for Future generations to come).
Sorry about the lengthy photo gallery, but I just could not decide which images to post. The Actors walked between 3 display windows and then eventually brought on a model to show how they did the nose plaster casts.
I have to say, it was one of the most fascinating, innovative, creative window displays I’ve seen for a long time. As I started taking photos, a large crowd gathered to see what I was looking at. A few iPhones caught the occasional image, but somehow it was the whole lengthy display which my eyes were glued to – not just one single image. Not sure whether I captured it for you. I guess you really had to be there……….. in front of the department store windows………..to appreciate the performance.