I went into the centre of Melbourne this afternoon. It was one of those remarkable days when it seemed hard to believe I might have the capacity to feel stress, frustration or concern. Although there were micro moments otherwise, my attitude was one mostly of acceptance. Everything seemed to flow naturally, the experiences of each passing minute seemingly possessing a fluidity and grace, as though an intricute, living mechanism of being were unfolding according to some a pre conceived blueprint, revealed to me in the living of it, for the perfect day.
I had come into the city ostensibly to buy the 5th and 6th part of the British detective series, Prime Suspect; I had been watching the earlier episodes periodically across the Christmas holidays.
I think I first became aware of the kind of day I was experiencing not long after I got off the tram at the top of Burke Street, one of two primary roads that intersect the Melbourne CBD. There is a small media store not far from there, the best in the City in my opinion. Practically the first thing I saw when I entered the store was exactly the DVDs I had been looking for, and they were on sale for peanuts.
I had expected a bit of a hunt as the DVDs were quite old, but that hunt was over as it began. Mission accomplished I no longer had any kind of purpose in the City other than to be and enjoy the afternoon. So I decided to walk at a sedate pace through the centre of Melbourne and take a few photographs. I have posted a selection of them below, along with some reflections on how the scenes spoke to me within the frame as I was taking the photos, or afterwards, viewing them here at home.
First, some context. As you can see from the sun's reflection on the tip of the building on the left below, it was a bright day. It was also fairly hot, though with a light cool breeze - practically perfect weather in which to experience having a human body. There were also large numbers in the streets, many probably frantically searching for sales bargains, but their milling and jostles and "excuse mes" did not disturb me.
There were also street artists and musicians playing in some locations. It made me somewhat reflective of form and colour and art itself as a sensiblity or practice.
In that sense of calm, I felt an awareness that I do not often take photographs of people. The two below are typical of many images that seem to attract my eye - abstract shapes, angles and intersections between textures and light and form. These were the sort of photos I had started to take at the beginning of my walk through the city.
So I decided to try to take a few photos with people in them, or at least more than might be typical. In the end, I took a couple of dozen across the afternoon, but some still did not turn out as well as I had hoped. Some simply did not have the light to lift forms and colours from the background, or heads were turned and vehicles entered frames at the last moment, but a few were framed awkwardly or out of focus. I think it may have been because, even though I was calmer and more detached that I might usually be about such matters, I was still a little nervous about people becoming aware of being within the frame of my viewfinder and thus did not take quite enough time over each shot.
A few turned out well enough however. In the photo below I felt aware of several things - the mismatch between the two girls and the older man; that the three of them were in identicle, fixed metal chairs, but had different purposes and thoughts; that they almost appeared to be in some kind of waiting room even though they were sitting reasonably at ease - there is no reason to sit at this spot, other than to rest or take in the shopping mall surroundings.
This scene charmed me; I wished I could hear what the muslim gentleman was saying to his elder fellow citizen. Also the curve of the older man's back and his stance seems to me to suggest as though he had been purposely popped into the frame, exactly as needed, to be the right kind of audience for the words he was listening to.
And this lady below, seemed so out of sorts with those surrounding her, the camera was almost drawn to her, as if by some unseen gravity affecting my hand and the tilt of my head. She was just lingering, thinking, worrying perhaps, though whether about the past or future, who knows.
When I took this photo right in the centre of town, I was aware of experiencing the taller building in a different way that I usually do. I find that older buidings like the art deco structure on the left are far more generous to me as a human being with feelings and aesthetic needs. There are shapes and shadows and lines, and pleasing relationships between them for my eye to find and absorb. The tower block is very much about itself and its mission and has so much less to give me. Yet, even seen through the lattice of the somewhat tacky Christmas decorations, it had gained a more palatable and humane sense of form and colour.
I look a few photos like the one below. I find sometimes that objects that are fairly mundane on their own (I do not personally find expensive cars like this in any way beautiful as some do) can gain an asethetic in the frame when they work with like colours elsewhere - as the yellow of the background does with the yellow of the car here. When I saw this I thought about how the car, being a often moving object was constantly creating opportunities for such sense reasonance with the colours or forms of its surrounding - it all depended whether there was a witness to view the vehicle at the right angle and at the right time to appreciate this.
When I saw this, I was reminded of a photoshop image. Sometimes when you have been working with electronic image editing software, as I have a lot recently, I have found that you can start to see reality as though it might be composited. This photo was a little like that; it was as though an omni potent artist, responsble for creating the centre of Melbourne that day had taken a break, and forgotten to fill in the rough gray area above the shop hoarding.
When taking photographs of opportunity I often find a kind of tension between taking the photo rapidly enough to capture a unique moment and taking enough time to capture that moment properly. In this case, although without it being a movie sequence you cannot quite get the sense of it - I had been trying to photograph a little girl in the distance standing on top of a little bronze sculpture of a dog with her arms in the air, as though just having climbed an inanimate canine mount Everest. I missed the shot, trying to get the focus, but immediately saw this gentleman, reclined. As I took the shot, the bucket he is looking at (you may need to click on the photo to enlarge it and see this), kind of magically sailed across the scene, driven by the wind.
These are among the last photographs I took. The first below I simply liked for the composition and colour, it does not really seem to invoke a narrative or intellectual response. The second seemed rather ironic - the proper, stately gentleman of means towering about an image of a child without.
I finished the afternoon by wandering in to a second hand bookshop and in keeping with the rest of the day, made a quite fortuitous discovery. On the shelves I found four mostly early 1970s anthologies, including the first publication of early science fiction stories by Jack Dann. Jack is the American Science Fiction writer I am currently writing a book about, and I had been looking for some of these stories for quite a while.