“Hearken ye to the Call of this wronged One, and magnify ye the name of the one true God, and adorn yourselves with the ornament of His remembrance.” -Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah
Hearkening to the call; she looks away from the camera. Praising the name of God; she does the best with learning from her grandmother. Adorning herself with symbols of culture; she remembers the unity of humanity in all its diversity.
As well as this I began a series of photographs on the transmission of culture.
A special thanks to my mum and daughter for inspiring my life and photography.
Last weekend my family went to Alesa Lajana’s Hidden History preview concert at Mt Tambourine, at Club Zamia.
Alesa, with support from the exceptional Kirk Lorange, performed her album preview to an intimate crowd of friends, family and the public from her home town and Brisbane. Many songs were performed for the very first time in public.
She told us intriguing and moving background stories to each of them. The purpose of this collection of songs is to give voice to forgotten or ignored Aboriginal people and to share their stories which lie hidden in our landscapes (review coming). Some of these songs have been co-written with notable artists such as Shane Howard and Amy Saunders as well as that she has collaborated with the poet Sam Wagan Watson.
Her research is creating an album especially directed at a ‘white’ or ‘European’ Australia that still doesn’t always show respect for its first people, or who remain unmoved by it. Alesa is courageous and has not been daunted in continuing with her project when others have challenged her about why she is writing these songs.
Alesa thinks that although there are some books written on the history of the Aboriginal people in Australia, songs have a power to move the human spirit and speak more directly to the heart. Throughout her concert she uses the language group names of all the Aboriginal people she has interviewed for the songs and shows utmost respect for her subjects by placing these songs into a context of righting injustice through a truth telling.
I am working on editing an extensive interview I did with Alesa about the process of putting together this album and a review of the concert.
Alesa’s upcoming album is going to include her beloved banjo. Songs during this particular concert included electric guitar/banjo, banjo, and guitar. Alesa is an exceptional guitarist and as well as sharing her new songs treated us to straight instrumental brilliance. She loves to mimic the bagpipes with her guitar.
Thank you to Alesa for permission to photograph this review concert and to Club Zamia and Bronwyn Davies for her warm tap dancing welcome to the night. The concert venue reminded me so much of what I miss about living in a small country town.
My son, an aspiring singer song writer guitarist, says Alesa is a female ‘Woody Guthrie’and Shane Howard says he feels at peace that he can hand the baton of social and political song writing to artists of the next generation like Alesa.
If you have a chance to attend this album preview don’t miss it!
Bob Elliston asked if I could do some portrait shots for him.
We met at Song Trails last year, where I was the workshop photographer and fellow songwriter participant.
Bob is the President of the Yungaburra Folk Festival and music has been his lifelong passion. He has played in several bands and groups. I think he said six. He is enjoying pursuing song writing in his ‘retirement.’
Bob’s main request was that he didn’t want anything cheesy, staring down the camera, or too smiley. But other than that he was really quite flexible.
Going to a photographer can be like going to the hair dresser. You want to come out looking your best, and it takes a while to trust a new hair dresser.
I approached it just like when I am photographing family…
Why would some people rather eat brussel sprouts with mustard and peanut butter than have a photograph taken?
Why do some people hug the camera as it if was their dearest long lost primary school friend that they haven’t seen in thirty years?
Is it simply that some people think they break the camera glass and have bud luck for the next three generations? Many of us have a deep seated belief that some people are born for the camera – they are the blessed photogenic and never look bad in a photo. (Tabloid professionals are always out to turn that one upside down.)
Or is it just that some of us don’t want the world to see what we looked like after our slim years?
Maybe it’s just that we don’t trust that camera person not to take an unflattering pose of us eating and then possibly throwing up after the peanut butter brussel sprouts with mustard.
Some people just don’t like the look of their face, their hair or just have to have makeup on; they want to control the way they come out on camera or the way they look now. The struggle with the body image, and having time to care for the body and feel confronted by the camera and resulting picture, not to mention that annoying camera person documenting an event and making them do this. (This by the way is not what the camera person is thinking.)
Have you ever taken what you thought was a beautiful picture of a person and had them say ”Yuk I look fat in that or “I don’t like my face” or can, “you chuck that out please.”
Now have you ever also had a person on the other end of the scale say “Wow you made me look great”, “I look so strong,” “I didn’t realise I could look just like Elle McPherson” or “Miranda Kerr.”
Thinking about this more deeply opens the Pandora’s box of what is beauty, but also what is the purpose of photography. There are many purposes, capturing memory, documenting, finding beauty just to mention a few.
For me we don’t always photograph to make others look beautiful, but most photographers, including documentary ones, don’t set out to make people feel ugly.
Responses to an image are not always about the skill of the camera person, but sometimes about how the person is feeling about themselves at that stage in their life. And people photography is not easy as you are dealing with psychology.
All this can make it tricky for the documentary oriented photographer. Our goal to capture the beautiful moments in an event, the connection between people, the ecstasy and triumphs, and yes also struggles and sorrow and some kind of truth. Is truth always beautiful?It can be.
We have to respect our subjects – and yet is respect always sticking with posed photographs – not all posed photographs are the most memorable ones. It is the spontaneous moments that sparkle and shimmer and are strong in our memories. Like images of a boy kissing a girl in a riot in Canada.
The portrait photographer captures inner beauty when they work hard. They relax a person, collaborate, work with them and bring out what is needed to shine on camera. For some people their relationship with the camera – for instance Miranda Kerr – is a dance – a connection of tango – and they just fit together.
For others any sign of a camera and they freeze, stop smiling, hide, move away, and do an anti paparazzi pose, and yet in relaxed moments their inner being comes out. They are themselves, regardless of what they think about their weight, looks, anyone in my view can come across as beautiful on camera.
Anyway let me say the next time you start running from the camera at a family event from some photo crazy family member or friend, remember they are taking a photograph of you because you are special to them, cherished and they want to remember you in the moment.
Maybe the photograph won’t represent the seventeen year old slim you, but maybe you can take that inner angst and relax – it makes for a lovely photograph.
And as for you mad crazy family, community documenters, maybe you can learn from the professionals and coax the beauty and the joy out of others, and realise that part of your role is to educate people that even though we love Miranda and Elle there are all kinds of beauty waiting to be captured by the camera. Also sometimes you just need to put the camera down and write the memory.
What to photograph when working with a musician?
Their connection to their instrument (guitar, voice etc)
close ups of hands
How to encourage them to forget the camera is there?
Yarning about life,
respecting their creative space,
just being quiet,
melding into the background
if that is what they wish
or speaking of music
What is discovered?
The prayer of artistry
as someone praises the world
through their guitar
A big thank you to songwriter/ musician Melinda for being my model for this work.
Melinda may give me some quotes from her beautiful songs to put with this later,
but for now some general quotes from music.