Posted in Life, Photography

Diary of a distancer: Week 17

It is now Saturday July 4, 2020. Week 17 of my diary of a distancer posts, although I didn’t write entries for weeks 11-16.

They were tough weeks and I felt there was nothing much to communicate. Life rolled on for me; work was work; birthdays were celebrated – at a distance. Well, at a distance from me. Not being able to travel to Tasmania for the three June birthdays was tough, as was not being able to travel to NSW for my mother’s birthday.

I admit to falling into a hole I’m only now climbing out of.

It was tough in other ways too. Protests were held around the world – people protesting about being locked-in, others protesting about police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, still others protesting about racial inequality more broadly. Dissent and civil disobedience followed … and arguments flew from all sides.

One argument went this way:

Other arguments went in very different directions but I refuse to give them any space by repeating them here.

So things have been happening in some parts of the globe that affect other parts. We are, after all, living on the one planet and the ripple effects of our actions and our beliefs don’t stop at our national – or state – borders.

It’s a bit like our bodies – something happens in one area which then impacts other areas and as the ripples move around and across and through your body it feels like it’s never going to end. That there’s always going to be pain. One area subsides just for another area to flare up. The physical starts to play with the mental and the emotional and back again. And it’s ongoing and thus distressing.

Just like the current situation with coronavirus. It goes quiet, and then flares up in another hotel room/suburb/region/country. There’s no end in sight. It’s ongoing and that adds to the distress.

After a period of relative quiet, COVID-19 has re-emerged in Victoria, and so Victorians are now not welcome in other states. Except if you’re part of an AFL team. Then you can go to Queensland to ensure the season continues, but ordinary Victorians cannot enter unless they’re willing to be fined or sentenced to gaol time.

Such is life. Money talks. Sport is important, it would seem, for national well-being.

Or something.

Not so The Arts it would seem. The Arts, as a sector, has been hit particularly hard by the lockdown. But there’s no other state to go to as a way of surviving – unless we’re talking a state of unemployment or sheer determined survival. Many people have turned to TV and movies for solace in this time yet many of them deny the importance of the arts to the economic or social or cultural or intellectual fabric of our society.

Luke McGregor – Australian comedian – made an argument for the role of the arts in national well-being on The Weekly with Charlie Pickering last week.

We don’t need the arts to survive … but they give us a reason to‘ – Luke McGregor

In many cases, the arts gives us the means to survive as well. I’m don’t mean in terms of financial support, but I mean in terms of an outlet for our creativity, for communicating, for seeing differently, for noticing, for making connections between ideas and perspectives and views and beliefs and values and thoughts and actions. And more.

And an outlet for connection with others.

Without an outlet for creative expression some of us may not have survived as well as we have through this on-going, never-ending (it seems) saga of COVID-19. While personal ‘creative expression’ might not have much to do with The Arts, I for one acknowledge the essential role the arts plays in my life.

I listen to music. I read books. I view works others have painted or photographed or sculpted or designed. I watch movies that started with an idea and grew over time, involving many (many) others in their production. People who have made artistic choices about sounds and movements and locations and backgrounds and lighting and music and no music and points of view and camera angles.

I watch and listen to others performing – dance, music, singing – and I am in awe of their determination and talent and desire for creative expression.

All of the people who make things, who produce things, design, craft and tinker and even those who, like me, play at the edges of creative endeavour … The Arts is there as a means and a reason to survive. They add something to the lives of those who spectate. They add much more to those of us who engage. They enrich us in ways simple spectating cannot do.

Click the image for more information about why The Arts matter

We are not a family of artists it has to be said, but many of us do like the creative outlet photography provides, and so I was thrilled that 15 family members contributed to our latest photography challenge: Ordinary Objects.

Our first challenge was the Alphabet of Isolation.

Cover design: Tim Moss

Our second was Images by the Dozen – a project in which we took images of the numbers 1-12 without using the actual numbers.

I designed this cover

The Ordinary Objects project required us to photograph 10 ordinary objects:

  • Something you eat
  • Something you eat with
  • Something you cook with
  • Something you see with
  • Something you put on your feet
  • Something you wash with
  • Something you wear
  • Something you drink from
  • Something you find in the garden
  • Something (not someone) you love

Fifteen family members, ranging in age from 4-81 and across four generations, contributed. We live across four states of Australia with one family member in the UK. As with our other projects we’d get together on a Sunday night and share our images. Yet another magazine to add to our collections as a physical memento of our creative decisions and expression.

I designed this cover too

Our next project is Variations on a Theme. Six images, all of the same theme/idea of each individual’s choice, but with variations.

My theme is abandonment. It’s meant I’ve taken photos of a type I wouldn’t normally take – I’m usually quite conceptual, but this time I wanted to try something different and so have expanded my photographic range slightly.

Here’s one of the first images I took for this project. Mind you, I’ve since adandoned this image as I went in a slightly different direction … but that’s the way it goes!

Abandoned as the urban sprawl creeps closer

Another image we drove miles to shoot, was also one I reluctantly abandoned as the church didn’t feel abandoned enough. I particularly love the Australian feel of this scene, with the gorgeous gum trees surrounding the church.

I was after something that looked a little more abandoned

We finalise our Variations on a Theme project next week and I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone’s come up with.

Connections through creativity.

What’s kept you connected with others through these anything-but-ordinary times?

Posted in Writing

Flower/story challenge – Four

[Day 4 of seven]

In the UK those in power are playing, yet again, with the education system. Over the past year or so they have introduced something called an EBac (English Baccalaureate) which means that students must study English, Maths, 2 Sciences, either modern or ancient history or geography, and either a modern or ancient language.

To many that will come as welcome news and there have been and will continue to be comments along the lines of “To be honest I wonder what schools who have a problem with this think their job actually is. Would we tolerate hospitals which don’t try to make patients better? Why should schools get a free ride” and “British parents are more concerned with their children receiving praise. If anything they are more likely to complain that their little darlings are being worked too hard”.

It’s interesting that one of the commentators likens schools to hospitals (places people go when they are ill or have serious health problems that require specialist treatment and/or surgery). Is school really that kind of place?

Anyway, one of the subject areas not listed in the EBac is the Arts … no drama, no visual art, no music, no dance.  For some children that will come as a devastating blow. The area in which they have skill and capacity and interest and talent will no longer be recognised as subjects appropriate for school.

It begs the question – what is the purpose of school?  More than that, it seems that in the UK and the US there is a push for a particular type of school that privileges one kind of student over another – that privileges the already advantaged over the already disadvantaged – the type of school that costs less money, is largely funded by parents – never mind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 26:

  • Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
  • Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
  • Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

No Arts – where is the scope for the full development of the human personality?

Parents choose. What happens when parents, like I was when I had young children, like my own children are now, have limited incomes and so cannot afford schools that can offer education that is more interested in developing the child’s potential than moving up a notch or two on a league table?

So, no Arts in the UK.

Where is the place for exploring creativity (and I don’t mean artistic creativity here, I mean the full gamut of creative thought and creative possibility – the creativity a scientist needs to be able to think beyond the known; the creativity an engineer needs to build the as yet unbuildable; the creativity a dancer needs to move us through the way he uses his body) … where is the place for fully developing human personality? Yes, we can know facts and therefore do well at Trivia nights at the local RS, but shouldn’t education move beyond that? Is knowing facts enough? It’s a start, and it’s important, but is that all education can offer us?

So, to today’s challenge.

I started this story writing challenge by talking about creativity requiring boundaries. The flower is one boundary – its colour, stance, gesture, age, vibrancy (or lack thereof), the size and number of the petals … all these things might suggest something to you which you can work from. There’s also its position within the frame – is it looking outwards, upwards, downwards? How much space is around it and what might that suggest?

I have also provided boundaries in relation to specific details – the year (which might trigger memories of what happened in that year, as it did for Debbie; or for Tim it was a trigger for finding out what music was being played in that year and using that in the story), the characters, an atmosphere suggested by a particular time of day. All these things act as boundaries and gently move you in a particular direction with your story writing, while allowing for huge diversity.

Then there’s your own knowledge and use of language – I was particularly struck by the alliteration of ‘light lances through leaves’ in Mum/Dad’s story; and Tim’s old man whose face was a ‘roadmap to regret’.

So today’s challenge is about using language creatively … to show rather than tell. We see the old man’s lined face through the description, rather than being told that the man is old. To conjure images through alliteration, or to add humour through exaggeration. Plus, must have a link, however subtle, to education, learning, or schooling.

Today’s 60 word story is bounded by your expressive capability.  Have fun!

1950s style