Probably because I’m new here; probably because I feel very transient, having moved house four times in as many months. Probably because I have no job, yet more work than I can handle. Fortunately.
In my early 20’s I would have tried to wrench control. Or built some pattern of habit and routine to compensate the feeling of such. And it’s not that I feel out of control at present, just that I’m learning to be buffeted by the moment and yield to the opportunities that present themselves, with no guarantee of security for tomorrow. It has taken me to the most interesting places.
Easter Sunday afternoon: following an extravagant brunch-turned-day-long-eating-fest, I have fallen into a food coma. I wake drowsily to my phone’s vibrations echoing in the mattress springs. Several friends are urging me to head out to a bar in East Village. It’s a holiday weekend and I really should be out socializing. Yet with this much work to get done I must stay in tonight to edit. I slide across the bed to rest my chin on the window sill. The sunset strikes the red brick apartments opposite me above a stream of activity on the Williamsburg street below: pedestrians filing from the subway, bus brakes grinding to a halt, a JFK-bound jet looming overhead and several men jabbering in what I think is Spanish outside the Deli below me, though I’m too tired to pick it. An ice cream van sings by. Rap thumps from a throaty engine pausing at a red light.
This is my world for the moment: New York. Sometimes I wonder
what it all means, how I ended up here and where it is leading. One side of me thinks I should have an agenda for success – some preconceived path, a self-image probably formed in my late teen years, perhaps outdated. Another side of me says to throw away all expectations save one: to observe the new experiences Liberty throws at me and enter the path-unknown without fear.
A question from a reader of this website: “What do photos mean for you?”
So much… 🙂 When I travel alone, I feel that if I can take a picture of where I am or who I met, then it will be as though my friends and family were there with me when I show it to them. It makes me feel connected to the broader world, as well as my own people, and is my form of self-expression.
I came across a neat community group in Brooklyn tonight: the Fixers Collective.
It’s a group of people who work out how to fix their broken belongings. It’s not a tutorial. It’s a collaborative, practical workspace of puzzle-solvers with immediate results.
I learnt the difference between weft and warp when mending socks and pockets, how to reconstruct a laptop power-socket and how to pull apart a cassette player to clean its capstan. As I was leaving, they were even attempting to power up a VGA Packard Bell, likely a relic of the 80s.
In an age where it is cheaper to replace than repair, it was great to meet people intrigued by the inner-workings of their possessions, who enjoy repairing it themselves rather than outsourcing. There was a very relaxed atmosphere and I enjoyed the generosity of problem-solving as a group consisting of various ages and backgrounds.
It’s entirely free (although donations are welcome) and open to the public – anyone may bring their broken stuff for help to fix it! The group runs most (but not all) Thursdays in Brooklyn 7-9pm. For more details, check out their website: http://fixerscollective.org/
Amidst the emails, applications, networking, pitches and phone calls, I sometimes forget that I am in New York! As I left the apartment I’m staying at in Dumbo yesterday, my eye caught the Manhattan skyscrapers across the East River. I couldn’t look away. I’d grown accustomed to the city so rapidly I’d forgotten how unique it is. (It might also have had something to do with the unusually warm weather. That will generally relax you enough to take in the present moment.)
Whilst I believe in putting your head down for concentrated and focused work sessions, it can be counter productive in creative fields. When Peter Weir taught us at AFTRS, he told us African pop music was one of his sources of inspiration. Not understanding the lyrics helped his mind roam free.
I am enjoying how open-ended and free life is at the moment. I do feel like a bit of a drifter, sojourning through various houses, friendship groups and workplaces. I meet wonderful new people and take each day for the opportunity it presents. Strategizing how to break in to a new market is a fun challenge within itself. Freelance connections take some time to build. The hard thing is knowing where to look, and more so, knowing what to do first. There are so many tasks that can consume your time, and not all are necessarily essential.
I was so inspired by the view of the city that I allowed myself the freedom to place aside the obligation I felt to email, pitch and develop, and gave myself the freedom to play. I took myself down to the water for some long-exposure self-portraits – the kind that will likely be no good to anyone but my sense of self-expression.
This picture is my statement of how each season of our lives is fleeting; that our bodies will be gone before our landscape is.
Experience this present moment. Savour it. Remember it. For our days are fleeting, and our time to act is now.
This picture was taken shortly before sunset on ISO 50, f22, 1sec shutter with a circular polarizer on a 24mm lens, full-power speedlite on the second curtain sync, on a tripod with a wireless trigger on a 2 second delay.
And I got one. From our rooftop in Dumbo under the Brooklyn Bridge, facing One World Trade Center and with Liberty and Empire State like beacons in the distance, we counted in 2012 via the giant digital clock atop the adjacent Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower building.
Isn’t it peculiar how intent we are that New Year’s Eve celebrations be wildly entertaining? A dull NYE is as daunting as spending Christmas without family (although I was well looked after on the 25th…sorry mum and dad!).
As a child, the incoming year began on a beach in the dark of the South Coast of Australia. Simple, quiet; without drama. The most exciting it got was a neighboring family with domestic-grade fireworks.
Sydney and I have a strained relationship. Rarely has she proven herself. I was ditched by a friend one year, and after the 9pm family fireworks in Circular Quay, returned home to sleep it off, only to be woken by the all-too-cheery voices of my parents phoning at ten to twelve, wondering what magnificent things I was up to. Stirred by their optimism, I belted down towards Bondi Beach, only to hear the countdown and cheers before I was halfway down Hall Street. I was detached enough to reason the only thing worse than spending NYE alone must be spending it remotely with your folks.
The following year, celebrations began well at a party with new friends. But as midnight approached, the company splintered off, until I found myself walking the lonely tides of Manly on the phone to South Africa. God bless timezones. There is always someone to speak with.
We remember these first moments of a fledgling year because of the weight of expectation we give it. We could, of course, just lower the bar. My parents now play scrabble and drink tea until the clock strikes 12. They seem like happy, well-rounded folks.
I hope you have a magnificent year… stirred by the reminder of the passing of another chunk of time, another numeral notched… and that we’d better get on with it and do something vaguely more impressive than the year that once was.
My most memorable Christmas tree was a scraggly gum branch propped in the corner of my Grandfather’s farmhouse porch. It hadn’t even been cut – the splintered end pointing to the dusty concrete like a ballerina’s toe. The grey-green leaves back-flipped over the unnatural angle of its smokey-grey limbs, sparsely decorated with silver tinsel and baubles. I hadn’t even seen it go up. Just stumbled across it on Christmas eve and stopped, perplexed.
“That’s our tree,” said my Aunt nonchalantly, and kept on walking.
But I kept staring at it. It looked so odd to me, raised in domestic Canberra with a three-story pine tree in Belconnen Mall and a mother who toured the suburbs looking at the light displays and Santas perched on fake chimneys. All this amidst swimming pools and 113°F (45°C) heat, bushfires and daylight savings that kept me cruising on my bike until 10pm.
Seeing the irregularly shaped Christmas Gum made me realise two things: that we don’t need to conform to someone else’s traditions…and yet, how strangely we do try to meld our traditions to fit our new environment.
I’ve since seen the gleam in the eye of my American friends as they talk about waking to presents on a snowing Christmas day, putting their knits on to go tobogganing down the hill, returning sodden to fresh clothes, a glowing fireplace and mother’s Christmas roast. Since I am doing as the Romans do, I and five other orphaned Australians hired an SUV for the weekend and drove three hours upstate to Woodstock. We walked through the idyllic (and freezing) township to the Christmas tree float to have our photo taken with Santa, sipped on cider, brandied eggnog and mulled wine, ate an amazing roast and played poker and Monopoly by the roaring fireplace in our log cabin late into the night. We woke on Christmas morning to…well, the same barren brown woodland as the day before, but not to worry…drove our SUV up to Windham Mountain where man had made his snow for us to tube in!
On our way home we stopped by the original site of the Woodstock music festival – about an hour from the township itself. It’s just like any other field, but amazing to visualise 400,000 hippies converging for three days of peace and music. And bathing in the nearby lake…a caption I unthinkingly added to the photograph below when posting to my friends on Facebook, much to their disdain.