Category Archives: Words

Florence International Photography Awards

IT was a great honour to win ‘Best in Show’ at the Florence International Photography Awards with my iPhone photograph of Shibuya Night. Here is a little background piece I wrote about getting that shot on iPhone image

It was still lashing rain when I got out of the taxi in Shibuya. The driver left me in front of the entrance to my hotel. A little up ahead from me, people were heading for the last late-night trains home in a procession of umbrellas crossing that famous zebra-striped pedestrian crossing. The neon lights were rushing colourful reflections on the black and white street. A countdown had begun. In a short few hours, four to be exact, I would be leaving Tokyo. What to do: Head to the hotel room or stay out in the rain looking for that one last photo? I looked at the hotel entrance and saw the dimmed lights of the lobby and then looked at the scramble crossing – resplendent in the rain – and without hesitation headed there.

With my transparent, plastic umbrella held over me in one hand, my iPhone in the other and my Nikon swinging from my neck, I waited at the crossing for the green man t0 appear. At this late hour there were many fewer than the average 2000 people who cross at peak time during the day. I had been shooting through the plastic of the wet umbrella with the iPhone all day. I liked the bokeh it created and the somewhat surreal gloss it gave to the images, but as I waited for the green man to signal I had been looking at that man opposite me, that man who had been peering down at me for the past few days. That man with his hand open at his face and his fingers curved over his eye staring at me, and below him was this cackle of late-night hawkers handing out flyers for bars and clubs. I knew my frame.

The green man popped up and I moved with the others as we began to cross. I stopped about halfway to get some shots. There is about a two minute window to get across when the green man is up. A long time in photography. The green man began to flash and in an instant I was the last man standing in the centre of the crossing. Still, I stayed there in the centre. I did a slow pirouette, taking in the vast scape of all that is the Shibuya Scramble Crossing. The air was fresh. The only sound I heard was the rain water as it splished and splashed under my shoes and I was saying to myself: All of this will just be a memory tomorrow, but I am here now; here now.

The squelch of tyres on the wet of the street alerted me to the oncoming traffic. Eyeballing the taxis I weaved my way to the safety of the other side of the crossing.

There in front of me, sheltering under plastic white umbrellas, were the late-night hawkers, shuffling about and handing out their flyers to those they perceived were the demographic the bars or clubs were trying to attract. Glances were thrown at me and clearly I did not fit that demographic.

Left alone, I began to frame the shot. There, among all the guys was this one girl, dressed in high heels and a mini skirt; her head bowed, engrossed in her phone. And above her, to the left this man overseeing it all. Click! I got it.

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Shibuya Night: Best in Show at the Florence International Photography Awards

The countdown clock still tick-tocked my time away in Tokyo. The rain would not stop and I was getting tired. Things run their course and time in Tokyo was coming to an end. I waited for the green man to replace the red man and I crossed the Shibuya Scramble Crossing for the last time, leaving the neon of Shibuya for the low-lit lamps of the hotel.

The next day, sat on a plane heading home, I reviewed my images on my phone. This one I stopped on. Using the new version of Snapseed, I did a little editing. A few days later, I posted it to Instagram and then later to Flickr. It hit Explore, got more than a thousand faves. Then I entered it in the Florence International Photography Awards and to my great surprise it won ‘Best in Show’.

So glad the dimmed lobby lights of the hotel were no match to the rain-drenched Shibuya Scramble Crossing at night.

The adventure of photography. 

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2014: My favourite images – February

You got to love yourself is the title I gave to this photograph which looking back at February is my preferred from that month. I took it on a cold Sunday morning. Reflections always catch me. I love that they present different ways of seeing. This man reflects in a cafe window; a cafe that caused much controversy when it opened. The reason being is that it was built right in front of the entrance to a city centre park and resulted in obscuring the view of the decorative and old entrance. It was a stupid place to locate it.

February

February

When I started this blog a couple of years back my objective was simple – I wanted to write. Nothing gives me more pleasure than writing but I tend to write in spurts. I have so much archived away – short stories, poems, essays. I needed to begin to write and felt a blog would be a good way to do it. Maybe, I don’t know. I still have not done it consistently or done the hard part – rewriting. Maybe 2015 will be the year.

My preferred iPhone image from February is one that I wrote a short accompanying text to. I will let it there and you can read it and take what you will from it.

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We sat in the car, neither of us driving, each sat at our own window. The rain and its drops ran on mine and through yours the wind it whistled until you yourself wound it closed. Try as we might we never would reconcile the rain and the wind, but that car, it brought us both to where we are now.

 

Also posted in A Flickr Year, iPhone, photograph posts, Street Photography Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

September 21 2014

– Coincidence is a dance that needs music.

– Huh? What is that supposed to mean? I don’t get it.

– Look at this way, right. This world is chaotic, there’s no order to things. There’s no plan, there’s no preordained destiny. There is just constant chaotic disorder.

– And?

– Well, if we take it like that, we might as well give up, no?

– Take it like what?

– That it is chaos, uncontrolled and that we have no force over this, that even the dreams we have, that they’re pointless because in the end it all comes down to luck.

– Luck? Not sure if I get what you are saying; or even if I do, not sure I even agree.

– You don’t have to.

– Don’t have to what?

– Agree!

– Get back to what you were saying. Coincidence being a dance.

– That coincidence is a dance that needs music.

– Ok. That. That coincidence needs music. I still don’t get it.

– It’s simple. Give you an example. Our conversation here, our little exchange.

– Ya.

– Well, it can go in a million directions. You can ignore me, leave me ramble on and eventually I will run dry and the conversation will have ended. Or you could jump in with a new topic and I’d never get to explain.

– Ok. And?

– It’s that. There are endless possibilities, but ultimately we can, if we wish, direct them, steer things in the direction we want. You asking and is an example of you steering things.

– Right? But music? Coincidence? Dance? What about that?

– If more than one thing happens at the same time, then that is a coincidence. Coincidences are constantly happening, it’s a dance, but for us to take these and make things ours, to steer them in the direction we want, we need music. We need to act. Look at her? 

– Who?

– This girl approaching. Here is a coincidence. All the possibilities that ever existed have brought us and her to this moment to pass each other in a few seconds. That is the coincidence. The dance. But we play the music, we…

– She’s passed. She’s gone.

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Coincidence is a dance that needs music

And some fun with the iPhone. A happy commuter on a full train.

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O

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The bed unmade and the window shut

The bed unmade and the window shut

The bed unmade and the window shut
the tap drips time to the
dancing dust in the slow sunlight 
and waits with the fridge unlit
til i return
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London England

I love London. I lived there in the late eighties in Brixton, a part of London which then was a little run down, impoverished and home to many fellow immigrants, but a place with a wonderful sense of community. I had been buying my breakfast of a bottle of lucozade and a sandwich, and the newspaper in the shop outside my bus stop only about a week when the shopkeeper told me – “Pay me at the end of the week, mate!”. I was quickly welcomed to the community.

I recall many the happy night as a young teenager I spent in the Prince of Wales pub near the tube station drinking pints of lager, with the local communists trying to recruit me to the party. The closest I got to joining the party was one Sunday afternoon when they roped me into carrying their bucket of paste for posting their posters around Brixton. I had never known what the “Post No Bills” sign meant in public places, but when the police pulled up next to us, shouting at us, I quickly learned. I also quickly learned that my  new friends‘ idea of communism did not stretch to waiting with the young naiive Irishman who was left there literally carrying the can while they scarpered. Thankfully, the police left me off with a warning and I left my communist friends off with a “Well, fuck them!

But I have happy memories of my time living in London. It was my first time living away from home, fending for myself. I worked in an Estate Agent’s office in Putney, employed for a reason I could never make out. OK, I made the tea, ran the envelopes through the franking machine and spent the day chatting with the beautiful Sonia, whose desk was opposite mine, but I cannot remember ever having anything in particular to do. My boss, Sidney, was an old-school English gentleman. He was very kind to me. My first week there he wrote me a blank cheque and told me to go buy myself a new suit on my lunch break. Now, I say a new suit which would imply I had an old one. I hadn’t. I had a trousers, a shirt and tie and a jacket. They matched in the sense they fitted me, but I guess to Sidney’s eye they didn’t match. Walking down Putney High Street I checked out what kind of suits people were wearing. In 1987, suit jackets had lapels that stuck up like arrows. I bought a blue suit that day and it had those lapels.

When I got home that evening, back to the bedsit I shared with two other Cork lads, I stood proudly in front of the mirror and took a shot of myself in all my grandeur and a few weeks later when I had the roll of film developed I sent the photo back home to my parents with a letter recounting my new life in far-away London.

Writing this now, the memories of living in London are flooding back. There were two major incidents when I was there. I passed through King’s Cross the night of the fire, the tube speeding through the black of the smoke. 31 people died. Then there was the huge storm that the ruined the reputation of meteorologist Michael Fish who told us all nothing would happen. I slept through it (impossible to believe), but what destruction I encountered once I stepped outside. Years later, when reading Damien Hirst’s book, his comment about how people pass by huge trees every day and think nothing of them, then one day a storm comes and fells a tree and people are awestruck. That morning, sitting on the upper deck of the bus passing Clapham Common and seeing so many trees that the storm had uprooted had me awestruck. (None of Damien Hirst’s art has ever had me awestruck though.)

Returning to London is always a little trip down memory lane for me. Looking back as a middle-aged man and thinking that I was there as a naiive and homesick 18 year old amazes me. I was just a boy then. I see London now as an adult and see how it has changed. It is a magnificent city, full of life and when you can find a Londoner in this metropolitian city, you find a polite and cheerful person who takes time to give you directions.

Here is a little series of iPhone photographs I took while there. A big shout-out to my friend Mark T. Simmons who I met while there. This set is for you, Mark.

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Except acceptance

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Patrol

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Baker Street

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Hot stuff

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A smile

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The man in the know

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Everything everywhere

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The London Underground

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A Londoner

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Why me?

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Friendly Bus Driver

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London Underground

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Into Soho

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Coo coo cool!

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Passengers

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This nagging knowingness

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On-the-spot Parking Inspector

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Can you believe it?

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I hate that man

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Committed to the dance

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Me and Miranda

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Cool Brittania

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Miss Sixty

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My little angel

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She makes stillness dance and silence sing

 

 

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This nagging knowingness

A recent iPhone photograph

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This nagging knowingness

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reconcile the rain and the wind

We sat in the car, neither of us driving, each sat at our own window. The rain and its drops ran on mine and through yours the wind it whistled until you yourself wound it closed. Try as we might we never would reconcile the rain and the wind, but that car, it brought us both to where we are now.

photo (6)

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The room welcomed me alone

 

The bed had one plump pillow and another that felt sad. The duvet had a half that lay there flat.The room welcomed me alone and never heard me laugh.

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Breathe to fade

 

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Germans

Where I come from waiting for the green man to appear before you decide to cross the road just does not happen. It is not uncommon to see mothers push their prams on to the street without any thought of whether cars are coming or not. They just know the cars will stop. The idea that jaywalking is something that is against the law is laughable to us.
In contrast, I remember the first time I went to Germany and stepped out of the hotel to see a group of people at the lights on a car-less street all waiting. Waiting for what, though? I bounded past them, crossing the deserted street, looking back to see if they followed. They didn’t. But their looks all said that I had just done something wrong. Something bad. Something illegal. I had not waited for the green man to signal that it was now safe and now within the law to cross the road. That there were no vehicles of any sort in sight did not matter. You wait. You obey.
But I am from Cork, we cross when we and where we want to.
And this brings me to the photo I am posting today. A photo taken on a wet night in late August on Cork’s Western Road. The building is Cork’s courthouse, an impressive edifice. I have taken a few shots of this before and knew what I was looking for. I wanted to get a blurred shot of people passing. And that it was raining and that there would be umbrellas in the shot all the better. But! It would not be that easy. Western Road is a busy road. It leads directly out of the city centre. Stationed on the opposite side of the road, the passing traffic could obscure the view.

I waited. I wanted to shot and I was willing to pass the time until I could get it. And time did pass. And the rain continued to fall. Times like this I get very self-conscious, especially in my hometown. Passersbys’ attention is drawn to a guy standing in the rain with a camera in his hand. They look around and examine the scene to see what could it be that he wants to photograph; to photograph in the pouring rain. But still I hung in there to get that shot. 

Then it appeared. Further up the road on the opposite side was a group of people, walking in couples and groups of threes approaching. And all seemed to have umbrellas. Perfect! This was it. I could get the shot and get home. I was, at this stage, soaking wet. I was sniffling and cold and impatient. On they came. I checked the settings on the camera. Checked the focus (or lack of it!). I glanced up and down the road and saw there was no traffic coming. Excellent. This shot was going to be exactly as I wanted it.

And then I saw the couple at the head of the group stop. Those behind too and soon a large swell of a group formed, all standing, all waiting at the pedestrian crossing of the intersection just before the courthouse.

Germans!

Again, I shot a glance up and down the street. Not a car in sight. Over at the crossing they were at, not a car in sight. Yet, there they were waiting. Cross the road, for fuck’s sake cross the road, I found myself saying. But they waited and they waited and of course, cars came by on all sides. The view I had, unobscured on to the courthouse was now gone. Those damn Germans. Couldn’t they just cross the road. It was ten, maybe fifteen steps from either side. No, they preferred to wait in the rain for the green man to appear.

And then it did. The beep, beep, beep signalling it was safe to cross was audible from my side. The swell of the group stretched out into a long file as they crossed the road and began to come into frame. But by this time cars were passing on my side of the road blocking my shot. I had no choice but to get out on to the road past the cars on my side. There were no cars on the opposite side. I could get the shot. I dodged between the traffic. Not that difficult to do as Cork drivers expect people in the city centre to step out in front of them.

Click, click, click. I got it. One of the Germans saw me in the centre of the road taking their photograph and drew his friends’ attention to me. I gave a quick wave and ran back through the traffic to my side and headed home happy.

I had got the shot.

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Germans

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