The week begins, not unlike the last.
(13 years have passed. Have things improved? Is the world safer? Will atrocities like 9/11 happen again? To live in times of peace is the greatest luxury and taking it for granted is the greatest folly.)
To photography: Yesterday, I was in Tralee for the day. Tralee is a the capital town of Kerry. It is a small provincial town with a population of about 25,000 people. I had hoped to get a few photographs while there, but like so many times out on the streets it was a frustration. Am using a 50mm lens and, while I like it for family portrait shots, I am not sure if I like it for street work. Maybe a 35mm would be better; ya?
Today’s image is another taken in the late evening in the side streets around Shibuya. It shows the contrast in the early morning character of Japanese and the late evening character. Early in the morning I cannot imagine this couple stopping to pose when they see a foreigner with a camera. Ya, of course, alcohol plays its part in this too, but alcohol brings out what is inside. And inside is a playfulness and a curiosity. I had myself set up to shoot passersby with this interesting backdrop. This couple appeared and instead of just passing on by, they stopped and invited me to take their photographs. I obliged. When they came to look at the result, they were so surprised to see their blurred up selves. Lots of wide-mouthed and raised eyebrows exclamations. How much fun is that!
The iPhone photograph is one that fits into a series of images called “This nagging knowingness”. The series is about the things we carry with us, that do not leave. Things that are never too far from the surface. The failing effort we put into forgetting. Seeing sleeping people or people with their eyes closed in refuge in public places makes me think of this.
August 28 2007 is a day I will never forget. I became a father on that day to a beautiful little girl we called Sumi-Anna. Sumi is Korean and Anna, well Anna is international. Growing up I had many dreams, ambitions, desires. But the one that burned and burned was to become a father. I had to wait for this for what seemed like always; what seemed like never. But it came like that old cliche – when I least expected it. And that moment when we left the labour room, my wife with our newborn in her arms and us holding each other’s hand was the greatest feeling I have ever experienced in my life.
Before becoming a father, I read and was told by everyone that it would change me; that I would not recognise myself when I became a father. I looked forward to that so much, eager as I was to leave my old life behind. Around the time she was born I remember checking to see if this was true and honestly, then I felt no different. Fast forward a few months and I could not recall how life was like before she was born. Everything had changed.
Being a father is the hardest job I ever have had. She is seven today. She woke at 6 in excitement. She and her brother played as quietly as exuberant little children can as their parents try to get just that little bit extra sleep. As I am writing this, she is singing around the house.
We have a little birthday tradition. We get a double decker bus into the city centre and sit at the front on the top deck. We go for a smoothie and a little cake and after that we head to Waterstone’s where she picks out some new books. Along the way, I will try to get photographs of the two of us together. Today, I let her take photographs. She loves it when I give her the camera. When asked what she wants to be when she grows up, she tells us ‘ a photographer!’
On the bus, I ask her will you remember this and before she responds she looks at me, tilts her head a little, gives me a smile and shaking her head from side to side she says: “Daddy, of course I will. How can I forget my birthday? On the way home, we try to get the seats at the front upstairs again. Luckily, we do. The bus bobbles along and Sumia is non-stop chatter. I hold her hand and wait until next year. I won’t forget these days either.
The photograph I chose to post on Flickr today is one of my very favourites of Sumi-Anna. It was taken when she was just over two years old. Taken in the back garden of my parents’ house. My mother (Sumi-Anna’s bestest friend) was sitting on this little bench reading Candide. Sumi-Anna was playing in the garden. Granny was reading. This caused curiosity. She toddled over, took the book, turned it over and over in her hands and then sat down, opened it up upside down and stared for the longest time at the indecipherable text. As fortune would have it, I had the camera with me.
This image we have printed and it hangs in our bedroom.
Happy Birthday, Sumia! Juah!
The iPhone image I chose for today is one of her playing in the garden on the swing. This summer has been fantastic by Irish standards. It has been raining the past few days and makes you realise how few days of rain we have had this summer. I hope as she gets older exuberance is never far.
These two elegantly dressed ladies standing in the rain engrossed in conversation got my attention immediately. Intriguing to think what their story is. I got two shots of them. The second I will post tomorrow. Really the shots need to be seen together. Very often with street shots, I think the initial shot, caught candidly is interesting, but a second a moment after they realise they have been photographed would also be great to see.
One of the things I like about Korea is encountering old guys who will shout greetings at you in their best American English. ‘Hey, buddy, how you doing!?’ Hearing this unexpectedly is so cool when you realise it is coming from an old guy who is across the street from you. The guy in the photo here shouted across at me and gave me a big wave. We met half-way, shook hands and continued on our way. I had expected a little more, to be honest. But I guess the greeting was the only English he had; the only English he learned from his time with American servicemen in the Korean war. You get to see a lot of elderly gentlemen like this man. All are dressed so well. It makes you think about them as young men in a war with their own countrymen. It makes you think of those young men who never had the chance to become old men.
Here are a few recent iPhone images of mine that I feel capture emotion and mood.
When I was a child in school the teacher told us the world was not flat, that it was round. I had never thought of the world having shape. He seemed too pleased to tell us this. He said people had believed we could just walk and walk and eventually would fall off the edge of the world. He demonstrated by walking his two fingers along his desk, stopping and looking to see if we were looking and then dangled his two fingers over the edge and screamed a little until it changed into a laugh. We all laughed too.
Falling off the edge of the world, he said. How ridiculous is that, he said. One boy, one who always loved asking questions, asked but how come we can fall of the edge of our seats. The teacher smiled at him and said it was because of gravity. He said it again, but this time he said it more slowly, breaking up the sounds and telling us that was why; gravity was the reason. The boy asked what gravity was. The teacher said it was a force that kept us fixed to the ground. The boy asked what a force was and the teacher smiled again, scanned the whole room, bit on his bottom lip and said it was gravity, gravity was a force that stopped us from flying away. Another boy said we could not fly away because we had no wings. The teacher said if there was no gravity we wouldn’t need wings, we could just jump and fly. I said why would we need to jump. He said because we would be on the ground. He jumped to demonstrate. I said but isn’t gravity what keeps us on the ground. He said yes. I said without gravity we would not be on the ground so how could we jump. He scanned the room again and said I had all the answers. I said that was a question. I said how could we jump if we were not on the ground. The teacher laughed. He said he would like to walk me to the edge of the world and let me fall off. He laughed again. The class laughed too. I said if we got to the edge of the world I would push him off. He did not laugh. The class laughed. But the world is round he said. You couldn’t push me off he said. He began to laugh. I said I would not be walking anywhere with him anyway. This time we all laughed.
The teacher picked up an orange from his desk and held it out. He rotated it in his hand and told us the world was like the orange.
When I was little my mother would stand on our doorstep and watch me walk down the hill on my way to school. My schoolbag was made of old, brown leather and had straps that allowed me to carry it on my shoulders. Even though I knew she would watch until I turned the corner, I still would turn around to check. I had to turn because the schoolbag was too big for me to glance over my shoulder. Reaching the corner, I would wave to her and she to me. Then she would go back in home to do her housework and I would unstrap my schoolbag, walk over to the walled garden of the corner shop and drop the bag in. Then I would climb in after it.
– Is that you, boy?
– Ya. I’m here.
– What kept you?
– Nothing. Sure, I’m here now aren’t I?
In the darkened shade of the evergreen trees, we would wait.
a clippety clop it goes
this nagging knowingness
a drip-dropping aloneness
a still-of-night remoteness
a head-flopping heaviness
this nagging knowingness
a shrunken world below us
a carved-out hollowness within us
this socketless electricity
a clippety clop it goes
a clippety clop it goes
this nagging knowingness
it can end
this nagging knowingness it can end
A breeze approached. Its breath I felt caress me. It had a song. A melody not unheard before. My hair aroused; it began to dance. I watched it curve and curl.
The breeze it passed. Its scent stayed on, but its song is forever gone.