Tag Archives: photography

Glacial Abstraction

Not to harp on about snow and ice – being in the midst of a New York winter doesn’t help. Snowy days are followed by slushy watery mixes of snow and rain. Snowy banks form along the road covered by brown sludge and dirt. But it all started out as beautiful fresh snow. Fluffy, white, pure, clean. There is indeed something special about a fresh snowfall and a city covered in muffled silence and peaceful powder. And then snow, compacted and frozen becomes something entirely different – glacial material. Despite snow being white, ice and glaciers are a deep blue color, evidence (if grossly simplified) of the compression of air bubbles in the snow until the ice becomes an ethereal blue, crystal aquamarine colour – stunning and mesmerizing.

The science is actually pretty fascinating…but even if one just focuses on the aesthetic, glaciers are gorgeous. And nowhere have I seen as gorgeous glacial material as in Patagonia. Moving, active glaciers – alive as they slide down mountains. Full of abstract shapes and sharp crystals. The ice can sometimes look like pockmarked, dirty surfaces, other times like castles of sharp crystals and castles. The ice can look smooth and shapely. Or other times contaminated and granular. The glacial blue material is definitely a great source of abstract artistic beauty. I have interspersed some of my great memories of Patagonia glaciers with shots that show the grand scale of these glaciers – if only you can get the perspective.

Indeed, nothing like snow and ice.

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Views of Perito Moreno Glacier from afar near El Calafate, Argentina.

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A city of ice…Perito Moreno is the size of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Craters and crystals.

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Coarse ice, brittle ice shelves. Textured castle walls.

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Crystal kingdoms #1

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Crystal kingdoms #2

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Blue Rhapsody at the Viedma Glacier, El Chalten.

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Lone explorer ahead on the Viedma Glacier, amidst the blue stillness.

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Blue flotation vehicle. A broken piece of glacial ice.

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The welcome to the Viedma Glacier, El Chalten, Argentina. Intense and rich colours and broken rock-like surfaces.

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Ice formations like brittle ice blocks with crystal growths.

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A moonscape full of craters of ice, abstract design.

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Crevasse #1

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Crevasse #2

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Overlooking the crevasse…group shot. El Chalten, Argentina.

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Pockmarks and textures #1

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Pockmarks and textures #2

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Glacial tunnels beneath the tower of ice, Viedma Glacier, El Chalten.

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The view of Cierro Fitzroy after an 8 hour trek. The view was so spectacular we were left speechless. Surrounded by intense blues and greens, the layer of ice on the lake sat like an ice sheet – white and pure.

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Ice floating beneath the clouds, above the lake. Cierro Fitzroy, El Chalten.

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Icy reflections in the shadows, Cierro Fitzroy, El Chalten.

M xx

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Portrait of a Peruvian Lady

The face is an insight into each unique life lived. The wrinkles, the expressions and above all the eyes. A window into the soul. So says the cliché. I suspect it contains a very large dose of truth.

I was reminded recently of one of my favourite sets of old portrait photos: a series of beautiful, strong Peruvian women I encountered on my travels in 2009. These photos, taken on a small point and shoot Canon camera I’d gotten for Christmas of the year before, were nothing sophisticated – but they were honest and reflected a desire to connect with a new culture I was experiencing and loving. Tucked away in my photo folders on an old external hard drive – they have traipsed around the world with me and are a nostalgic reminder of uni travels.

And so, on a cold winter’s night after perusing textures and colours at an exhibition of Latin American contemporary art at the Museum of Art & Design or “MAD” in NYC, I came home in search of my old archives! They brought back memories of how mesmerized I was by the Latin American continent when I first arrived in Peru for the first time. The colours, the smells, the chaos, the people, the food. The faces. Travelling through the countryside – the Colca Canyon region and Arequipa beyond the touristy Cuzco and hectic Lima – the clothing in particular was infused with a dash of texture, shape, pattern and colour that was representative of the strong and diverse personalities of the women that I came into contact with.

Crafts, textiles and weaving are a big part of the Peruvian culture of artisanship, skills held primarily among the women. Wandering along the streets of small towns, I was reminded of the need to provide for family and children. Many of these women keep up traditions not for just pure passion but for necessity and income – tourism and selling traditional arts remain an important source of growth for Peru. Much like in any other country, some encounters were friendly – others were distracted as the women were engrossed in their creations, or suspicious of tourists. Invariably – a little bit of Spanish helped.

These photos are a short storyboard of my travels through Peru – interacting with women on the street, in museums, on tourist tracks between canyons and trails. They speak to my own love of the textures, colours and patterns of the Peruvian culture and the interesting Peruvian women I met along the way…

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Mother and daughter – colourful hats, sharp eyes, overlooking the Colca Canyon

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Suspicious knitter

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Don’t distract me…I’m knitting

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Maria, the friendliest by far on the streets of Arequipa

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Hard work

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Shy weaver

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Hiding behind my llama

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Artisan sewing in modern colours

M xx

Perpetual Motion

I sustained a hip stress fracture injury late last year.

Diagnosis: too much motion.

Symptom: pain.

Recovery plan: s-t-o-p.

I was basically overdoing it. I was training for a marathon and I was simply running too much for what my body could handle. A bit like a repetitive strain injury. The immediate need to stop walking, stop running and generally limit the weight-bearing activity I did was rather depressing for someone who loves being active and wandering around like me. It also highlighted how hard it is to accept limitations to our mobility – I was grateful not to have a chronic mobility issue. Especially in a city like New York where the public transport system is NOT geared to the mobility-challenged. Suddenly I became incredibly aware of how much I loved walking around everywhere, how much I missed having a car, how much more I was going to be paying for cabs over the coming months – not a happy thought!

It also made me realize that the big cities we live in are hives of activity. Constantly in flux and transition. Tiring – no, exhausting! A grand tide of movement we cannot control. Overwhelming even. High density living above all creates this effect: bustling shops, packed streets, trafficked avenues, cramped subway carriages, much opportunity for human observation and interaction. Much of the power of cities – the energy they create, the vibe and reputation they develop – comes from their population density and the ability to encourage ideas to flow and interact, to integrate into new ways of thinking, innovations and creativity.

Crazily enough, at work this topic seems to have come up in one of the many chat sessions I observed, one day discussing the percentage likelihood of dying of the flu (a happy thought, right!? I believe in response to the free vaccination option during a cold winter!). This raised (somewhat randomly) the fact that New York does not even arise in the top 100 most densely populated cities – so while it is plenty dense by developed world standards, it doesn’t feel as tightly wound up as it could be! Another talk I went to with a well known architect spoke about population density as an opportunity for effective resource management: indeed, if the population density of Manhattan (sprawl up, not out) applied to the world…all 7 billion population in the world could fit into the State of Colorado – crazy! Check out this cool website for more info: whatismissing.net!

All this is to say – we live in a world of perpetual motion. Of unmitigated change. So why not allow our photos, our art, to sometimes show this? Rather than pretending that the world stops for us to capture a moment, why not embrace the blur? The imperfection, the fleeting stance, the transient moment, where the characters within our story are not still, but in the process of completing some action, some movement. The below are some of my experimental shots taken while meandering the city – some in coffee shops, some hidden behind poles near Central Park trying to carve out space from which to capture shots, some in public parks. They are all imperfect. They were all taken while I was not perfectly still – no tripod – just my shaky hands. They are an authentic touch of real life in action.

More on the need for meditation to come…and thank goodness I am mobile again!

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Green Tea Layer Cake at Lady M, UES

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Undecided – chocolate eclair or mont blanc? Lady M, UES

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Opposites Attract or Matching Moment – Black and Pink, Pink and Black? Lady M, UES

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Uncertainty – who’s doing what? Unsure where to look… Lady M, UES

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Pink shirt on generic subway platform

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Pidgeons waiting for the next carriage patron, Central Park

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #1

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #2

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The Plaza, The Pole and That Yellow Cab #3

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Dimlit brunch, UES

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Play me a song Mr Piano Man, Washington Square Park

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Pink jacket stands out in the Bloomingdale’s crowd

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Cycling through, Central Park South 

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Move on – crossover; 5th Avenue

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Quiet amidst the storm

M xx

Textile monochrome

Black and white photography captures the imagination. It distills a picture into shades of grey, into shadows and reflections. I often convert my favorite photos into black and white, to extract the essence and enjoy the underlying contrasts and colors in their most simplified form: shades of lightness and darkness.

I mentioned how much I love scarves in an earlier post, and here I integrate my love of the scarf and textiles, with 5 reasons why I also love monochrome:

1. Black and white is timeless

Our culture sees black and white as speaking of the past. It has connotations of history, of all things vintage, of reaching into a long lost memory. Somehow, black and white now makes a photo look ageless and timeless. That is a great quality.  And if you like history, black and white makes a photo even more beautiful because every moment in the present will someday be part of someone’s story and history.

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Paisley Mountain

2. Contrast heightens impact

My favorite shots are often those with some contrast to highlight or heighten either an emotive response, or an aesthetically satisfying combination. The contrast of light and dark , shadow and brightness, is the ultimate. It makes an impact on the eye and the response to an image.

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Scarf overload

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Tassels in the middle

3. Color matching no longer matters

Not every color looks good together! Not every combination works. But when distilled into light and dark rather than colorful hues, then it no longer matters!

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Overlap

4. Composition is key

Related to matching colors; when we remove the element of color from the equation, the satisfaction we feel when we look at an image also becomes all about the composition. The movement. The placement. I love the below photo of a patterned silk scarf because the placement almost made it look like a wave. The curves and curling motion of the fabric reminded me of a whirlpool. Never mind that the scarf itself was super colorful, with purple, red, white and yellow – the placement and overlapping folds made it fun to look at even in b&w.

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Charybdis, the textile whirlpool

5. Focus on texture

Just as composition becomes more important when a photo is stripped bare into monotone, so too the texture of the photo becomes valuable. Here texture is so visible because we are talking about fabric, textiles. But even with a landscape, or a portrait, the texture of the land or nature, or a face and skin, becomes heightened and a central part of the photo. I love that the creation and construction of the materials in the photo become more evident. Just look at the thin threads that you can see so much more clearly in the righthand scarf below…so beautifully textured!

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Floral interruption

M xx

Knockout

I have a very animated way of talking which involves waving my hands around a lot. Not a big surprise if you take into account my Italian background. Then add in a pinch of enthusiasm, a hint of energy and a  drop of flamboyant personality…and you have a recipe for knocking over many glasses of water! Yes, I have spilled a lot of water in kitchens and at restaurant tables in my adult years, not to mention my childhood ones.  Recently, I managed to knock over a series of full glasses of water in fancy New York establishments onto the lap of my great friend MC. In both cases I had barely touched my glass of wine, so I really had no excuse other than my own over enthusiasm and excessive gesticulations to blame! Thank you MC for being so patient with my water spills!

Water glasses are not the only casualty from this intensity in communication style – I have (accidentally) knocked people in the face with my elbows on the dance floor (to the chagrin of their boyfriends nearby!) and practically and unintentionally tripped myself over, rifled phones to the floor and ruffled many feathers.

The unintentional “knockout” moment. It is amazing what you discover when it happens. Some people laugh as you collect yourself and clear the spillage. Some people respond as if distressed by the invasion of their peace and personal space. Some people start up a conversation in the wake of the damage, as if you broke the ice and opened yourself up to a fresh, genuine interaction. It is impossible to be inauthentic in that (embarrassing) moment! Caught off guard by your own imperfection and unconstrained passion for the topic of the day.

That “knockout” moment is not always bad. In fact – in the creative process, it most often manifests itself as a moment of inspiration, of  eye-opening wonder. When you suddenly seize the moment, filled with a sense of vision. It happens in writing, it happens in art, it happens when you get that perfect shot, without trying. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does – it’s great. I find travel often wields these artistic “knockout” moments, more than normal life. Maybe it’s because our hearts are more open to them. We are more relaxed, more liberated. Maybe it’s because what we see is somehow new and makes us feel renewed, novel and different. Bill Bryson put it beautifully:

To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.

– Bill Bryson

I share a couple of “knockout” visions. They are by no means the best photos ever taken at all, but I can remember feeling a sense of satisfaction when I took them. A random selection to inspire over the weekend.

1. Composition

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The art of gelato: it was too good to pass up, the moment of dripping, melting gelato in the Springtime sun on a backstreet in Milan with my sister’s bright multi-colored necklace shining in the background!

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Seal Rocks: the most gorgeous outlook to the Pacific Ocean on the north coast of NSW, Australia. The turquoise waters shimmering in the summer sun and the green shrubs in the foreground, both a lovely contrast to the deep, dark blue hues of the watery expanse.

2. Intense color and contrast

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German tulips: brightening your day and the tiny dew drops topped off one of my favorite flower photos.

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African sunset: it doesn’t get any better than an African sunset along the Chobe River in Botswana. It took your breath way.

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Micro China: red, the color of fortune and royalty. These slippers from a market stall in China were a bright reminder of a regal past. I love the messiness of the close up, entangled tassels and all.

3. Ambience / enigmatic human interest

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Rainy reflections: stuck on a rainy night in the backstreets of the charming, quaint town of Suzhou, China about an hour or so outside Shanghai, the reflections of the bright lanterns with these lone girls huddled under their shared umbrella just captivated me. The blur of the photo felt in tune with the drizzly outlook from underneath my own umbrella.

Old fashioned Shanghai street: This is by no means the most fabulous set of photos, but it felt like I’d capture a moment of humanity passing by me in those moments. I was standing still and alone on a standard back street somewhere in the metropolis of Shanghai, with people, cars and mess passing by me. In those moment, two elderly gentlemen cycled slowly past, and 2 elderly ladies wandered in the opposite direction. Each a slow solitary figure in this overcrowded city. Each simply going about their own daily business and happening to have intersected with my own travels, in a moment when I too had stopped to take stock.

4. Nature: stunning scenery

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Antarctic ice sheet reflections

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Iceberg depths

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Spot the penguin

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Iceberg graveyard

5. Great smiles

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Colca Canyon Joy: traveling through the Colca Canyon in Peru, we would stop along the road to look at the beautiful local scarves and textiles, occasionally buying something or chatting with the locals. This mother and daughter captivated me – in their traditional colorful patterned dresses and hats of the local area. The warmth of the mother’s expression, the hand of the daughter leaning close to her mother. A great smile lights up a portrait like nothing else. We all look better smiling! 

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Maria de Arequipa: I managed to garner from my basic Spanish that this lady’s name was Maria as she sat smiling on the sidewalk of the old town of Arequipa, Peru making small dolls and keychain dolls – artisanship slowly being lost. Her positivity was palpable.

Have a great weekend!

M xx

5 things that make me feel blue

There was once a ridiculous song (not an unusual occurrence) released at the end of the 1990s, called Blue (Da Ba Dee).  An ironically upbeat dance song by a long-forgotten Italian pop group, Eiffel65. You might remember it, hurtling to the top of the charts in 1999 with ridiculous lyrics including a lot of “blue dabadee dabadie” and other imbecilic statements like “blue is the color of all that I wear / blue are the streets and all the trees are too”. And then it disappeared. Forever.

Funnily enough though, my sister and I loved this silly dance song (we even got the CD!) all about being Blue, about having nobody to listen to you. It didn’t feel like a sad song, like a song that someone feeling blue and lonely would listen to – I certainly couldn’t have imagined Picasso having listened to it in his blue period, even though it could have been his soundtrack on a TV satire of his life! The song felt entertaining and energetic.

This made me reflect on how many blue places or views there are in this world that calm and inspire me. Not least of all the sky – with the tufty floating clouds and sunsets. Or the ocean, beaches, and meditative, foamy, crashing waves. How much I actually love the color blue. How much I love taking photos of blue places. I love being among the natural intensity and freedom of Blue. So here are 5 of my top picks that really make me feel the beauty of Blue (in no particular order though!).

 1.  Glaciers: awe-inspired by the depth of blue color in ice

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Glacier Viedma, Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia, Argentina

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Ice castles of the Viedma Glacier. Pock-marked ice designs and textures.

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2.  Mountains and lakes: reflections of the heavens

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Trekking through the Los Glaciaries National Park, Argentina…to see this…

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Cerro Fitzroy

The trek to Cerro Fitzroy did not disappoint. It comes at the end of a tiring 3-4 hour hike without too much to give away that you will come to one of the most stunning outlooks you have ever seen. Especially as the clouds clear on a sunny day to reveal a still brightly shining, turquoise chilled lake, and spiky 11,000ft peaks (3,300mt). One of the highlights of visiting El Chalten, near the Southern Patagonia Ice Fields of Argentina. A must-see in the Patagonia region.

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3.  Antarctica: the ice continent

Antarctica needs no introduction. The remote and pristine, untouched wilderness. A virgin ice land. Like a magical world, majestic in its isolation, overwhelming in its monotone white and blue. Stunning. Even I was speechless at this outlook. More to come.

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Speechless

4.  Sky: liberation, expanse, space, freedom

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Sunrise balloon ascension

Sunrise over the mountains and valleys of Albuquerque. Clear, pure blue skies. Not a cloud. Just intense blueness.

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American blue skies

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Hues of pink and grey at sunset, Martha’s Vineyrd

5.  Oceans and the sea: calming

Having grown up in Sydney, Australia – I just love the beach. I might not have grown up surfing (in fact, I had my first lesson as a 25 year old…don’t tell anyone!), but I definitely grew up splashing about in the waves at the beach, and spending every summer walking along long sandy beaches and the national parks around them. Relaxing. Quiet. Natural. Glistening, in the bright morning sun.

There is no other place like the beach, all year round, to relax, refuel, reinvigorate, recharge. It is soul reviving like nothing else. I can do nothing and still feel like I have had a full and fulfilling day, just watching the blue waters and their mesmerizing cadence.

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Crystalline morning – East Hampton, NY

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Foamy low waters, in the quiet of the morning – East Hampton, NY

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Hover cloud, Martha’s Vineyard

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Doggie, whatcha looking  at?! – he’s got his priorities right – loving the water, eager for the beach, in awe of blue sky!

Part of my inspiration for this blog was the Aussie blog from Bondi Beach, which half the world follows – aqua bumps! Every day, the gorgeous, almost luscious photos of waves, water, surfboards, splashes is just about the best way to start the day. I tell you – Blue dabadee dabadie was onto something 😉

M xx

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Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?

I always find myself invariably distracted by random human interest articles,  attracted to artistic reviews rather than practical current affairs in my online news wanderings.  My latest distraction was an article in the NY Times about a photographer who took photos of 4 sisters over 40 years – every year since 1975!  Gorgeous, simple, raw photos – all in black and white.  Capturing sisterly connection, youth, changing fashions and hairstyles, aging.  They were really beautiful, an insight into an interesting story.

It reminded me of how portraits, both paintings and photography, are a special and incisive way of capturing relationships, emotions, human essence. It reminded me of some of the photos I took in wilderness of Botswana of the San Bushmen, a small fading group of nomadic peoples whose fate, as they are driven off the land and can no longer hunt, is reminiscent of many indigenous peoples globally. Reviewing the photography portraits of the hour or so I spent in their presence, learning about their culture, their clicking language, their expert knowledge of the wilderness and the wealth it offers us, their relationships,  I reflected upon the  intensity in their eyes. And ironically, in the comfort of my New York apartment, the old Louis Armstrong song came to mind…

When the weather vane points to gloomy
It’s gotta be sunny to me, when your eyes look into mine…

…says mother looking into her child’s eyes.

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Mother smiles and plays with her child, warms him, cleans his snotty nose. Maternal love does not change across cultures!

Intensity in the expressions shared between them; many inside jokes we didn’t understand as they laughed at us no doubt! There was happiness with their children, generosity and humor among themselves. There was also a sense of uncertainty about the future. A certain sadness.

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Young Proud San Man

The only young man in their presence, although small and fine in stature, was a proud and strong man. He is the heir apparent to lead the community here in the San community in southwestern Botswana. Apparently he was also the brother of the Botswana Ambassador in London…what a different life choice. His elder was a wispy, thin man full of sinew and filled with a sense of responsibility as he scoured the ground and earth for its riches. The most excited we saw him was when he showed us how they make fire – which literally burst into flame and lit up his whole expression.

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Elder

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 Feeding from the egg

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Twilight

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Sleepy child

Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those peepers?
Jeepers Creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?
Gosh all git up, how’d they get so lit up?
Gosh all git up, how’d they get that size?
Louis Armstrong – Jeepers Creepers Lyrics | MetroLyrics

There was a part of me that felt a deep sadness in the eyes of the San Bushmen in the orange, dusk lighting of the African plains – despite flashes of laughter, of fascination, of love. A loss of engagement, a loss of their community space. Sharing their portraits is partly my way to share in the awareness of the diversity in this world. To open up our horizons to different lives. To share in humanity, through the eyes and portraits of others.

M xx

Pride
Pride