Wednesday, May 30, 2012

When Worlds Collide #14: Freezing Moments and Defying Time’s Tyranny by Nalaka Gunawardene

Nalaka sent me the link to his column yesterday. It is truly inspiring and amazing to anyone who loves photographs and appreciates human relationships.


Following text and images in this blogpost are from

and copyrighted to Nalaka Gunawardene

When Worlds Collide #14: Freezing Moments and Defying Time’s Tyranny by Nalaka Gunawardene

Growing up in a very different Sri Lanka during the 1970s, I was image starved.
We had no television, no Internet, and going to the cinema was a rare treat. And cameras were uncommon – those who owned them had to carefully plan every photograph to make the best use of film rolls with a finite number of shots (12, 24 or 36).
My school teacher parents had a Kodak box camera, using which they took some home photos of my early years. Two dozen black-and-whites (some in sepia prints) survive to this day in remarkably good shape. That is all I have to show for the first decade and half of my life. 
I also have a few (now fading) colour photos from my mid to late teens, taken fleetingly with cameras borrowed from friends. By then, in the 1980s, our home camera was no longer useable. And I didn’t own a basic (analog) camera until I was 25; it took me another dozen years to go digital. Yes, I know: that makes me a dinosaur of sorts…
Some of my friends have been much luckier. Buddhini Ekanayake, a Child of ’77, had a photographer father who captured all key moments of her life, and then some.
As she recalls: “My father had a passion for photography since he was a teenager. Later, with his part-time job as a local news reporter, the camera became a part of his life. So I have a whole lot of photographs from my childhood…My father took the photos and my mother preserved them in photo albums. Thanks to them, I have a huge collection of memories, emotions and untold stories bound with those thousands of photographs.”
It was partly the happy byproduct of journalism. Her father, Wijayananda Ekanayake, always had a film-loaded camera standing by to rush out at short notice. He would often develop them in his small darkroom at home.
Says Buddhini: “Those days, unlike today, one had to develop the entire film roll even for a single photo. I can remember he was using film rolls cut into short lengths of 10 to 12 frames, so he could finish them soon and send out urgent news photos. In such situations, I was the most readily available subject for him to finish the untaken frames!”

Buddhini’s Progress from Year 1 to 30 – A Father’s unusual Birthday Present
Birthday Photos
Every birthday was marked with a dedicated photo shoot, so Buddhini has an evenly spaced visual record of her life, all in black and white. When she turned 30 a few years ago, she selected one from each birthday to make a scrapbook layout. “I really enjoyed working on that layout because those pictures carried so many memories in my life,” she says.
Buddhini, who works as a freelance designer and TV producer, shares this and other visual memories on her personal website. She now continues the family tradition by photographing milestones in her own daughter’s life.
Another friend, Chulie de Silva, uses family photographs – taken over generations and decades — for chronicling tales of her colourful and far-flung family, hailing from the coastal town of Hikkaduwa. Her memories, often personalising the local history, areshared on a popular blog, evoking comments from many readers.
Especially poignant are her bittersweet memories of younger brother Prasanna, who was killed when the Indian Ocean tsunami came crashing in without warning on 26 December 2004. Suddenly, only photos and memories were left.
Within 72 hours a mutual friend, Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam, was bearing witness to the massive devastation. He saw something extraordinary when walking amidst the ruins of Telwatte — close to where the world’s worst train accident happened, when an overcrowded train headed straight into the ferocious waves.
“I came across a family that had gathered in the wreckage of their home. I wanted to ask them their stories, find out what they had seen, but stopped when I saw them pick up the family album. They sat amidst the rubble and laughed as they turned page after page,” he recalled in the 2007 book I co-edited titled Communicating Disasters: An Asia Pacific Resource Book.
As disaster survivors sift through what is left of their homes, family photo albums are among the most cherished possessions they try to recover. This impulse cuts across cultures and other human divisions.
Helping Hands
And in this networked age, anyone can join such a quest from anywhere. In the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, dozens of volunteers helped hand-clean over 70,000 family photographs recovered from the debris.
All Hands Volunteers, a Massachusetts-based non-profit group, enlisted more than 200 remote volunteers to augment efforts of those on site. Some among them, who earn their living by ‘retouching’ fashion photos for glamour magazines, found it the ‘most satisfying work’ in their lives. (For details, see:
Future disasters would probably imperil fewer family photos, as more people store and share their digitally taken photos on Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and other online platforms. ‘Digital Natives’ like my teenaged daughter rarely print their many photos.
The cyber ‘cloud’ is increasingly the giant repository of our memories. While no tsunami can wipe them out, we might one day discover the web’s own inherent hazards.
Analog or digital, physical or virtual, why are snapshots of frozen moments so powerfully evocative to all of us?
Ultimately, photos are about defying the tyranny of time and the elements. When memory fails, chemicals or digits linger a bit longer…
As Sir Arthur C Clarke once remarked, “A cheap box camera can provide for anyone of us what the greatest sculptor of the ancient world laboured for years to give Emperor Hadrian – the exact image of a lost love. With the invention of photography, some aspects of the past became for the first time directly accessible, with the minimum of selective intervention by a human mind.”
The mystique of photography – which existed even a generation ago — has all but vanished as more people carry cameras (or mobile phones with camera facility). Yet the first world’s photos were taken less than 200 years ago. Do today’s shutter-happy children realize what a small wonder they hold in their hands? I doubt it.
As Sir Arthur wrote in Profiles of the Future (1962): “Photography is such a commonplace device that we have long forgotten how marvelous it really is; if it were as difficult and expensive to take a photograph as, say, to launch a satellite, we would then give the camera the credit that is due to it.”
Nalaka can be followed :, and on Twitter: NalakaG
About Nalaka Gunawardene - as he describes ...
"A science writer by training, I've worked as a journalist and communication specialist across Asia for 25 years. During this time, I have variously been a news reporter, feature writer, radio presenter, TV quizmaster, documentary film producer, foreign correspondent and journalist trainer. I continue to juggle some of these roles, while also blogging and tweeting and column writing. There's NOTHING OFFICIAL about this blog. In fact, there's NOTHING OFFICIAL about me! I've always stayed well clear of ALL centres of power and authority."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two men band

Two men band and its audience at the St James Station

David Alan Harvey - Wall / floor talk - Australian Centre for Photography

Photos : Magnum and National Geographic photographer David Alan Harvey's wall / floor talk at the Australian Centre for Photography in relation to his "based on true story".

Following text is courtesy of the Australian Centre for Photography website
5 May–17 June 2012

Head On Photo Festival and the Australian Centre for Photography are partnering to present (based on a true story).
David Alan Harvey, an internationally renowned Magnum photographer, presents a new collection of work capturing the vibrancy and cultural energy of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Shot over a two-year period, Harvey’s intimate photographs are raw, real and passionate and make you feel like a fly on the wall. (based on a true story) is a representation of one night out that Harvey admits ‘changed [me] forever’. Photographs from this series have been published in Harvey’s new book also titled (based on a true story). This is Harvey’s very personal journey into the novela, a mystery tale that is not about Rio, but set in Rio.
Harvey has extensive experience documenting cultural stories around the world including projects on French teenagers, the Berlin Wall, Maya culture, Native Americans, Vietnam, Mexico, Naples and Nairobi. Harvey has published several major books including Cuba (2000) and Divided Soul (2002) based on his extensive exploration of the Spanish/Portuguese diaspora into the Americas, Living Proof (2009) an investigation of hip hop culture in the South Bronx, New York and Tell It Like It Is (1966) based on Harvey's experience living with a black family in Norfolk, Virginia. Harvey has also shot over forty essays for National Geographic magazine.
David Alan Harvey was born in 1944 in San Francisco, USA and lives and works in New York.
David Alan Harvey is travelling to Sydney as part of the Head On Photo Festival and will present seminars and workshops. He will also speak at Semi-Permanent Sydney 2012.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud | Photographs by Jagath Dheerasekara | Curated by Sandy Edwards | Customs House | Head On Photo Festival | Sydney | 4 May - 8 July

Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud is featured in the Head On Photo Festival . Head On is Australia's largest photo festival and world's second largest. The exhibition is curated by Sandy Edwards and hosted by Customs House. (Level 2, 31 Alfred Street, Circular Quay, NSW 2000). Customs House will continue to host the exhibition even after the Head On Photo Festival until 9 July during the VIVID Festival and the NAIDOC Week. For this project, photographer Jagath Dheerasekara, won the Amnesty International Human Rights Innovation Grant Award in 2010 and the exhibition is currently on tour.

Extracts from the comments in the media and other sources on the Manuwangku, Under the Nuclear Cloud series:

"The photographs are excellent. They are a moving portrayal of Aboriginal Australia that all Australians aught to know about on an issue that wont go away."

- John Pilger, Writer and Filmmaker, January 2012


"They (photographs) are just beautiful. They show how we live. We don't want the nuclear waste dump coming to our land. That place is very important for water. This exhibition will be a real eye opener for people in the cities. It shows the realities of our lives in the outback, out under the stars. People need to see what is really happening."

- Penny Phillips Napangardi, Traditional Owner of Mukaty (Manuwangku), April 2012
‎”These photographs are an enormous achievement on Jagath’s account. There are many examples of photographers coming to Australia full of desire to photograph Aboriginal people. There have been many mismatches and misinterpretations. Jagath has combined his humanism and his personal experiences and has achieved a delightfully accurate portrayal of the Muckaty community in all its subtlety. He has created a lasting positive document that will remain invaluable as we hopefully continue to develop more photographic archives of Aboriginal Australia that combine realism with a keenly felt positive empathy. "

Sandy Edwards, Photographer and Curator, Jan 2012
They are wonderful. Just wonderful. He's taken the time to be with the people. Otherwise he wont have gained so much of their trust.

- Mervyn Bishop, Photographer, January 2012
"They are composed with a purpose. They show there is nowhere in Australia that Aboriginal people don't live and care about the land.

- Djon Mundine OAM, Art Curator, January 2012
Exhibition has so far travelled to ...
Sydney | The Pine Street Gallery, Chippendale | January 2012
Melbourne | Sustainability Living Festival 2012 | February 2012
Perth | FotoFreo Photo Festival 2012. Divergence : Photographs from Elsewhere | March ~ April 2012
Sydney | Head On Foto Festival + VIVID Festival + NAIDOC Week | Customs House, Circular Quay | May 4 ~ July 9 2012
Exhibition will be travelling to ...

Melbourne | La Trobe University, Library, Bundoora Campus | Curated by Dr Vincent Alessi, Artistic Director, La Trobe University Art Museum | May ~ July 2012 (Including NAIDOC Week)

Darwin | Darwin Festival | Thursday 9 ~ Sunday 26 August 2012
Alice Springs | Alice Springs Festival | Friday 7 ~ Sunday 16 September 2012


Tennant Creek | Desert Harmony Festival | August 24 ~ September 2 2012