Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Because I saw and photographed some hot air balloons early this morning, I decided to hunt down other photos I've taken of various hot air balloons I've seen over my place over the past three  years. I hope you enjoy seeing them.

December 2014

August 2014


February 2015

October 2015
December 2015
10 January 2017.
November 2016

Monday, January 9, 2017


I'd been feeling rather confined during the heatwave. Sure, I could get out in the mornings and go to the gymnasium and do a little shopping, but then, because of the radiant heat and temperatures souring above 30C degrees I was trapped inside. It might have been intolerable except that the test cricket was absorbing and although Australia won 3/0, it may have been due to Pakistan's pathetic fielding. Anyway, yesterday I thought it was going to be more of the same, but the cool change occurred around 12.30 and I headed off to the Victoria Gardens shopping centre to check out some post Christmas sales. When I came out of the centre I crossed the road determined to walk along that small walk bridge that traverses the Yarra. It didn't happen due to my balance issues and my slight fear of heights. It's still one of my challenges for the year. I felt at least that I'd achieved something when I took a photo of this wonderful example of urban inscription on a wall near a large empty block in Victoria Street. You will notice the iconic Skipping Girl sign in the distance.
Urban Inscription. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017

I'd planned to go and see Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier who were performing for Sunset Sounds a free City of Stonnington music event and so I took a tram down Chapel Street to High Street, Prahran and then walked the four blocks up to Victoria Park. I was a little disappointed that instead of 6pm, Deborah and Willy were scheduled to begin their performance at 7.30, meaning that I'd be travelling home after dark. However both she and Willy were in the audience and I took a couple of candid photographs of Willy playing his guitar and one of Deborah, Willy (and friend?).

Willy Zygier. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
Deborah Conway, Willy Zygier and friend? Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
Although I couldn't stay for Deborah and Willy's performance I did hear half a dozen songs from Sal Kimber and The Rollin' Wheel. Sal's music takes listeners on a journey through country, fold, rock and pop. I could tell by the lyrics of her songs that she is greatly moved by people in country Victoria.
Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
She was wonderful and sang with such passion. I took a couple of photographs of her singing, but my favourite is the one I took of her hydrating before she began.
Sal Kimber before the performance. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017
It was a lovely atmosphere in the park. Hundreds of people sitting in what looked like an amphitheatre in the amply shaded park, which was built in 1887. I had never been there before and was amazed that such a beautiful oasis was tucked away in an otherwise built up area.
Crowd in Victoria Gardens. Photo: Julie Clarke (c) 2017

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Water Safety Warning

I'm dismayed that not much has changed over the past decades and that there has been a rise in drowing deaths this Summer.
Article from The Argus, December 2, 1935

Although I could swim a little and had during the summer months of my childhood jumped in rivers and creeks around Wangaratta to keep cool, it was only after my grandmother (who I lived with) moved to Altona that I experience my first real experience of being in deep beach water. My grandmother always anxious when we (my two sisters and myself) headed off, reminded us that our two Aunties had drowned. Indeed on Sunday, 1 Dec, 1935 Margaret Joyce Clarke aged 13 and Isabelle Clarke aged 10, drowned at Elwood Beach. They were two of the five children who lost their lives that afternoon in 88.6F (29C) degrees heat.
My learn to swim certificate 1963

I count myself lucky that in 1963 we were enrolled in a Herald Sun learn to swim program through the local council and I was proud that I could swim 25 yards. I'm afraid that being able to swim meant that I had more confidence than I previously had around water and admit to doing some silly things, like swim to the end of Altona pier where I was pushed and bashed by the surging water and suffered scratched and bleeding legs from the sharp barnacles attached to pier pylons. Later, when I was 18 years old I swam to the middle of Lake Learmonth in Ballarat and back to shore. I was severely exhausted, sunburnt and suffered heatstroke for two days. In 1970 my nephew died trying to save a friend from drowning. Water safety is paramount in my mind because of the trauma it caused to our family.
This blog post is to remind people not only to watch small children around water, but to remind teenagers and older adults that just because you can swim doesn't mean that you can do stupid things or swim out too far in the ocean. Even strong swimmers can drown. Drinking alcohol and going into the pool or beach water is a recipe for disaster as is ignoring information provided by Life Savers. Always swim between the flags, that way if you get into trouble the life savers will be able to see you. Above all, don't get caught up in being competative or macho, it could cause your own death and the death of someone trying to save you! If you can't swim don't be tempted to walk into deep water and above all, don't swim alone.

Monday, January 2, 2017

PASSENGERS (Spoiler Alert)

Loving science fiction films as I do, I eagerly awaited the release of Passengers (Morton Tyldum, 2016), which I saw yesterday at the Kino Cinema in Collins Street, Melbourne.

Passengers  is a visually stunning film. The sparse interior design of the Starship Avalon gives more than a nod to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), an interesting contrast I think with the almost Baroque, elaborate design and detail of the ship's exterior as it moves silently through space.

The Starship depicts a world not dissimilar to our own and one we are moving progressively towards. It is an environment inhabited by computer screens, avatars and holograms, automated food dispensers, electronic communication, surveillance systems and robots that look human and dispense philosophy as one liners, as readily as they fill a glass or retrieve detritus from the floor. Human beings in this Starship world are in suspended animation like those poor souls attached to life support systems in hospital intensive care units, an indictment on our current sedentary lifestyle occasioned by advanced technologies as well as an allegory of the existential anxiety experienced by the loneliness of the individual in an increasingly dehumanized, mechanized society. Already many individuals experience little human contact except that afforded by advanced communications technologies, virtual reality, robots, video, text messages and voice recognition. For Jim, human touch and feeling is essential and he demonstrates Arthur's (Michael Sheen) a robotic barman, inability to experience either by hitting him in the face during one of their various conversations.

The narrative surrounds Jim Preston (Chris Pratt), a mechanical engineer and Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) a writer, who are passengers on the Starship Avalon woken ninety years prematurely from induced hibernation on their 120 year journey to a new planet called Homestead II. Jim who wakes first due to a system failure caused by the ships impact with a celestial body, is faced with the ominous fact that he's the only conscious being out of the 5,259 crew and passengers. He discovers he is unable to re-enter his pod and return to a state of hibernation, so embarks on a series of endeavors, including an unsuccessful attempt to break through the door to the ship's control area.

After many conversations with Arthur, who suggests he enjoy the now, rather than dwelling on what is absent in his life, a philosophy associated with mindfulness, Jim appears to accepts his fate. He engages in the many pleasurable pursuits available to him. He eats, dances and plays sport with holographic avatars. He sleeps, walks around naked, grows his beard and dons a suit that enables him to safely walk in space. However compliant and pleasant Arthur is, Jim notes that Arthur cannot feel and so, his apparent human qualities remain sterile. A period of depression follows in which Jim considers suicide. However, this is not the only dark moment of the film for each time Jim engages with the barman we are reminded of Kubrick's other masterpiece The Shining (1980) and the sinister act that follows after Jack leaves the bar, heralding perhaps Jim's excursion into an immoral and irretrievable act.

After walking through a room filled with sleep pods he is attracted to a female passenger called Aurora. He accesses her electronic file and discovers she's a writer. He consults the hibernation manual with a view to waking her and is immediately faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not he should embark on such an endeavor, knowing full well she would never reach Homestead II and would be psychologically scarred as he has been by being prematurely woken from his journey. We are aware that he has been awake and without human company for one year and has exhausted all possibilities on the ship so can understand his desire for human company.

The problem many might have with this film is that the woman he wants to wake in order to lesson his boredom on his long and arduous journey is young, attractive and intelligent. The other issue of course is his total self-absorption and his utter selfishness at wanting to intervene in the course of Aurora's life. One must ask, if he has the ability to wake people from hibernation he might have done a little more research and attempted to wake technicians capable of identifying and fixing the damage done to the space ship.

He wakes her and their relationship is immediately built on a lie for he omits to tell her why she's awake when everyone else is asleep. He discovers quickly that unlike him she has a gold pass and is able to access better quality food for him. She has become more than useful and becomes Jim's love (sex) interest. She is, according to Arthur 'a great choice'. Jim is fully aware that given he's the only male awake on the ship Aurora would direct her libido towards him. He's in the ideal position of having no competitors for her affections and, apart from her own resilience and determination, she would be totally reliant on him. Everything works in his favor until she is innocently told by Arthur that Jim is responsible for waking her up. She is, of course extremely angry and unequivocally inconsolable, but is called into action when a number of vital systems on the ship begin to corrupt the general workings, causing chaos, her near death and the early awakening of chief deck officer, Gus (Laurence Fishburne) who advises Jim and Aurora that there are multiple system failures including damage to the reactor, which they attempt to fix. Jim's tether on his space suit breaks loose after he has successfully vented the reactor and Aurora retrieves and resuscitates him, saving him again from dying alone. He later discovers that the scanner pod will enable only one individual to be re-hibernated and he offers this service to Aurora, who decides to remain with him.

The final scene in the film shows the crew and other passengers entering the main deck, which is overrun with various flora and fauna, which must have been grown and nurtured by Jim and Aurora during the past eight eight years. One can only imagine that this scene serves to reveal how the main protagonist have humanized their environment by introducing a natural/organic, rather than a synthetic one on the ship and we are expected to believe that Jim is exonerated for his initial behavior by the fact that they have obviously discovered a way to reconcile the past. A voice-over suggests that Aurora has written the book that she began shortly after she was woken by Jim.

I am left wondering what was Homestead I?. Is it a name for Earth or was it another planet that was inhabited by human beings? The final scene does not reveal the presence of children so one can only assume that they were elsewhere on the ship or Jim and Aurora did not produce any progeny. I found this visually interesting film, but fraught with problems.

(As usual, please forgive any spelling or typographical errors). OK, hopefully all errors corrected at 2.08pm.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Camouflage and display

Fidder Beetle. Photo: Julie Clarke (c)) 2016
I'm awake at my usual time of 5.20 am or so and Christmas day has come and gone and thanks to a few family and friends I had a lovely time. My son Erin gave me a Eupoecila Australasiae (a scarab commonly known as a Fiddler Beetle because markings on its back resemble sound holes on a violin/fiddle) to add to my small collection of insects. Its warning colors (aposematism) of yellow and brown tell predators that it's poisonous or tastes bad. He gave me the beetle in a small tin, which originally held lip balm. The little tin in itself is a treasure.
Eastern Blue-tongue lizard. Photo: Laura Feeger (c) 2016
My son's partner Laura took a photograph of the Eastern blue-tongue lizard that's eating snails in their suburban garden in Croydon South. Both these photographs and my own photograph of two ducks in Treasury Gardens, Melbourne last week made me think about camouflage and display, things that use their bodies to disguise themselves in their surroundings and those that want to be seen.

More on this another time. Meanwhile time for us to consider the year that was and the new year. To all my readers may you have a wonderful 2017.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Thoughts on news and the holiday season

I don't know about you but I'm thoroughly tired of hearing about the Islamic terrorist attack in Berlin and the many deaths and injuries. The shooting death of the Russian ambassaror in a Turkey art gallery, grevious bodily harm and subsequent death of a two year old child, domestic violence, a fly-by shooting at the office of the CFMEU; the stabbing (in the hand) of the tennis player Petra Kvitova, the terrible accident in which concrete slabs fell and killed a stone mason, the desperation of the Syrian people, the impending cyclone off the coast of Western Australia and the deaths from an explosion in a fireworks factory in Mexico. No wonder some people have given up watching the news and choose instead to watch trashy television. The lead up to Christmas then, is a time to escape into fantasy, a time when we allow ourselves to believe that things can be different; that Christmas, rather than a celebration on one day of the year is a period of cushioning ourselves from the terrors in world by surrounding ourselves with family and friends.
I'm desperate for some good news stories, at least enough to balance out the horrendous local and international stories being reported. I'm desirous of hearing about kindness, warmth, sharing and achievement; people loving each other rather than the absolute hatred and disregard that some people direct toward others. I wish that the tinsel and bright lights of this holiday season, the decorative trees and houses, the red Santa hats, the food, the presents and merriment leading up to the 25 December made a difference. To me the onslaught of negative news takes the edge of the notion of 'peace and goodwill to all men' (and women). For me, Christmas is shrouded in a delirium that I cannot shake. But, I vow to keep trying
To all my readers and to those who share my posts I wish you inner peace and love for the holiday season and all the very best for 2017.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Port Melbourne Beach 16 December 2016

I'd hardly arrived in Melbourne this morning before seeing one homeless person asleep on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral and another sleeping at the side of it.
I decided, rather than walk through the city I 'd go to Port Melbourne beach, which was filled with exicited people ready to board a Cruise Liner for a Noumea and Island adventure. I asked if I could go on board, but was told by a security guard that no visitors were allowed on the ship because, and I quote 'I might be a terrorist'. This certainly wasn't the case when I was a child because I distinctly remember accompanying my grandmother on a ship to see some relatives off on a grand voyage. The staircase was a partiicular fascination for us children and I remember running up and down it. Not being able to go inside I walked along the pier and took a photo of it from the small pier.

In the water to the right of the pier was a man who appeared to be walking on water, or at least hovvering above it.
I took a long walk along the beach and took this photograph of a flock of seagulls aside a small inlet of water. The sea appeared to be higher than the land and even looks so in this photograph which shows the horizon line.
I had my lunch at de'lish fish and then since I had been at the beach for nearly two hours I caught the tram back to the city. I got off at the top of Collins Street and walked through Treasury Gardens. I noticed this bird - is it a duck? It didn't look like all the other ducks in the pond. It looked quite young and didn't flinch even though I was standing barely a meter from it. It appeared mesmerised by the noise of the large crowd of people in the park obviously celebrating some work Christmas party.

Overall, I had a lovely time. The weather was just right. Not too hot, a little overcast and way too may flies annoying me as I walked. (As usual please forgive any spelling or typographical mistakes).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Photography After The Human by Joanna Zylinska, my comments

I've just read Joanna Zylinska's article 'Photography after the Human' published in Photographies Journal in July this year, in which she argues within the 'wider framework of current post-humanist and post-anthropocentric perspectives, where what is being abstracted is both the notion of the human and the notion of the world that supposedly exists for and in agreement with this human' (p.167) For me, the click of the camera shutter, which both captures and severs a particular image or piece of life from the next instance of that life, is akin to the theoretical notion of the post human, since arresting the human from the continuuim of the indiviual and community human creates before and after (the human). It freeze frames humanity and tells only part of the narrative.
Zylinska draws upon William Bornefel's 1996 science fiction novel Time and Light set in a post-apocalyptic, post-industrialist world. The illuminated dome city is fueled by steam and manpower industrialism of an underground, dirty, hidden world. (p.168) The white/black, light/dark, life/death binaries are obviously important here for in Bornefeld's novel there is 'an absolute ban on photography and other forms of imaging' since 'visual society was in a constant state of imbalance and agitation due to stress on the optic nerve'(p.168 quoting Bornefeld 43). Zylinska argues that Bornefeld's novel suggests the 'survival of photography is vital to the survival of human society, because it is images that can give life back to an enclosed and paralysed community' as opposed to the 'Barthesian narrative, where photography is inherently marked with death'. (169) She does concede further along in her article that 'In spite of our earlier reservation, we are perhaps back her with Barthes' argument in Camera Lucida, in which photographs of other humans serve as reminers of their inevitable death (181).
Although she argues for the capacity of photography to produce life, isn't it the very stillness of the photographic image that carves 'out an image from the flow of duration' (169) that suggests death, the sudden cessation of life? She briefly discusses nonhuman automata (the camera or other image capturing devices) as not being a product of human production. I would argue against her statement that 'photography has always been nonhuman' (180), I maintain that automata constructed by and used by human beings produces human outcomes, whether or not an actual person has seen and witnessed the things or event and that product may be distributed for others to witness. Isn't part of what makes us human our capacity to create and use tools to extend our understanding of our place in the wider world. The essential difference is that the human eye sees and records privately, whereas photographs, produced by a mechanical device have the capacity to become public, shown and shared as a record of a historical event.
I am not an expert in photographic theory however I do take photographs and have been interested in them since I was about seven years old and would rumage in my grandmother's tin of photographic treasures. I was prompted to become more serious about taking photographs myself after reading Roland Barthes Camera Lucida (1981) and in 2011 exhibited numerous photographs in an installation with text and sound. Francesco Paolo Vitallia wrote:

Whilst Bathes's study was animated by a search for his mother's image, Clarke's installation stemmed from a memory of her grandmother's relationship with photographs and people already deceased. As a child Clarke would extract photographs from a tin secreted away in her grandmother's wardrobe. After retrieving a photograph she woul ask her grandmother 'who's this' and the reply would be a preemptory 'they're dead'. This is the status of most photographs as un art moyen, which represent images of friends and family consigned to a place of forgetting. (Catalogue for The Body and the City: A Poem in Three Parts, Atrium Annex Gallery, Architecture Building, The University of Melbourne, 2011)

My grandmother's photographs were old (some were older than her and must have been given to her) and were already showing signs of damage and decay, heralding perhaps the demise not only of the image but of the people in the photographs, which leads me to what may be perceived as the real gist of Zynlisks argument, which centers upon imagery around the ruin of human infrastructure, which in itself marks either a present state of decay or of a possible future in which the human has either abandoned a site or been obliterated by devistating human activity, such as 'calamitous events in our global economic and ecological systems' (172). She cites a number of artists and photographers who via their art 'imagine a world in which the human is no more' (174). After the human then, is the shock we encounter when we view images of locales that are destroyed and devoid of a human presence.
Drawing upon the Anthropocene that defines our current geological time as being anthropogenic, based on overwhelming evidence that all earth system processes are influenced by humans Zylinska imagines a future bereft of humans and in this way calls attention to fears that perhaps nothing or rather everything imaged or imagined by the human up to this present time wouldn't matter, for ultimately we will destroy ourselves and everything in the world. Eco friendly images that reveal desolution and destruction, spur the viewer to do something, anything to ward off our possible future extinction. Pointless I think to even ponder images/photographs after the human, even if many of the image capture devices such as surveillance cameras continue to record, for if human beings do not exist, they would be unrecognisable to an alien race, assuming of course that they have not faded, survived catastrophe or are retrieved beneath rubble. Last pictures of humanity would be deprived of meaning, severed from the materiality of actual flesh. Photographs have always been made for the human by the human.
As much as I love photographs and the capacity to capture images through the camera apparatus, I take to task the notion that prior to the invention of the camera that image making was somehow impoverished. After the human appears to be suggesting that prior to the photographic image individuals did not consider a possible future in which they became extinct. Take for example the apocalyptic paintings of Ludwig Meicher. And on the subject of the 'human' what of those 'humans' who have never used a camera, let alone seen one and created a photographic image, such as the uncontacted tribes who live in densly populated forest areas of South America, Central Africa and New Guinea? Are they not human by virtue that their history and memory, unlike ours, is not recorded through a play of light and technology?
I really enjoyed this article it made me think again about the notion of the post human and the impact of our technologies on the human condition and on other life forms within our ecosystem. But it also raised an interesting ethical question for me, firstly about the responsibiliity of photographers to document the slow decay of our world and secondly whether this 'ruin porn' has become just more eye candy for those who like the aesthetic of things that are old. I for one am always pointing out the beauty in rust and decay on furniture and buildings. Does the destruction of our planet and our species fuel a weird fantasy that the survival of the utter beauty of nature may depend upon the intentional suicide of humanity en masse?

Joanna Zylinska's article has free access an may be located at: http://dx.oi.org/10.1080/17540763.2016.1182062