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‘The hawk flies above the earth, hormoniously flapping its broad wings: suddenly, it stops as though it were meditating on the sadness of life, then shakes its wings and is off like an arrow above the steppe, and does not know why he flies, nor what he seeks.
Then, on the summit of a hillock, a solitary poplar appears. Is it happy, this beautiful being? In the summer the torrid heat, in winter, the cold and the blizzards, in autumn the dreadful nights, when it sees nothing but darkness and hears nothing but the angry howling of the wind. And worst of all, it remains alone, completely alone throughout its life.’
-from The Steppe by Anton Chekhov
‘Writers are the interpreters of their environment –
not singly, but in the mass…
you won’t find the whole of Australia in any one book
you won’t even find it in all of the books of any one writer
but you will find it…
…pretty clearly and comprehensively in
the whole mass of Australian literature…
To understand one’s country one must read its books
not only its descriptive and factual books
but the works of its creative writers.’
– Eleanor Dark, ABC interview, 1946
In an earlier Under the Flutter post I spoke about a self-imposed rule that I have when on a residency – take one Polaroid photograph per day, no more, no less, and one must be taken, there’s no option of allowing a day to go by without a part of it turning into a piece of Polaroid magic. It becomes a visual diary of the residency, but also allows me to focus on something external rather than the generally internal nature of writing. And, quite frankly, it’s a great excuse to get out of the house and see more of whatever place I’m living in for that month.
But can I just say how god-damn hard it is to take a decent Polaroid snap. All you’ve got is a lens and a shutter, that’s it. There’s no little inbuilt computer to do all the work for you, no digital trickery to smooth over the edges. Although that’s also the brilliant part of this technology – its sheer simplicity.
Anyway, the point is I promised I’d post some of the shots I took while on a residency in Launceston, Tasmania, in April/May this year, and so they’re below for your viewing pleasure. You’ll probably read the (admittedly slightly blurry) caption that comes with each pic and think, Okay, that Nigel Featherstone bloke really has lost the plot this time. And I may well have lost the plot. Although the shots actually feature over at my other site, Open to Public, and each caption is taken from a line of a short story.
Yes, that’s a shameless plug for you to check out OTP and see if there’s anything there that takes your fancy. If there’s nothing there of interest, please don’t let me know because you’ll crush me like a butterfly. But if there’s a story you like, drop me an email, or send me flowers. Either will do.
In the meantime, let the Polaroid love begin.
While we’re talking plugs, if you’re up for a bit of brain fodder, check out Verity La and a wonderfully succinct interview my VL co-editor Alec Patric has done with Australian writer Tiggy Johnson.
Where I live I get to drive past the Canberra Airport at least a couple of times a week, and for the last month or so I’ve been chuckling at this sign (though also just a little distressed, not much, just a little). I can’t help thinking the sign is suggesting that this is a place to roll out very sick hospital patients, not quite a cemetery but a dumping ground, a place to leave people in whom we’ve lost interest because they have become too hard to care for, or their case too hopeless. Or it’s a place for people who’ve lost interest in their days to dispose of their bodies. A handy chute for poor souls, then. A place to discard, not to fly. Though perhaps flying and discarding might be more closely related than I give it credit for. Who doesn’t shed something, or die a bit, even just emotionally, internally, when they climb aboard a trusty jet and get away for a while?
PS Suggested music for this post: Red House Painters and associates. Pick a song at random. You’ll know what I mean.