At present there is a lot of water in the south-east of Australia. The rain keeps falling and the rivers keep overflowing into towns. Sometimes the authorities release water from catchment dams to try to prevent them spilling over, though the released water can cause problems downstream. The release of dam water is always a dramatic sight. A few months ago I drove over a dam when water was being released and it was so surprising that I stopped and took photos.
Here’s one that I’ll compare with a photo from my father’s 1941 album which he simply captioned “Weir in Nile”. I found a modern colour photo online of what looks like the same dam, called the Mohamed Ali Dam in Cairo, built in 1840.
Weir on Nile
Which is the better photo? Mine has a solid black and white appearance, with blacker blacks, while the old pic is composed mostly of soft greys and white. The drama of the rushing water and its spray in the 1941 photo is effective in spite of the slight blur. You can almost hear the roar of water in front of the camera. The old photo might be better simply because it is more picturesque with its brick pointed arches and what looks like a wooden drawbridge. But the modern image is better if you’re looking for details and defined straight edges.
302. Passed a pink house falling into ruin, all blinds down, letterbox smashed, flowerpots full of rubbish, matching pink fence collapsing, next door to a house with fake security tape stretched across the yard saying “Keep Out. Haunted House”.
303. Today I saw a gallows with a skeleton hanging from a noose, dressed in a boy’s t-shirt, shorts, boots, and cap back to front. Halloween “decoration”. Why?
304. Saw a tall apartment block still under construction that has a tree on its roof.
305. The Melbourne Cup was run this afternoon, and a radio announcer said that 3 horses didn’t finish and would be shot because this has been the dreadful pattern in the past. They weren’t shot.
306. It’s just before midnight and a half-moon is shining in my window because the sky is cloudless. It didn’t rain today, for the first time in weeks.
307. My head is continually and involuntarily turned by the multicultural population of my suburb, so different from the mostly Anglo suburb I lived in 3 years ago.
308. My mother was born 100 years ago today. A friend laid flowers beside her crematorium plaque for me. I discovered it’s beside my father’s plaque on the war memorial wall. I never knew this.
Recently I was leaning against a tree with my camera shutter set to electronic, that is, silent, when a girl walked towards a swan to tempt it out of the water. She was wearing a dinosaur dress with spikes down the back. I took her picture and converted it to black and white.
Then I compared it with a photo from my father’s World War Two album of a girl holding a goat in Syria, taken in about 1941. Beneath this photo my father wrote ‘Syrian Bint’. The dictionary tells me that bint is colloquial but with an Arabic origin, meaning girl or daughter.
I like the similarities between the two photos. The girls are both looking to the left of the image, they seem about the same age, and they are both enjoying the animal they’re with.
The photo of the Syrian girl is close-up and very well defined. I don’t know if it would be much better if taken with one of today’s cameras. Zooming in reveals surprising details of both the girl and her goat. But the landscape is pretty blurry; zooming in makes it worse. By contrast, the trees and reeds in the background of the new image, taken with my Fujifilm X-E4, are clearer though not sharp, probably because I was trying to be stealthy rather than capture the perfect shot.
My favourite of these two photos is the one taken in 1941.
295. Walked on a beach where the driftline was peppered with blue things, mostly bluebottles.
296. Been married 40 years today. That’s unusual.
297. Stopped to look at a large vertical rock on the beach but couldn’t get close to it because of storms and a high tide, but noticed there were several memorial plaques nailed to it.
298. Was thrilled to see three cygnets on a pond today where there have been none so far this spring.
299. At 4.30 this afternoon loud music started up opposite my place, then dancers in traditional costume danced in a circle outside the Nepalese restaurant while a guy on a mic announced to passers-by that they could join in.
300. Saw several front yards in the neighbourhood fully decorated with Halloween stuff like some do at Christmas. Never saw this in previous years.
301. Got some shortbread biscuits called EET-SUM-MOR from the new South African shop near me.
288. Watched an adult woman climb a rock-climbing wall in a children’s playground.
289. Saw two boys who had caught a yellow fish at the pond. Possibly a type of goldfish, grown large out of the fishbowl.
290. Went to a pub named Sirens which is opposite the Ambulance/Police/Fire Brigade building.
291. Received some free journals from an editor I read for as a volunteer. Included was a card explaining the numbers on the Front Matter page of a journal that tell us which print run the copy is from; in this case it’s print run no. 1. I checked out a book I knew had been printed more than once, Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (translated by Sandra Smith); the last number is 3, meaning it’s the 3rd printing, I think. The numbers are not in a regular order. Books seem to have a different system.
292. Saw last year’s nest for Welcome Swallows being re-used. It’s on a light fitting.
293. Saw a class of kids being taught how to ride bikes in a skate park. Didn’t know this was being taught by schools.
294. Watched fish jumping out of the pond surface and splashing around. Filmed it and caught myself singing in the background: Summer time, And the livin’ is easy, fish are jumpin’…
Today I’ve pulled out a photo of some bamboo scaffolding from my father’s World War Two album. Next to it, I’m placing a photo I took a few weeks ago of some scaffolding against an apartment block under construction.
While the old 1940s photo is blurry, it’s clear enough to tell us that the scaffolding is made of bamboo and not metal. The photo might have been taken in India, for my father stopped there on his way back to Australia, and bamboo scaffolding is still used in India.
This photo has the feel of an old black and white movie. I can almost imagine it as part of an action scene. By contrast, my new photo is sharp and ideally produces the straight lines of modern metal scaffolding, but is definitely inanimate. Patterns of sun and shadows as well as the crooked lines of the bamboo in the old pic give it life in spite of its fuzziness. It’s my favourite of the two photos today.
281. After the constant rain of the past days, a local stream has flooded and a little bridge is under a heap of water. I couldn’t continue my walk.
282. Our son gave us a coffee tamper to use with our Italian manual coffee machine (which he also chose). He assured us the expensive tamper would make better coffee, and we’re surprised that tightly compacting the coffee grounds does actually make it taste better.
283. At an exhibition of Cressida Campbell’s woodblock prints today, I saw a huge mural blown up from one of her prints, made by her husband Warren Macris, a photographic printmaker. The original is 4.2 m long, and the mural is 30 m long.
Kitchen Shelf by Cressida Campbell
Detail of blown up mural by Warren Macris of Cressida Campbell’s ‘Kitchen Shelf’
284. A son I haven’t seen for 7 months arrived today and told me my hair is turning grey. No one has ever said this to my face.
285. A new shop near my place is selling ‘African Groceries and Goodies’ and is run by a South African. Today a South African relative of ours came to visit so I told her about the shop, and she went there.
286. Visited a woman today who spoke cruelly, and, immediately after, I opened a book by Javier Marías and read this sentence: “She usually had her reasons for being cruel, and her indifference was a matter of self-defence.” Strange coincidence.
287. Saw a woman walking through the shopping centre in a skin-coloured bodysuit, neck to ankles, with 6-inch black heels. She went to the clothing alteration booth, picked up a trench coat and put it on.
274. Came upon a large structural artwork in a redeveloped part of town that was once industrial wasteland. Each of the 36 massive pillars has water dribbling down from the top and dripping heavily on the ground. Its name is LESS. By Chilean architect Pezo von Ellrichshausen.
275. Daylight saving began today and I was completely unaware until I looked at the time on my phone later this morning. This is the first time in my life I haven’t been prepared for it.
276. Today I saw five grass parrots in the grass and one butterfly on my butterfly bush.
277. I drove behind a car this morning that had 2 identical stickers on the back that said “The closer you get the slower I go.” He was doing 36 kph in a 60 zone.
278. Today I received a record confirming my convict ancestor is buried in a small church graveyard in Sydney. I’ve been looking for him for 7 years.
279. Walked into a small department store today and was confronted by a mass of creepy Halloween paraphernalia. And today is only the 6th October, several weeks before the actual Halloween date. Even the local hairdresser has decorated her salon with the stuff. Until a few years ago, Australians didn’t celebrate this at all.
280. It has rained for 3 days and 3 nights. In 25 years I’ve never seen the rain continue for so long without a break in this dry city.
Not far from where I live there is some excellent graffiti of faces painted on a series of light-coloured walls beneath an overpass. It’s in black and grey, so there wasn’t much to lose by photographing it in black and white, which I did a few weeks ago. The graffiti artist signed his work Voir.
I’m comparing my photo with one from a 1941 album of pictures taken during World War Two, near Tobruk in Libya. The mural is an ad for Abbots Lager, painted by an Australian soldier in 1941, for a beer produced in Melbourne. I’ve read that the mural is painted on the side of an Italian blockhouse. (The Australians were fighting the Italians.)
What’s immediately noticeable is that the writing is sharp and clear in the photo I took recently, but a bit blurry in the 1941 image. I zoomed in on the old picture to try to read the writing in the bottom right corner, but I can only make out A.I.F. (Australian Imperial Force). I can’t read much on the bottle label except Export Abbots Lager. By contrast, zooming right in on the new photo reveals very little blurring at all on the left and I can even read the artist’s name on the QR code, John Voir.
The clarity of the new image reminds me of the excellent reproductions of artworks we find in art books produced these days. Our modern cameras enable us (even me) to produce such good photos where the viewer has a sense of being in front of the painting. The older image here, like those in old art books, is slightly frustrating with its fuzzy writing. The new one is my favourite this time.