An old axiom goes along the lines of: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words‘. That axiom has some history behind it but I don’t fully subscribe to it in the way that it’s often interpreted. However, I feel much more comfortable with a related one that says ‘Every picture tells a story‘ (not the Rod Stewart one). While the two may sound similar, I think there are some fundamental differences between what they mean or how they can be interpreted. The former suggests, to me, that a picture is proof or evidence of something, while the latter suggests that a picture evokes questions, emotions or one’s imagination. So what is my story all about? Well, it’s a bit of navel gazing as I’ve been giving thought to the things that I write and photograph for this blog, why I do so and where it might lead or what else I might do to keep it relevant (for me anyway).
While I’ve always been interested in photography, I’ve also been of a mind that what I really wanted to do was to be involved in science research of one form or another (I’ve always been a science geek). I studied engineering for a while but found much of it uninteresting, especially civil engineering, though I was fascinated by the newly emerging materials engineering and the things photography revealed (subconsciously I think). But I gave up engineering studies and, after a short hiatus, went and studied photographic technology at what was, at the time, the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) and graduated with an Applied Science Degree. My aim was to move into some form of research field where I could put my photography to use but, as with everything in life, an opportunity offered itself and I went off in a slightly different direction, though still directly related to photography. That led to other work and then a period well away from work that had anything to do with photography, but a lot to do with technology.
It was only when I started this blog did I realise that my past thoughts about my photography were somewhat misplaced. While I’m still very much interested in technology, it’s documentary photography (for want of a better description) that I think I’ve always been interested in but never realised. Maybe it’s come to the forefront lately due to what I’ve done in life as, when I look back on what I’ve done, it’s always been about recording events and history of sorts. The irony is that while I was undertaking my photography course, next door there were other students studying illustrative photography which, for some, may have led to a career in documentary photography or photojournalism. It’s also ironic is that for a number of years I was a news and sports photographer and loved the work that involved, and my very last job for many years, before my semi-retirement, was in science research where I was able to include my photography interests in my main job. So, in a way, I’ve been doing what I’ve subconsciously wanted to do without realising, until I started this blog. If that makes any sense.
It’s also quite surprising to me that I’ve never enjoyed photography more than since I started this blog, and that’s despite the fact that it can often be a fairly hard slog producing stories with relevant photographs. Sometimes I’m confronted with writer’s block but, because I start drafts whenever anything comes to mind that might be worthy of consideration, I usually have the skeleton of a story partly ready to go if necessary. I always have an open mind about any subject matter and always carry my camera with me, so both tend to contribute to some form of content that can hopefully be moulded into a story. I’ve also been writing for several decades now, but more in a technical environment than a journalistic one, so writing now comes quite naturally to me. That’s not to suggest that I’m a great writer, but at least I don’t have difficulty stringing a few words together when required.
I’ve also come to realise that I like variety in my photography, rather than specialising in just one or two genres, and that goes for my writing as well. I’m fine with the fact that it may make me a ‘Jack of all Trades’, rather than a ‘Master of One’ (or two) styles, but there’s just too much going on in the world to become fixated on just one or two subjects or styles. This blog also focusses (no pun intended), predominantly, on a particular sub-set of Australia and Victoria, so perhaps I’m not being quite the Jack of All Trades, as I’m more interested in Gippsland and what happens here, rather than other parts of Victoria or Australia. And it really doesn’t hurt living in an area where there’s always something of interest afoot, where you’re not numbed by the restlessness and urgency, but at the same time the dullness of suburban life (though obviously not everyone sees suburbia in that way).
And by both writing and taking photographs, it’s opened my eyes to many things that I know I would have missed in the past (and I still miss things, only realising later and then lamenting the missed opportunity), but the blog has made me look at the world more openly and also made me view the things around me in a more considered way. I’m not sure if that’s necessarily a good thing, as I’m now always looking for a story wherever I go, but it makes me pay more attention to what’s happening around me. I just hope it doesn’t become like what happens with many tourists, who are so intent on getting selfies or the perfect photograph of a scene, that they don’t actually appreciate what’s around them. I hope that I won’t fall into that trap, but if I do, I hope that I pick up on it quickly.
I’m not quite sure what I’ve achieved with this story, but I’m sure that some wonder what it is that motivates someone to produce a blog and to keep it going year after year. For me it’s something that not only stimulates the mind, but it makes me far more aware of life around me. I don’t stop enjoying things at the expense of a story; but I try to capture moments and, if one day they can form part of a story, then all well and good. Another thing that influences me to maintain this blog is the fact that it’s recorded in the National Library of Australia archives. When researching information for many of my stories about Gippsland, there’s often a dearth of information and so maybe this blog will provide at least a partial record of life in Gippsland for future generations. But most of all, it’s the feedback that I get, both in comments and personally, that indicates that my efforts aren’t entirely vain and that they provide a modicum of enjoyment to others as well.
Update: And no sooner than I’d posted this story, I received this letter expressing thanks for what is a mere fraction of the work that the committee and volunteers, who enabled the festival, have contributed throughout last year and this year.