Monday, April 30, 2007

The Spirit of working

When I was in Japan, I was struck by the pride that people took in their work. In Singapore we seem to be obsessed with idols and millionaires. We are either at the top or we just working stiffs doing what it needs to collect to paycheck.

I have already introduced the tempura chef, who apprenticed for years and then worked for several more before getting any real money. He owns a small shop in Tokyo that most people in the world will never know. But he is an artist who works daily to understand his ingredients and how to bring out the best flavours in them. He shows his ingredients respect and loves his work. He has a small clientele, but an appreciative one.

As a photographer, I think that an obsession with fame and fortune is unhealthy. There is a focus on what is necessary to garner attention, but the resulting work tends to lack depth. And then there are photographers who arrive because they have become known and become complacent.

I think as a photographer (or you can substitute any artistic career here), one should gain satisfaction from the act of photography. The real reward comes from continual practise and study. I think of my photography like a travelling samurai, constantly practising, honing one's skill and challenging stronger opponents. And there is a code of honour. And there is a celebration of life, where the ultimate skill is to have not drawn the sword, but settle a dispute through negotiation.

Each day I try and learn more about being alive in this world we inhabit. And I try in my images to bring out the experience of life, as a prompt to other people to live their lives fully. The work does not necessarily have a huge commercial potential. But I know that a small group of people really appreciate it and in a handful of cases it has inspired people enough to mold their lives. And can inspiring people to work hard and live life well be bad?

When one lives to walk the chosen path, instead of working to pay the bills and take a holiday, the effort and struggle simply become part of the process. There is no instant fame and fortune. Our lives will be like a stream, slowly creating smooth rocks from jagged ones.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The nature of our Self-delusions

It seems to me that we live in a world mesmerized by the marketing of technology. A lifestyle has evolved based on consumerism and it seems to be our downfall. The addiction to convenience, the short MTV attention spans of people, the avalanche of stimulus, has resulted in a world full of people, strangely aware of their impending doom, but unable to save ourselves. We have have heard of mass hysteria before, I think that this is mass self-denial on a global scale. There is global warming, it will make our lives hell. And it is too inconvenient to do anything about it.

It is scary on some level knowing how sane, knowledgeable people, the scientists, whose voices are being lost in a sea of communication spam. But I meet so many people who are caught up in their own self-delusions. Each person trying to find love and comfort... looking at the promises of what a new phone or computer or hair dye will do. So many of us are denying our own personal issues while the mind-numbing effects of consumerism blinds us to the rot that is setting inside ourselves. We get depressed and want to take a pill to fix it instead of going through therapy. We want to eat unhealthy food and take another pill to counteract the ill effects. We want to be slim but do not want to exercise, another pill. We are impatient if any of the pills take time to take effect. We do not care if the pill solves the root problem, if it apparently takes the pain away from us.

Don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with pills, technology and finding better ways of doing things. But there is no panacea. We have to still work hard to become good at our work. It takes time and effort to nurture a relationship. It takes courage to look at our own flaws and determination to overcome the discomfort.

What am I trying to say in a short post, (but probably already too long for the attention challenged youtube generation)?
I am saying that there are no shortcuts in living a full life. There is no single answer to the question of life. There is no clear path ahead. And it is more important to find out what you want to life your life for and how to go about it than who is the next winner of survivor. All those movies about perfect people are bullshit. We all have issues and need to constantly heal ourselves. It is not a spa, Loreal shampoo will not help you get the hunk. And what are you going to do with the hunk anyway?????

I have issues, real and imagined. I have inherited a tendency for diabetes, high-cholesterol and depression. I have aspirations I can never fulfil. But I am also fortunate to be able to have a career I am happy to wake up to each morning. I have a few good friends and staff. My life is a mixture of ups and downs, good luck and bad luck. And it is better for me to go on. To face each problem with courage, to be open to new possibilities and find the resources to deal with deep issues.

Fame and riches is such a waste when you are in and out of rehab. When things around you fall apart anyway.

What are you refusing to face? If we cannot face our own personal demons, how are we going to save ourselves from global crisis?

Doll Face

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cherry Blossom

I am sorry about not updating recently. I have been working very hard and that is good. It makes me happy to know that all the work in restructuring The Pond is paying off.

Here are a couple of shots of cherry blossoms from my recent trip to Japan.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Ella and Zul making friends in Japan

'Pssst... She looks human, not giraffe.'

Friends to eat Sashimi with.

'Wow, this girl needs to get out in the sun more. Running wild in Africa will be good!'

'We should have brought the woof translator.'

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Communicating In Japan

Ella and Zul phone home.

All those Japanese Characters are confusing.

Hey! Picture books... not. :(

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Elephant Joke

Do you know how elephants hide themselves?

They paint their balls red and hide in Cherry trees.

Have you ever seen an elephant in a Cherry tree?

See how well it works?

Do you know how Tarzan died?

He went picking Cherries.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Making money in photography

This is the conclusion I have come to recently. I am not making a living. I am just living doing what I love.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A turn of events and Kabuki

This holiday was intended to be laid back and confined to Tokyo. Unexpectedly, I went on a day trip to Kamakura and really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much that my friend Rika, convinced me that I should visit Kyoto. So I hopped onto the Shikansen, or bullet train, and headed out to Kyoto. It was interesting, full of temples, castles, old streets and tourists. It is the high season because of the cherry blossoms, and rightly so. Some of the scenery is truely beautiful.

But while in Kyoto, I was told by Rika that her son caught influenza and has a high fever. He spent several hours in the hospital. So for my own sake, I could not stay with them for the rest of my trip. I spent an extra night in Kyoto and am now staying in a hotel in Ginza for my last two nights. Why this long story? Because I basically cannot upload images on the hotel's computers. So I am afraid that you will all have to wait till I get back to Singapore. And I am sorry Ead, no hot women photographs.

But I had a treat tonight. I went to watch a form of traditional Japanese theatre called Kabuki. I met a couple of local Japanese yesterday in Kyoto who said that they have never been to Kabuki because it is too expensive and they could not understand the classical Japanese spoken in Kabuki. As a visual person I have enjoyed Kabuki in London before. There is another form of traditional theatre called Noh which I failed to be engaged in. The nice thing about tonight's performance is that there is an accompanying ear set you can rent for an English translation. In the interval there is an introduction to Kabuki. The narrator explains that Kabuki and English theatre are different. In English theatre, it is reprsentational, creating a representation of reality and getting the audience to emotionally respond to the theme or story. Kabuki is presentational. It presents a theatrical experience and does not hide it. The main object is the actor and the over riding goal is that his presentation is beautiful. The story and reality of the narrative are secondary and are devices for the Kabuki actors to perform.

I believe that anyone who is visually inclined can appreciate Kabuki, it is a visual art. Noh theatre is much more difficult as it is a literary theatre form. You have to be not just a textural person, but a classical Japanese textural person.

But I love this idea of the representational versus the presentational. In photography, some work like photojournalism, represents a reality reported. But work like Edward Weston's figure studies or Ansel Adam's landscapes are presentational. The presentational work are objects in themselves and get an emotional response from the form of the image. What an idea to come across in Japan!

Monday, April 02, 2007

Kamakura and Tempura

The Peony garden in front of the Hachiman shrine, Kamakura. The perfect place for Ella and Zul to admire cherry blossoms.

A lot of sake gets donated to the shrine and Ella and Zul had a taste!

Ella and Zul take a walk in the hills behind the temples and get lost.
Zul: "I am sure its this way."
Ella: "Just ask someone already."
Zul: "I don:t think the Japanese here talk to the animals."

Ok. And I had the best tempura in my life today. That is two meals of Japanese food that I am going to find hard to eat anywhere else in the world now. The ingredients are all fresh. And instead of dunking the battered food in soya sauce, you eat most of it with a little salt! The ingredients are all fresh, and cooked to bring out the flavour and colours. The chef apprenticed for 15 years before he started earning money. And it took him another five years before he earned any decent money. Makes me think about my own 'short' career in photography.

The restaurant is in the Ebisu region and is called Tempura. It is a mind blowing exprience.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

First day in Tokyo

Travelling on the Tokyo underground.

Shopping for clothes with helpful shop assistants.

Buying cakes to bring to Singapore for friends at the Asakusa shrine.

Viewing cherry blossoms in the evening.