The Story Behind The Picture


My Life With Cameras

I love most art forms. To show and tell a story, I have often wondered if film and photography are the art form that truly capture the essence of a story. As a story-teller, I often ‘cheat’ by throwing in an image to complete the imagery ‘in’ my story. I see many bloggers use images this way, and it is great. As you are reading my stories, I want you to see and visualise the events, emotions, and actions with me. We are in the story together. Now, imagine if we did not have pictures; how could we, story-tellers, tell a story? I know how hard it is to describe a scene, simply. How many words and sentences do we need to describe every picture, and every scene we wish to create in our readers’ minds?

Between 1980-2000, in my news print days, I carried a Nikon FE2 with me in PNG. I must admit, I was in-love with this camera.  It took two decades of pictures with me. These pictures hit front newspaper pages and glossed magazines. I entered and won competitions. I could not have been a true journalist without it. Being a photojournalist, assisted by FE2, we took stories to another level.

Sadly, I do not use this camera anymore. Apart from losing the mirrors inside the FE2’s body to some hungry mould, I paid over $AUD600 for repair, and never got the mould completely removed. The mould began feeding and grew again. I still have the FE2 with me because we have too many memories together. I cannot use it, and I cannot bare the thought of losing it.

These days, everything has moved to digital. Over the years, trying to save money for a new ‘real’ camera has not been successful. Family, mortgage and many other urgencies always top the priority list. Without a good camera, I often wonder how many great shots I have missed in so many years. I stare for hours at photographs and  pin them on Pinterest and the net. I wonder how I could have taken these pictures differently; using light, better angle or simply, showing the object better. Fellow blogger/photographers, you know I am checking your pictures out, and I am looking at your pictures in awe and with some jealousy.  This is envy that is not evil but respectful.  A somewhat sad feeling about how much I have missed in my photography. I have long resigned to the fact that –that’s life!

Going Digital

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In-coming tide on Tami Island, Lae, Morobe Province, PNG. Picture JLeahy. 2008

I still take pictures with the phone, and small digital cameras. A few years ago, I had a digital pocket sized Nikon I bought from a Cash Converters store. It accompanied me conveniently for its size. The FE2, and its lenses was sometimes hard to lug about.  After doing some solid photographic work, the little camera’s bottom broke. There is a pin inside the battery cage which broke and the camera batteries would protrude out and lose power.  So, I taped the bottom and kept using the camera.  When a moment presented itself, the photographer would need to press harder on the tape to keep the batteries in and take the shot. Only I used it expertly. It was hard work instructing others to handle the little camera in her special needs. If less pressure was applied, the camera did not work. Sounds like a joke right? The camera worked most times and I was proud of it.

The Right Equipment

Anyway, the point I am making is that, when and if you have a great equipment for your work or even artwork – everything flows beautifully. Just imagine when you don’t and the moment presents itself. In 2008, I was on Tami Island, Papua New Guinea doing my field research into how climate change affected intangible cultures.

I travelled with my mother and my broken-bottom pocket Nikon. The bottom was taped and, we went to a place at least a few hours in up the coast, in a boat, so there was no such thing as batteries nor camera shops.

I took several photos with the bad-bottom camera, and one picture has become a favourite. I had to mention this picture because, it is not only I that thinks it a wonderful picture, but strangers have complimented the photo, hundreds of times. I posted this picture on About Me, on my Page and each day, I can get numerous compliments and comments about this picture.

The Story of This Picture

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Morning light on Awaho flowers, Tami Island, Lae, PNG. Picture, JLeahy. 2008

In the days my mother and I stayed on Wanem Island, we would wake in the morning to crisp breezes, beautiful skies and chatters of seagulls and other birds flying by, searching for food. The village was a separated by trees and coconuts. The only sound was the soft waves,  gently slapping the sandy beach. At least three metres in, from the water’s edge, the beach was lined with various soft and hardwood natives, and one we call the Awaho. This tree has many uses. Its timber is used for building, the leaves for cooking food in, and the bark for making clothing, as well as ropes. At the end of its life, the Awaho wood is a very good firewood.

Each morning, before we woke, the Awaho trees would start dropping their flowers on the hardened, cleaned sand, left by the receding low-tide. The flowers would be placed randomly but precisely, so it did not clutter. These droppings ravished the beach with these delicate burnt orange flowers with deep carmine centres. From each of the rich red-wine centre protruded a pale feathery, sticky pale stem with a red tip. Seeing the flowers on that beach for the first time, I thought someone had laid the flowers out. By the end of the day, before the flowers have completely wilted, the tide would come in, and sweep the flowers away before the shadows melted into darkness. If you swam at night, you would see the flower floating amongst the flotsam. In the morning, the white beach would be cleaned and ready. Once again,  the Awaho’s bouquets would arrive, and scattered across the white sandy beach. The cycle began all over, a picture and a moment of Mother Nature’s artwork. I would have never captured this images without the broken-bottom pocket Nikon.

 

 

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