Marking time on me
Mike Johnston, who writes the Online photographer blog, has asked his readers to send in pictures of their favourite cameras. I expect to see gorgeous photographs of shiny chrome and dazzling glass. Camera porn.
Since I bought my first camera at the age of ten I have owned about two dozen cameras of various brands—Bolex, Cambo, Canon, Graphic, Kodak, Linhof, Olympus, Pentax. Every one of those cameras was a careful choice, and I liked every one of them. Too many favourites.
So I have chosen to send Mike a photo in which the camera is incidental, a minor detail. I had a long and productive partnership with that camera but it’s the story that matters, not the object.
In 1972, while I was getting ready to go travelling, my mother’s mother came to stay for a few weeks. Granny took an interest in my preparations. Together we reviewed the kit I had started to assemble—a sturdy canvas H-frame backpack with leather straps, homemade cloth bags with drawstring closures for organising the contents of the backpack, a down-filled japara sleeping bag, a pair of hiking boots, and so forth. I wanted to take only what I would need, and I wanted everything to be fit for purpose.
She asked me what socks I intended to take. I didn’t have an answer, but she did: I would need hand-knitted woollen socks, and she would make them. She specified the size of knitting needles she needed (a set of three, pointed on both ends) and the right kind of wool. Once she had these things she set about producing the socks, while we continued to talk.
My grandmother Vera Alice Nixon was born in Orbost in Victoria in 1894 so she was a young woman at the time of the Great War. She saw the young men of the district, and of her family, go off to the war. Some of them came home horribly damaged. And some never came back.
Vera had joined other women who knitted socks for the soldiers—an act of solidarity and support for the men. She told me about receiving a letter from a soldier at the front who was grateful for the socks, but who was troubled by the small stones that got inside his boots when he ran across rocky ground. Vera and her friends had the idea of adding a skirt attached to the sock just above the boot-top, which could be folded over the boot and stop those pesky stones getting in.
Bad business at Mowbray Park
This morning I spoke at a rally at the East Brisbane Croquet Club lawns in Mowbray Park, opposing the appalling plan by the Brisbane City Council to build two apartment towers in the park.
It looks like the citizens of East Brisbane will have to mobilize again, and stand up for the things they value.
I met him just once, and heard him speak several times, and feel the expected sadness at his passing. Many of his accomplishments made a direct difference to me, to say nothing of their effect on so many other people.
I heard Martin Grunstein at the Institute of Architects the other day, speaking about How architects can make profits in a challenging environment.
Martin made some unflattering generalisations about architects’ websites. He even offered to help anyone in the audience to make theirs better. I sent him an email after the talk and, a few days later, he responded.
He liked this website but he told me—you need to have a stronger selling focus to it because the purpose of your site is to get people to hire your services. He said I should write a list of reasons for clients to hire me, and put it on the front page.
So I thought of six reasons and wrote them down.
A visit to Auckland
My interview on Radio New Zealand stirred the Auckland Council to ask me to come and talk about the experience of protecting the character of residential areas in Brisbane. Through the whole of Monday and half of Tuesday I had a queue of meetings and presentations. My visit made some ripples in the press—here is a selection:»more»
Learning from Brisbane
All the various local government areas of Auckland in New Zealand have been mashed together to make one super-council. (Something similar was done here in Brisbane in the 1920s). A new town plan is being prepared for Auckland, and there is hot debate about protecting the character of older residential areas. We had a similar debate in Brisbane back in the 1990s.»more»
View from the 18th floor
I’m at work at Dent Island Lighthouse, for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority. Dent Island faces the Whitsunday Passage and is about 18 km from Shute Harbour. The nearest accommodation is at Hamilton Island, a short ferry ride away. Life is hard.»more»
This is a day to remember our mothers.»more»
And we discussed a design brief for a weekend retreat. Margie and I have been going to the Bunya Mountains for years, and have stayed in various rented houses and cabins. We always enjoy ourselves, but we find the rental houses deficient. For one thing, they never seem to be equipped with the sorts of books that are needed during a week at the Bunyas.»more»
I haven’t shot any Kodachrome for years, but I feel a slight sadness knowing that I’ll never be able to do so again. Kodak stopped selling the film a year ago, and the last Kodachrome lab in the world (Dwayne’s Photo Service, in Kansas) will stop processing the film in the next few days. This marks the end of a long run—since 1935—for a film that was noted for its sharpness, colour fidelity and archival stability.»more»
Visited: San Giorgio Maggiore»more»
Uses for a mobile phone
In my little box of 19th century prints is a steel engraving of a drawing by Thomas Allom of the interior of the Panthéon in Paris. It’s not especially rare or valuable, but I like it for the quality of the print and the connection with my former architectural partner Richard Allom (distantly related to Thomas).
I wanted to ‘re-photograph’ the scene that Thomas Allom drew, so I needed a copy for reference. A google search turned up a print-dealer’s online catalog with an image of the Panthéon print, which I copied to my phone. With this in my hand, I found the right spot to stand. I can vouch for the general accuracy of the drawing, with a proviso. I think it is based on a properly set-up perspective drawing, but using a point of view outside the building—impossible, in other words, because this view is blocked by the front wall of the building.
With my widest lens (Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L on EOS 5D), and with my back against the wall, I could not get all the parts of the ceiling that Allom showed into the picture. Not, that is, unless I tipped the camera up and caused the columns to topple, and that would never do.»more»
Lesley Marquis-Kyle 1923-2010
I did think that the old dress code might still apply at the Queensland Club. I should have acted on that thought yesterday, instead of arriving without a coat and tie. Staff of the club graciously took me aside and fitted me with a jacket and tie from the rack of items kept for times like this.
I was at the club to talk to a group of members who gather each month to hear a lecture about some historical subject. Several dozen men, mostly retired professionals, sat down to lunch of salmon and vegetables, then heard my talk about Queensland lighthouse history. We had some excellent discussion, very good-humoured and companionable.»more»
Engineering heritage conference in Dunedin
I have just spent a couple of weeks in New Zealand, at the 3rd Australasian Engineering Heritage Conference and visiting various sites in Otago. I presented a paper on Queensland’s timber and iron lighthouses: 19th century colonial innovation [pdf, 165KB].»more»
Lighthouse life in Queensland
It was my pleasure today to talk to members of the Queensland Women’s Historical Association on the subject of lighthouse life in Queensland. The association hosts morning talks each month at Miegunyah, its house museum at Bowen Hills. Before the talk we gathered on the verandah for introductions and chat. There were white table cloths, tea in china cups, and platters of dainty sandwiches. It was a warmish day, and kind ladies handed out fans to the members as they filed into the dining room for the talk.
My audience really enjoyed seeing a series of photographs of the Byrne family, taken at Sandy Cape Lightstation between 1903 and 1913. The photos are now in the John Oxley Library collection, and published on the web. The Byrne family story is also told as one chapter in the library’s virtual exhibition Travelling for love.»more»
The new website I have been building for Rex Addison is now live.»more»
Talking to volunteer lighthouse guides
Today, at a seminar for volunteer museum guides at the National Maritime Museum, I spoke on Cape Bowling Green lighthouse in historical context. The hundred or so enthusiastic volunteers had some terrific questions, and there was some lively discussion after the talk. I prepared a small handout (pdf, 673 KB).»more»
Keeping up appearances
My old push bike has started to look daggy parked outside the polished granite foyers of city offices. It rides well, but the frame is rusty and the back tyre is balding. Time for a makeover and spoke-polishing.»more»
Timber and iron in the smart colony
Yesterday I gave a talk at the Queensland Museum, part of a series called Queensland Connections. In this series, speakers about cultural heritage subjects are teamed with Queensland Museum staffers who talk about natural environment subjects. The result is short talks and odd double-bills.»more»
At last, a Daniel Marquis photograph
I am now the owner of an original carte-de-visite photograph by my distant relative Daniel Marquis, proprietor of a photographic studio in George Street, Brisbane. He established the studio in 1866, not long after arriving from Scotland. He died in 1879.»more»
I’m busy with the lighthouse inspections, so I won’t be writing anything original here for a while. Let this engraving mark the time I am spending offshore. Islands have such evocative names: Who would not want to go to South Solitary Island, or Booby Island, or Low Isle, or Cliffy Island?»more»
I’m at Kangaroo Island, inspecting lighthouses. Today’s subject was the Cape St Alban Lighthouse, which deserves an award for cuteness.»more»
In June 1972 I took a TAA flight from Darwin to Portugese Timor, as it then was. To me, it was a wonderfully strange and exotic place, a time-warped colonial leftover. A great start to my adventure.
Today, with Australian troops on the way to Timor again, I am thinking about the people I met there, and the hard times they have had.»more»
Cape Byron lighthouse
I was doing some survey work at Cape Byron lighthouse yesterday. In the tower, on the level below the main light, there is a window facing Julian Rocks not far offshore. A red light in this window gives warning to sailors to watch out for the hazard. It also makes a magic atmosphere inside the lighthouse.»more»
Just back from Straddie…»more»
Father’s day ponderings
My treat this morning: breakfast, then reading in bed — Henry Petroski’s The book on the bookshelf. He has a chapter about the development of private studies and how books were stored in them. His mention of pictures of Saint Jerome in his study sent me off to the big book of Albrecht Dürer.
Jerome (AD331-420), patron saint of librarians, was a frequent subject for Dürer. I’ve chosen an early woodcut from the year 1492 for dissection below. It does not have the brilliant perspective of his 1514 copper engraving, nor the wonderful human detail of his 1521 panel painting, but it has something else: a bed.
Jerome, who translated the bible into ordinary Latin, appears in the woodcut sitting at work in his study, which is smartly equipped in the style of the 1490s. As someone who spends much of his working time in a study, I am struck by similarities with my own setup.»more»
Celebrating the Illustrated Burra Charter
In this, my three-hundredth posting to Marking time, I want to record that The Illustrated Burra Charter: Good Practice for Heritage Places has been launched.
Writing this book has been a long project for Meredith Walker and me. I have already mentioned it here a few times - at first draft, final draft, proofing, and printing stages. This is a project that seemed like it would never end. But now it has.»more»
Another milestone passed. Tonight I saw the first sheets of the book cover come off the press. I went out to the printing works and watched the press operators run a series of test sheets through the press, measure the density of the colour control patches and tune the ink flow to different parts of the plates.
The book cover includes nine photographs. Except for one digital camera file, they are all reproduced from scans that I made of prints, transparencies and negatives. I had to learn some new tricks, and I was apprehensive about the result. It was a relief to see accurate colour reproductions coming off the press, and a pleasure to sign the approved stamp on the sample sheet.»more»
From Sally, an invitation:
You are invited to Father’s Night
This is a night when you and I can play with the things that I love doing at preschool. We will finish with supper so could you please bring a very small plate of food to share.
Checking the proofs
At last. The book should be on the press this week.»more»
I am writing this from New Zealand, where I am installed with my family in a borrowed house. See more about this in my new photoblog House swapping.»more»
Sam Pepys kepys me sane
Daily doses of Samuel Pepys’ diary, administered via the web, put my present frustrations into perspective. Here’s Sam’s entry for 31 March 1661:
At church, where a stranger preached like a fool. From thence home and dined with my wife, she staying at home, being unwilling to dress herself, the house being all dirty. To church again, and after sermon I walked to my father’s, and to Mrs. Turner’s, where I could not woo The. to give me a lesson upon the harpsicon and was angry at it. So home and finding Will abroad at Sir W. Batten’s talking with the people there (Sir W. and my Lady being in the country), I took occasion to be angry with him, and so to prayers and to bed.
Evidence of humanity
Today I noticed my name in an unexpected place—a list of 50 Random Sites on Witold Riedel’s blog. Thanks Witold for declaring me human.»more»
On Friday in the dentist’s waiting room Margie found this in a Reader’s Digest:
I can tell you, taking 11 years to write one book is a killer financially, a blow to the base of the skull mentally and physically, hell for your family, a slovenly imposition upon all concerned—in short, an inexcusable performance verging on shameful. Nevertheless, that was how long it took me to write one book, a novel called ‘A Man in Full’. Eleven years. My children grew up thinking that was all I did: write, and never finish, a book called ‘A Man in Full’.—Tom Wolfe
New Zealand sabbatical
In early April I’m off to New Zealand with Margie and our two girls. For four months. While Margie does a stint at the National Library in Wellington, I’ll cook, clean, and look after children.
Some other things I might do:»more»
My daughter Sally (4 ¾ years old) made this drawing. I said, “Oh, I like that spotted dog! What sort of dog is that?” She said, “It’s a damnation”.»more»
Telling tales: the poster
I have made a poster for the telling tales conference, to illustrate the points I raised yesterday. Its a bunch of pages from this site displayed as if in open browser windows, lined up to speak for themselves.»more»
Telling tales on the web
I’m going to the Australia ICOMOS Telling tales: interpretation in the conservation and design process conference in Sydney.
Conference-goers are invited to bring posters on the theme of innovative concepts and media to communicate heritage meanings. This got me thinking about the ways I use this website to tell stories about people and places, and what makes it a good medium.»more»
An email from Miles Hochstein: Enjoyed your reverse chronological autobio… and listed it here: It’s a little different from the others, but I liked your thoroughness and graphics. Well thanks Miles, I liked yours too.
Today Margie and I took our daughters to visit the grave of their mother’s father’s mother’s father and mother. It’s in Dutton Park, the site of the proposed bus bridge that I have mentioned before.»more»
Today, Father’s Day, Lucy gave me this, and told me not to unwrap it. I should hold it near my heart, since it is filled with her love. Gulp.»more»
Too much bamboo
Yes Jeremy, there is such a thing as too much bamboo.
Outside my study window, on the other side of the road, is a stand of bamboo. It grows intermixed with Bougainvillea and brings me pleasure as it waves in the breeze.»more»
We’re just back from a week at the Bunya Mountains. Refreshed.»more»
Why I don’t sing in public
This could happen to me. Thanks to Jeremy for the link.
The month of May
Lest the month go by without leaving anything in the archive, I should explain myself. Meredith Walker and I have handed over the last draft of the new Illustrated Burra Charter book. The project-with-no-end will soon be finished.»more»
Here’s a drawing my daughter Sally ( who just turned four) did today. She explained: “It’s me. I’ve got a fringe and plaits. I am wearing a green checked dress. I’m smiling. My name is Sally.”»more»
I spent last week out west — at Longreach, Ilfracombe, Isisford, Blackall, Barcaldine, Winton, Kynuna, and other places in the district. While I wait to get the photographs back from the lab I am sorting through my notes and impressions: the heat, the drought-struck land, the stoical people. And the flies.»more»
Just back from North Stradbroke Island.»more»
Everything Bucky knew
Everything I know is a complete video, audio and text record of a Richard Buckminster Fuller talkathon:»more»
New year’s resolution
To really understand how the T90 and 300TL interact in all their modes.»more»
Traditional fire warning rhythm
Jeremy Hedley, an Australian in Tokyo, has posted a sound clip on his blog. He writes:»more»
On Monday nights I meet friends in a Sunday-school room and sing — for pleasure and refreshment. We don’t aspire to excellence (which, for me, is just as well).»more»
I spent today at a photographic preservation workshop, looking closely at daguerreotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and other early photographs, and learning how to care for them. Thanks to Lydia Egunnike, conservator at the State Library of Queensland, for an excellent session. My little collection is in for some tender loving care.»more»
How I spend my days
Today, at Wolston Park Hospital, formerly Woogaroo Asylum.»more»
Happy 40th birthday, Melissa Louise Petersen!»more»
Well, this is the last day of June, and this is only the second post for the month. My focus has been on a new, improved Illustrated Burra Charter, now at first draft stage. This is a joint project with my friend and colleague Meredith Walker. We hope it will be in the bookstores in time for Christmas.»more»
Yesterday I made my first digital quad-tone prints, a milestone on my way from darkroom to desktop photographic print making. All sorts of new technologies make this possible, and the internet sews it all together: Through the net I found out about film scanners, Photoshop, monitor calibration, printer profiling and inkjet printers. I bought the printer at auction, and shopped on-line for the continuous ink system, the inks and paper. I joined in discussions, and sought information about technicalities and aesthetics.»more»
Driving Allen Ginsberg
Elsa Dorfman's fond stories and pictures of Allen Ginsberg reminded me of the time the Beat Poet came to Brisbane.»more»
I am on a mailing list devoted to old Canon SLR cameras. A while ago someone asked an off-topic question — how to use an old Gossen Lunasix light meter. I responded by publishing the instruction manual here.»more»
I enjoy living among timber buildings, but it’s a special pleasure to visit good stone buildings — for one thing, the rustication works much better.»more»
New year’s resolution
Make time to sharpen the saws. And the chisels, planes and knives. And flatten the oilstones — that one’s well overdue.
Old year’s resolution
To not topple off a scaffold plank and break my collar bone next year.»more»
My three year appointment to the Queensland Heritage Council has just finished. The Minister for Environment has written to acknowledge my splendid contribution. I’m pleased he thinks so.
The wrong tie
Why can’t I dance like this bloke? Must be wearing the wrong tie.»more»