An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of art & life ...

An ordinary person's thoughts on the complexities of life ... or just ramblings from the mind of a working Mum with far too little time to think!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

We CAN make a difference!

I love how nature offers us glimpses of incredible beauty in the midst of adversity. Like the exquisite white orchid that I came across outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia many years ago, growing elegantly amongst the filth and the garbage surrounding the makeshift dwellings of the very poor.

The human spirit is like that orchid ~ it has the ability to transcend even the direst of circumstances.

Recently I read a book that had a profound effect on me. So much so, that I cannot stop thinking about it, and phrases from the book keep popping unbidden into my head. The book is ‘Heart of Darfur’, a very moving account by Medicins sans Fronteirs Nurse Lisa Blaker French, of the tragedy of the war in Sudan and a testimony to the triumph of the human spirit.

It is the human story behind the media headlines, the story of the mothers, fathers and children whose lives have been uprooted and forever altered by an on-going nightmare that shows no sign of resolution.

But, as with the orchid growing in adversity, there are still moments of joy and relief, of dignity and determination, of beauty and hope in this African land coloured by conflict and broken by many, many years of war.

Reading this book, I was struck by how easy it is for us to be overwhelmed by the scale and the distance of a situation like Darfur and to look away. We justify our indifference with the knowledge that no matter how hard we try, it would be impossible to make a difference. The author of ‘Heart of Darfur’ gave this insight at the end of the book: “Apathy steals hope. But to make a difference you have to care and you have to try.”

It is actually really easy for us to make a difference in our world. And it’s not about giving huge donations, or packing up and joining an aid organization.  All we have to do is listen and care.

Every bit of kindness is worthwhile. Every bit of kindness makes a difference in someone’s life.  And often, it is that tiny gesture of kindness that we almost don’t do because we think it can’t possibly make a difference, that slips unasked into someone’s day and lights up their world.

That little bit of kindness can change a life.

“We have no time to listen to the poor – often they have to come again and again – walk long distances – sick, tired, in pain – to tell us of their want – of their suffering and we, because we are busy about many things, we have no time to sit and listen …

To all those who suffer and are lonely – give them always a happy smile – give them not only your ears but also your heart.” ~ Mother Teresa

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Celebrating Women

I received the insightful words below in my inbox this morning, sent by a good friend. Although I have been unable to find who wrote them, I decided I had to share them. 
It is a timely reminder to all of us to celebrate the amazing women in our lives ~ beginning with our wonderful mothers!

Women have strengths that amaze men. 

They bear hardships and they carry burdens, 

But they hold happiness, love and joy. 

They smile when they want to scream. 

They sing when they want to cry. 

They cry when they are happy 

And laugh when they are nervous. 

They fight for what they believe in. 

They stand up to injustice. 

They don't take "no" for an answer 

When they believe there is a better solution. 

They go without so their family can have. 

They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.

They love unconditionally. 

They cry when their children excel 

And cheer when their friends get awards. 

They are happy when they hear about 

A birth or a wedding. 

Their hearts break when a friend dies. 

They grieve at the loss of a family member, 

Yet they are strong when they 

Think there is no strength left… 

They know that a hug and a kiss 

Can heal a broken heart. 

Women come in all shapes, sizes and colours... 

They'll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you 

To show how much they care about you. 

The heart of a woman is what 

Makes the world keep turning. 

They bring joy, hope and love. 

They have compassion and ideas. 

They give moral support to their family and friends. 

Women have vital things to say 

And everything to give.

However, with all that they do for others, women forget their own worth. We need to remind all those wonderful women in our lives of how amazing they are!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Objet d'Art

We never really stand and look at something for any great length of time. Most of us are too preoccupied to look at things we think we already know. We glance at these things briefly, our minds registering almost immediately that we have seen this before, and we move on. Yet, it is in really looking at those things we think we know, that we discover so much more about ourselves and the world around us.

Children seem to know this intuitively. They can stand for ages absorbed in observing things around them. I always remember my inquisitive middle daughter tugging at my clothes when we were out, trying to get me to stop and look at something she found interesting. “Look with your eyes Mummy!” she would implore when I would glance at what she was excitedly pointing out, comment on it offhandedly and then urge her to keep walking.

We miss out on so much of life when we dismiss what we perceive at first sight as being ordinary. I have found that I am a much more observant person when I have a camera in tow. I stop and look deeper when something catches my eye and I am continually surprised by what I discover and by how much I have learned through the lens.

And when we look at a photograph of an object, we give it so much more of our time than if we looked at the object itself. Somehow a photograph, especially if captured creatively, can show us the object as we have never yet seen it. It can illuminate the ordinary and turn it into a work of art.

This week, I decided to try photographing something ordinary in a way that would cause the viewer to take a second look. I chose coffee cups as my object, found a spot in the house near a window where the sunlight was falling directly onto a white upholstered chair, and photographed them. I used my Nikon D300, no tripod, no additional lighting, no fill-flash, no props.

I mostly photograph living things where you only have that moment to capture a specific image as everything can change in a split second. It was so different photographing still life. 

I found I had all the time in the world to observe how the sun's rays gave an inner glow to the cups placed in their path, how the interplay of the light and the shadows created mood, tension and drama as I moved the cups, and ultimately how playing around with position of the cups and the light, enabled the creation of dynamic ‘objets d’art’ with my humble coffee cups.

“Anyone can shoot chaos. But the most perceptive photographers can make compelling pictures out of uninteresting moments.” ~ Alex Tehrani

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Flowers ~ Nature’s Kaleidoscopes

I can remember quite vividly when my fascination with flowers began. It was during a Biology class in high school – we were dissecting flowers and examining the various parts under a powerful microscope. I was absolutely captivated by the amazing world presented to me. The intricacy of design and the vibrancy of the colours and textures were incredible when viewed in such minute detail.

Since then, I have examined and photographed flowers extensively, always stumbling upon new varieties just when I think I must have photographed every available flower within the country!

A couple of years ago I acquired a macro lens for my Nikon camera and stepped out into a whole new universe of colour and detail. A journey into the infinite joys and challenges of macro photography began with the perfect subject – flowers! 

Photographing flowers with the macro lens is even more exciting than viewing flowers through the lens of a microscope. It is so exhilarating to get home after a shoot and download the images onto the computer. It is like a constant voyage of discovery, and extremely addictive. My family complain, often and loudly, that nothing is as important to me as racing to my office to look at my images!

Flowers have always been a source of inspiration to artists, with many famous painters becoming known for their use of particular flowers in their work. 

American painter Georgia O’Keefe is best known for her sensuous Calla lilies, Vincent van Gogh will forever be associated with his bright portraits of sunflowers, and Impressionist painter Monet is celebrated for his dream-like portrayals of water lilies. 

Monet is reported to have said that he owed having become a painter to flowers!

Every flower is beautiful. Even the tiniest grass flowers that we step on to cross a field or those annoying weeds that seem to spring up everywhere and we spend so much time trying to eradicate, have their own kind of beauty.

The humble daisy, found all over the world, is possibly the simplest of flowers in its design, but the infinite combinations of colour and pattern found in different daisies makes it a delight to discover time and time again.

Confucious said: “There is beauty in everything but not everyone sees it.”

My wish as a photographer is to expose that beauty through my floral images and to share the kaleidoscope of colours and patterns that nature gives us in the form of flowers.

“The flower offered of itself
And eloquently spoke
Of Gods
In languages of rainbows
And secret silence …” ~ Phillip Pulfrey

“Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in Spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.” ~ Audra Foveo

"Let us dance in the sun, wearing wildflowers in our hair" ~ Susan Rolis Shulz

"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly, "one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower." ~ Hans Christian Andersen

"There is nothing quite as inspiringly beautiful as a simple garden daisy." ~ Anon