Monday, April 19, 2010

Grief is concentrated in the face [take2] - The Art of Grief by Jonathan Walker

Grief is concentrated in the face. It makes the flesh sodden and unresponsive, dull with blood, like when you are drunk and heat comes off the skin like vapour off water, as if your vitality is evaporating into the air. The muscles go dead around the mouth and eyes. It almost hurts when others smile and your own face remains inert, held down by the drag and weight of the blood. The memory of grief stays in the flesh. The body recalls it, feels its weight, moulds itself automatically to its shape as the loss is remembered, the mask becoming tighter as the memory becomes clearer; not the memory of the dead person, but the memory of grief itself.

Page 24 The Art of Grief by Jonathan Walker

Geoff - "an early start for the first day of the rest of my life - 'where do you start?'" - Alexandria - 7am Wed 01 Jul 2009 (picasa)

Took this photo of myself the first morning after Jenny had died. I slept OK, all things considered and was up early - I had no idea what the day would bring. All I knew there was a Funeral to organise and many people to be contacted. No stranger to all of this, so I headed up to my usual Coffee shop (Cafe Sofia) so that I could have a few quiet moments to myself before the onslaught of the day.

Not sure why I took the photo - maybe so that I could remember that moment of numbness, despair and initial grief. I did a similar thing when my younger brother Tim died (see here).

The words above by Jonathan Walker (he reviewed one of my photos that I took in Newtown - see here) seem to match up with what I now see of myself in the photo.

The following gives some context to his writings on Grief - The Art of Grief - and its relationship to his new Novel - Five Wounds. It is complicated, but Grief is a long drawn out and complicated process. I am still trying to work it all out myself.

Five Wounds: An Allegory by Jonathan Walker

Five Wounds is a parable as well as a fairy tale. Throughout, it refers to an invisible, suppressed source: ‘The Art of Grief’, an abandoned essay on the deaths of my parents. This essay is never acknowledged directly within the novel, but it will be made available in March or April 2010 as a free download on my website for those who wish to investigate.


‘The Art of Grief’ is a key, which unlocks hidden meanings in Five Wounds. However, the relationship between the two texts is more complex than that of a riddle to its solution or a joke to its punch line, because Five Wounds has an independent life of its own. Its characters act according to their own natures, and make their own choices. They are not mere ciphers, condemned to act out episodes of my biography in a disguised, pathological form. The characters may be fantastic, but they are real within their own world, even when they unknowingly refer to events beyond its borders.

In this case, then, one text does not solve the other. Rather, Five Wounds places stolen fragments of ‘The Art of Grief’ in a new setting, which transforms their meaning, as the Venetians studded the fa├žade of the church of San Marco with pieces of marble looted from Constantinople. Here, however, the arrangement is reversed. It is not the loot that shines brightly, but the container, within which the quotations are safely hidden away, like bones in a reliquary.

UPDATE: To download a PDF version of 'The Art of Grief', go to this part of my site

[Geoff: A repost of a version I was working on that somehow got posted on the 10 Apr 2010 - subsequently deleted and this is the remaining version.]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Favourite Photos: Sydney Life 2002 - Trent Parke - Photo in a Photo

Sydney Life: Trent Parke Photo - Hyde Park/Sydney - Mon 22 Sep 2002 (picasa)

Sydney Life (in 2002 and 2003 it was known as Sydney Looking Forward) is one of the Events of the Art and About Festival held now in October each year. Sydney Life is an outdoor exhibition of large scale images featuring the work of established photographers alongside work from some newer photographers (occasionally a no name like myself is selected, but this is very rare).

As the blurb says The real Sydney is revealed in the everyday and everynight, captured by the photograhic artsts who live here. - This truly diverse selection of photographs will intrigue, delight and inspire you as you wander along the leafy central walkway of Hyde Park North, and see Sydney as you haven’t seen it before.

The above photo is a photo of Trent Parke photo from the 2002 Sydney Life Exhibition (might have been the first Sydney Life, definitely the first one I viewed anyway). The large 3x2m canvas printed photos are hung along either side of the northern walkway of Hyde Park, just across from where I work. Took my little IXUS digital camera with me one overcast Monday lunch time. Was aware of the work of Trent Parke - he was recently selected as the first Australian photographer to become a member of the famous Magnum Photographic Cooperative.

In taking this photo I decided to hover a little and wait for someone to be in the photo with their back to me like the backpack guy in Trent's photo. Thought it would raise it above a mere record of this photo. This guy with cap was already looking at the photo and I waited and hoped that a few other onlookers would move on. There was a nice symmetery when the others left and I took my photo. The guy with cap looked around and spoke to me. He said he felt that he was in the photo - the white shirt guy in shorts next to the street sign. He said he often walks past that location (Corner Market and George Streets). I've looked at this photo quite a few times since and I often convince myself that he is actually the guy in the photo.

Funny how things work out with photos. Always liked the little story that goes with this photo. I would see him again a few months later one Saturday morning in King Street Newtown at a bus stop barely 5 metres out of image and to the right of this previously discussed Favourite Photo. I actually had a copy of the above photo in my backpack, but was too shy to give it to him. Have not seen him since.

The following year I considered entering this photo in the 2003 Sydney Life exhibition and Leigh Perry (Leigh: thanks for the comment below) photoshopped a great Black and White version for me as well as printing a couple of beautiful prints. Thought it would be funny to look at a photo of photo from the previous years exhibition like some kind of infinite loop. I have played around with the photo and converted it to black and white. Also did a collage of some of the photos from the exhibition.

Sydney Life: Trent Parke Photo (BW) - Hyde Park/Sydney - Mon 22 Sep 2002 (picasa)

Sydney Life: Picasa Collage - Hyde Park/Sydney - Mon 22 Sep 2002 (picasa)

A Warrior of light is wise; he does not talk about his defeat

The warrior of light never forgets the old saying: the good little goat doesn't bleat.

Injustices happen. Everyone finds themselves in situations they do not deserve, usually when they are unable to defend themselves. Defeat often knocks at the warrior's door.

At such times, he remains silent. He does not waste energy on words, because they can do nothing; it is best to use his strength to resist and have patience, knowing that Someone is watching, Someone who saw the unnecessary suffering and who will not accept it.

That Someone gives him what he most needs: time. Sooner or later, everything will once more work in his favour.

A warrior of light is wise; he does not talk about his defeats.

From the Manual of Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho - (more here).

Has felt a bit like this of recent, though if I were to take this passage literally I should not be talking about it :-) Thinking about it a bit more, I have decided that 'That Someone' referenced in the text should be me. Will move past this as we make our way to Macau in late July.

Lake Burley Griffin Sunset - Black: Dark Days - Canberra - 02 Aug 2002 - (picasa)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The perfect moment of grief is when .. - The Art of Grief by Jonathan Walker

[..] The perfect moment of grief is when the need to speak is balanced by the desire to be silent, and when the shame of past sins is balanced by the need for dignity, to honour the dead as well as yourself. Within this moment, the only responsibility is to endure until it passes and it becomes possible to act again. This is why it seems perfect, because all that is required to be absolutely right and correct is to take the strain and wait for the checks and balances to break down somewhere. [..]

From Page 2 The Art of Grief by Jonathan Walker. More here.

Joanne and Geoff - Spreading some of Jenny's Ashes on the River near the Charles Bridge just down from the Kafka Museum - Prague - Mon 01 Sep 2009 (picasa)

Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day - Live on Letterman

Boulevard of Broken Dreams - Green Day - Live on Letterman

Was reminded of this song when having breakfast with friends after training a few months ago - thanks Craig. Green Day were in Sydney (see here).

Love (in a sad way - don't take this too seriously) the lyrics in this song, particularly these couple of lines:

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating

Found a Gregorian version here.

Did not know about the Oasis controversy with their song Wonderwall and the mix - Green Day and Oasis-Boulevard of Broken Dreams/Wonderwall youtube.

Me and my Shadow - "an early start for the first day of the rest of my life - 'Where do you start?' - Coffee maybe?" - 7am Wed 01 Jul 2009 (picasa)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When he wins a battle, the warrior celebrates

When he wins a battle, the warrior celebrates.

This victory has cost him anxious moments, nights racked with doubt, endless days of waiting. Since ancient times, celebrating a triumph has been part of the ritual of life itself: celebration is a rite of passage.

His companions see the warrior of light's joy and think: 'Why is he doing that? He might be disappointed in his next battle. He might draw down on himself the wrath of his enemy.'

But the warrior knows why he is celebrating. He is savouring the best gift that victory can bring: confidence.

He celebrates yesterday's victory in order to gain more strength for tomorrow's battle.

From the Manual of Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho - (more here).

The above passage now makes me realise why we should celebrate our little successes and achievements - it is not just about celebrating the victory!!

Jenny - she has just been presented with 2006 Aus Flag Bearer Recognition Trophy (Macau 2006 - a story for another day) - Kawana - 23 Apr 2009 (picasa)

Hard to believe that 12 months has almost gone by since the 2009 AusDBF National Dragon Boat Titles at Kawana. As we go through the final selection process and complete our final training sessions, I guess it is a good time to reflect on past experiences.

We did have a great time at the 2009 Nationals and it was fantastic that Jenny was with us. The day before we flew to the Sunshine coast, Jenny had her 5th cycle of fortnightly treatment (chemo and another drug, Avastin) and was still able to paddle for her State and Club over the Regatta. She did experience numerous visual migraines at night, which a month later would be diagnosed as being caused by a 4cm brain tumor. She also worried that the tumors in her liver would cause painful cramping in her stomach, but this did not occur while she was paddling.

Jenny, Geoff and Joanne - State - Kawana - 23 Apr 2009 (picass)

Jenny, Jo and Geoff - 200m Men's and Women's Tropy's - Breakfree Resort/Caloundra - 26 Apr 2009 (picasa)

The following is a small photo essay of the "9 from 9" effort by my club, the Pacific Dragons. This result was never expected and we took it one race at a time. Each day the Women's Crew would put the race of a lifetime on the water in the final and somehow come across the line first. This then put the pressure on the Men's crew to do the same. A few strategic words, a couple of calming and distracting jokes, and the moving story of brave little Tommy , from Gav would get us on the water to do the best we could. The rest is now history.

Gav gave Eugene (my seat 1 partner) and myself, the great honour of receiving the last club trophy to be presented at the Regatta. It was an amazing moment for Eugene and I, as we held aloft the Gold Medals and 200m Open's Winning Trophy. The assembled Australian Dragon Boat Community stood and applauded the amazing and historic achievement of our club, the Pacific Dragons. I had never seen anything like it and was humbled by the genorosity of spirit the Australian Dragon Boat community displayed that day to our Coaches, Teams, and Club.

All the best to every competing at the 2010 AusDBF National Dragon Boat Championships in Adelaide over the Anzac Weekend. Look forward to some great racing and catching up with many friends, and hopefully making some new friends on and off the water.

See you in Adelaide. Jenny's Spirit and Memory will be with us. She Guides and Inspires us from Above.

PD's Premier Open 200m Final - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2010 (picasa)

Premier Opens 200m Final - AusDBF 2009 National Dragon Boat Champs - Kawana/Qld - Sun 26 Apr 2009 (at youtube by warwick27au)

The smile says it all - "9 from 9" - tidying up the Cox Vox cable after the Premier Open 200m Final - Anne would ask me to come and celebrate with the Team off the water - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2009 (picasa)

Eugene and Geoff - Premier Open 200m Presentation - "PD's - nine from nine !! - I did not really want this weekend to end as I kind of knew the end was beginning to start (Editors: An End has a Start)." - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2009 (picasa)

The Australian Dragon Boat Community acknowledging Pacific Dragons "9 from 9" - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2009 (picasa)

Lost in the Crowd - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2009 (picasa)

PD's Premier Open Men - After Party Celebration - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2010 (picasa)

Pacific Dragons - After Party Celebration - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2010 (picasa)

The Orange Wave - Gav Crowd Surfing - Just go with it Gav - After Party Celebration - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2010 (picasa)

Joanne, Helen, Jenny and Nicola - After Party Celebration - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2010 (picasa)

Joanne, Jenny and Geoff - After Party Celebration - Kawana - Sun 26 Apr 2010 (picasa)

Vale Jenny Petterson - picasaweb - A Pocketful of Sequins - PD's Tribute (picasa)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Favourite Photos: Perisher Valley 2002 - Freezing

Freezing - Perisher Valley - 25 Jun 2002 (picasa)

As well as traveling to the Snowy Mountains during summer, Jenny, Jo and I decided to spend some time in the Mountains during Winter. We did this in Jun 2000, 2001 and 2002. After that the Dragon Boating took over our winters.

It was always nice to go to Perisher during the first week of the ski season (mid-late June) where the Boonoona Ski Lodge was not really that busy - mainly accountants getting a small holiday in before the end of financial year rush.

Jenny and Jo were good skiers and they were able to get out onto the ski fields, while I did some reading and wondering around the local snow covered bush land. Would always have my camera at hand and found many nice photos from these little (actually some were quite long) walks.

This particular photo was taken on the side of the Perisher Valley Water Supply Dam. It was near sunset and there was a nice golden glow on the water. The original photo is shown below.

When I got back to Sydney, I uploaded the a cropped version to my portfolio (see here). In the discussion I provided the original uncropped photo, which is shown below, and I wondered which was better (cropped or uncropped?).

'Freezing' (Orignal) - Perisher Valley - 25 Jun 2002 (picasa)

I was pleased to receive this well thought out response from Marc G:

Very clearly, for me, the cropped version is better. Just sharing with you, here, a very simple method I use for years to know in similar cases whether it should be cropped or not.

I just ask myself "what I have I lost if I crop ? What have I gained ?

Here, the crop makes you lose the extension of this line - but it isn't a curved extension, so not very elegant, and not actually a loss. Then, no other important elements at the bottom. Now what have you gained ? You have gained simplicity and peace. Peace because you gained simplicity, and peace because that's in general what comes with squares - by the books.

Now in what sense have you gained simplicity ?

That's the most important question. The curved line being shorter, it is seen faster. Since we start from top left and go down, and since what was in the lower part was nothing great, we can say that here we keep only the nectar.

In the original, the nectar came with not much at the end. Then, here, since the eye is quickly finished with the main curve, it then moves to the right, and that's where it can find extra beauty in the dented ice and in the light at the top.

Basically, you kept the best only. Honestly, I would never have thought of hanging the original on my walls, but this one, I would - without a single hesitation. If you are interested, by the way, I'd buy a print of this - provided you give me a good price. It is no, to me, the best ice shot I've seen on this site, without a doubt for me, and I'd regard this as POW material - if I were an elfe, that is...:-))

Meanwhile, if you are keen, I'm serious, let me know the price for a 50 cm square print... Regards.
Marc G. August 05, 2002; 02:00 P.M.

All of his critique made sense to me and I was very happy that a professional photographer would like one of my photos so much - was quite flattered. Unfortunately, the photo was taken on a small digital camera (1600 by 1200 pixels) and there was no way the image could be printed to a 50cm square. I would send the full-size original to Marc with my thanks for such a helpful critique and my best wishes that he might find something useful from the original file.

Over the years I have played around with the cropping of this image and I am quite satisfied with the version below.

'Freezing' (Alternate Crop) - Perisher Valley - 25 Jun 2002 (picasa)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Favourite Photos: Wilson Street Newtown 2003 - Milk Crate Swingers

Wilson Street Swingers (Cropped) - Wilson Street/Newtown - Sat 01 Feb 2003 (picasa)

I had noticed this piece of graffiti for a while and quite liked it - always amazed how a few brushes and rolls of paint can be produce something so evocative (am I allowed to us this word for graffiti). Had my camera one Saturday morning (was well before my paddling days) and took a few photos of this wall and the surrounding area.

A few months later the wall was painted clean and I was reminded of the photo I had taken there. Prompted me to take another look at the photo (titled it 'Gone') which I straightened a little and cropped (see below - I felt the crop removed the distraction of the Garbage Bins, though when I look at it now I think I prefer the raw uncropped version - this often happens with photos with time) and put it up on my fledgling portfolio here.

Occasionally, I would receive a comment on my uploaded photos and it would take a few months to receive a comment for this particular photo. I was pleased to receive the following comment from Jonathan Walker:

'Oh, I do like this, largely because of the addition of the milk crates, which provide a quirky splash of colour and sense of depth to what would otherwise be a straight record shot. And in Newtown too (home of the quirky)!' jonathan w., December 08, 2003; 02:49 A.M.

Wilson Street Swingers (Full Image) - Wilson Street/Newtown - Sat 01 Feb 2003 (picasa)

The best thing about the Internet is that it connects you with people with similar interests (photography in this case) and you have the opportunity to learn new things very quickly. When I noticed Jonathan (he was a recently arrived English Academic working at the Uni of Sydney), I signed up so that I could see when he made contributions to He had some great photos of Venice (not your usual ones, but they definitely appealed to my own way of seeing things) and other places. Most have now been deleted along with the great discussions they generated. I learnt much from his photos and words. There are some fragements of his writings remaining at

When we decided that we would visit Venice for 4 days in September 2009 after our Prague Campaign, I decided to track down Jonathan, since he was a Historian with a great knowledge of Venice. Was pleased to find that he had his own blog - and had republished many of his photos [I am a Pilgrim (more here), Venice, Let Us Burn The Gondalas - this work definitely helped me form my own photographic vision when in Venice in Sep 2009 - see here and here ] and thoughts on photography there. As well he had published a book - Pistols! Treason! Murder! - and is now just about to publish his first novel - Five Wounds.

In part, the purpose of this post and my photo above is to introduce Jonathan. I hope to write a little more about him, particularly when his first Novel Five Wounds is published in May 2010.

Jenny Petterson - Speech - Advance Breast Cancer Seminar - St George - Sat 12 May 2007

Jenny Petterson - St George Hospital - Sat 12 May 2007 (youtube)

(was excited to stumble across this video recently - thought I would post it here as my first post after going back to work - over a week now .. Geoff)

This is the last part of a speech that Jenny gave at an Advance Breast Cancer Seminar at the St George Hospital on Sat 12 May 2007. This was the second speech in two weeks, the other being at the Sutherland Shire Relay for Life in late April as the survivor representative.

This speech was given in a large lecture theatre next to the St George Hospital and there was a computer with overhead projection facilities. It was fantastic to watch Jenny's presentation with all her photos going past in the background. It was one of the first times she had used the photos and looking at this video now, it is amazing how some of the photos synchronised so nicely with her words.

I am not sure why I stopped the camera so quickly after she finished her talk, as I remember her receiving standing ovation from the many ladies in the audience who had advance breast cancer. Many came up to her afterwards with tears in their eyes, gave her a hug and and thanked her for giving such an inspiring and motivating speech. Jenny was very humble, but Jo and I were incredibly proud of her, as we always were.

As Jenny mentions towards the end of the speech, she had just been diagnosed with a large single tumor in her liver. It would take a few weeks, but ultimately it was decided that the Tumor could be removed surgurically by Dr Chew a few days after she successfully trialled to represent Australia at the World Dragon Boat Championships here in Sydney.

A fully copy of her last speech at Riverview School in Sydney on 1 April 2009, can be found at the Dragons Abreast Australia website here (pdf).