Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Story About a Camera - 2015 Inspire Award Reflections (Fri 27 Aug 2015)

Memories of Jenny - The Time of Your Life (youtube)

This is my 2000th post here at eljeiffel.

I always try to write something for the Annual Presentation of the Inspire Award. Most times it is just for me, but sometimes I share it with a few people. So here it is, unedited from the time it was written on the evening of Fri 27 Aug 2015. I think it is a pretty good way to mark the milestone.

As many will know, I have another obsession in my life - Photography.

I started out buying a small digital camera for our Dec 2000 trip to the Cook Islands to visit Jenny and Jo's Meditation teacher, Barbara, who had moved there to help setup a refuge for women . We didn’t know a thing about paddling back then.

I had bought the camera hoping I would be able to capture our memories. It was a tiny digital camera by today’s standards, 1 Mega Pixel and it cost $1600 duty free and a 64 MB compact flash memory cost more than $300.

I did not flinch and I thought it was all worth it, as my credit card was swiped at Ted’s Camera Store the day before we flew out. 15 years later I can tell you here that it was one of the best things I ever did.

My motivation for the camera came from that fact that Jenny had 11 tumours in her lungs and I did not really know how long we would have together. In the end we had just over 9 years of married life. Given Jenny’s condition, a miracle really ..

We were married on 30th April of that Sydney Olympic year and we honeymooned on Lord Howe Island for 10 glorious days in May 2000. Jenny had a film camera and she took many photos.

On our return flight to Sydney, I remember a conversation we had at the Departure Terminal with an older couple from Whyalla who congratulated us on our marriage. We had briefly met them at dinner at one of the small restaurants on the Island.

They told us they had been married for many years and the trip to Lord Howe Island was a way of creating another experience in life and expanding their memories. Better than [running a busy business or] sitting at home and watching the Telly, they said.

This conversation and piece of simple worldly wisdom has stuck with me and I remind myself of it constantly. It was my main motivation to buy that small expensive digital camera for our December 2000 trip to the Cook Islands.

I took many photos that trip to Cook Islands, even of the Outrigger Canoes in the lagoon at Aitutaka, we had no idea what they were – who would guess our future.

Shortly after our return, Jenny and Jo found Dragon Boating. And over the ensuing years many experiences and memories were created, dutifully captured by our cameras.

I documented the many dragon boat campaigns here and abroad, and ensuing holidays that followed each event.

In the process of this documenting I came to realise the power of photography, not only its visual power, but its ability to record our experiences and remind us of things we have done and who we were. We were doing selfies before the term was even invented. We called them “Holdouts” and I think this might be the main cause of Jo’s shoulder injury.

In those last few weeks at St George Hospital in Jun 2009, I captured the last moments of our lives together. They are the best I ever made.

After Jenny’s passing, It took me a while to pick up a camera again. I had lost my purpose and will. I was hurting and numb all at once but paddled through for a year or two – it helped a lot to be busy and in the company of friends. New experiences were created and I even smiled [for] a little [while].

Lost in the enormity of what had happened so quickly, though it was not a surprise, I found my first moments of comfort and hope, when I decided to start looking at some of the photos from our lives together. It made me cry, but it also made me smile. I was so happy that I had this archive of bits and bytes to remind me of Jenny, Joanne, myself and who we were.

It was only after Jo told me to organise my photos and my Mum said I should start making photos again, that I started to move forward. I was completely broken but I took up their advice and kept myself busy again, organising and photographing again. I am still broken but I live with it better now, it is part of me and who I will always be, but I am happy, optimistic, naïve and creating more experiences.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that we have to go out there and make our memories through the experiences we create for ourselves. And this is what I love about PD’s, we are always out there doing something. This time last year we were in Bologna on our way to Ravena, this year we are heading to Hawaii in the next week and month, next year Adelaide and who knows where after that.

Finally, in our lives we have loss, grief and bereavement. It is a part of living. You make a choice when it knocks on your door. And we have chosen to live in the Afterglow of our loss of Jenny – to remember and honour and be guided and inspired. Accept it and live with it and make the most of it, even let it inspire and motivate you. And that is what Jo and I have done, I would like to think.

“Believe in Hope” as the graffiti’ed wall in Cleveland Street said for a few weeks in July 2015.

Believe in Hope - Cleveland Street / Chippendale (Wed 29 Jul 2015)

With this post it is time to let go of a lot things, including the photos of another time and life. I have shed my life here (and Facebook more recently) like a snake sheds it skin and there is nothing left but to start over again. Time to move on, but it is hard to let go .. but I will.

Trying to make a new start here ( with photos from this point onwards. There will be the occasional post at eljeiffel to mark the odd moment in our lives that are relevant, but for now thanks for coming along for the ride these last, almost, 7 years.

symbolically the black rose suggests death, or the completion of a long journey (Trent Parke’s moving Black Rose photo exhibition at Art Gallery of SA ) - Black Rose / Fitzroy Street / Newtown (Sun 29 Nov 2015)

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