Photos John Robinson
I am 36 Kilometres into a 40 plus Bicycle Ride Through the Durban Docklands to the Beachfront and Back. The mid-winter sun had just ducked it’s round behind the Berea ridge, and I first feel the squiggly grind of a flat front tyre on tar as I stop at the Bayhead and South Coast roads intersection.
As I am walking my bike south across the intersection down South Coast Road and home in Woodlands, I am looking for a secluded, lighted space to repair my front tube. I have all the tools for the job. I have a puncture kit, inspection dish (used ice cream container) in my pannier at the back and water in my caged drinking bottle on my Giant Talon frame.
As I walk my bicycle down off the rail overpass at Bayhead and South Coast Road, the road curves to the right and the high arc lights over an entrance to a container depot are a beacon to me. I have repaired many tubes as a cyclist, and here I have light, a workspace and if this tube can be fixed and I will be able to ride away into the night.
I lower the tube valve first, into the water in my ice cream container, the telltale bubbles spew from where the valve and tube intersect. S***, this tube cannot be fixed.
The headlights of trucks bear down on me as I walk on with my ‘cycle at my side, at times I just stop and lean away as trucks rumble past, there is no space for me and oncoming night traffic, across the road there is a pavement. A gap in the traffic allows me to change sides.
Here it is just the bright lights of trucks in route to the harbour and the night glow of the changing shifts of workers in safety gear walking past.
South Coast Road proper is just ahead with its ladies of the night and the Woonga addicts looking for the cash for their next hit. The ladies and I have a mutual respect going from my many night ‘cycle trips through in these parts of the city, the woonga addicts are another thing entirely.
I pass a parked truck on its traffic side, the pavement side is a bit long and dark, as a nightwalker/cyclist I try to make myself a hard target for anyone who has unsociable outcomes in mind. I am now walking on the road as the two young men come out of the shadows I have just detoured from while walking on the traffic side of the truck just now.
“You have nothing to fear here, you cycle past here during the day, you are one of the community” I carry on my way as they keep up with me on the pavement in the bright beam of my bicycle headlight and the soft glow of my iPhone in its pouch fixed to the bike.
“What is that there?” The tall one of my two new friends asks as he notices the glow off my mobile phone, I reply that he actually doesn’t see anything there. I press my hip up against the ‘phone pouch as I get in the way of Number Two as he tries to wrest my phone away from me. Number One threatens to poke me with a knife that I have yet to see in his hands. “I am going to poke you, I am going to poke you with a knife”
I do not care what Number One says about giving me a poke with a knife, my eyes are glued to the hand in his pocket where the said knife is supposed to be. Number Two is having trouble trying to get hold of my phone that is still firmly in its pouch, my hip is still blocking his way. I keep my firm grip on the bike, My headlight comes out of its holder in our joint scuffle and hangs by the cord that is for this very purpose.
The momentary sense of ‘being mugged’ is quickly replaced by a deep awareness of the situation around Number One’s hand in his pocket, of my close surrounds and a sense of my own physical strength and resistance to the endeavours of Number One and Number Two on this dark Durban road.
A voice calls out to the two parras, (Short for parasites, South African slang for street criminals) “Get away from him.” My guardian looks at me through rimless glasses, he speaks English with a heavy Afrikaans undertone. “Come in here, they won’t follow you in.” Number One and Number Two spring away from me and tumble over themselves into the night. I follow my guardian into the truck washing depot where he works and away from the spot where Number One and Number Two went empty-handed.
In the seclusion of the washing depot, I turn off my ‘phone and headlight, I want to proceed on my way home without calling any more attention to myself. My guardian and a woman who also works at the depot agree to walk with me as far as a tuck shop at the next intersection. Walking as three is better than walking alone. Patience signs to me that this is where she and my guardian stop.
South Coast Road is a dual carriageway here and walking along the centre island makes me a harder target for any others that want to take their chances with the man walking with a flat wheeled bicycle in the night. As I walk I keep a lookout over both shoulders to keep aware of what is around me. There is only one more contender on the pavement to my left but he does not come across the road to the centre island where I am walking. “…I want your bike” he says to me, I just wave back to him and carry on my way.
It is a six-kilometre walk from where I felt something wrong with my front wheel to my room in Woodlands. Apart from a few curious dogs, my walk is just a slog up the hills of this part of Durban. I have plenty of time to think about what has just happened to me.
- Never ride without a spare tube, tools for simple bicycle repairs, a puncture kit and fruit and water for energy and hydration.
- Always wear shoes that you can also walk in.
- Muggers don’t have a plan b, do the unexpected. Give muggers a way out and they will take it.
- Be calm and stay calm and focused, I don’t know when my angels will come.
- Dogs on the roads are usually are only curious about what is coming past their territories, don’t take their barking personally.
- It is always easier to ride up a hill then walk up the same.
When Telling a Story, Intercession, Photography and Writing all Play a Part in Getting the Story Out.
Intercession |ˌɪntəˈsɛʃ(ə)n| the Action of Intervening on Behalf of Another: he only escaped ruin by the intercession of his peers with the king. The action of doing something on behalf of another: prayers of intercession.
Photograph |ˈfəʊtəɡrɑːf| A Picture Made Using a Camera, in which an image of what is focused on to light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by Chemical Treatment, and or digital process: A photograph of what is in front of you.
Writer |ˈrʌɪtə| A Person Who has Written Something or who Writes in a Particular Way: the writer of the article. a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a vocation or occupation: she was a prolific writer | he a writer of short stories.
I got into photography when I saw how I could put some light on some of what I saw around me in the city of Johannesburg in the 1990s. I am a photographer because through it I can tell something of what is around me, I am not a camera or photographic technophile. When I saw how I could go into a situation with a small camera and come away with tangible aspects of what was there I was officially hooked. As a photographer, I don’t feel that there is such a thing as a boring situation but there is such a thing as a boring story told.
I then started to write for myself when I needed extended captions and some short-form writing to go with the pictures I was making. Robin Comley said to me one day that in the perfect world our pictures would talk for themselves, we agreed in the end that writing could add some context but we never should double-speak to the viewer as it were. The picture and the text can work alongside each other but never repeat each other as a writer and a photographer work together on a joint job. As a writer, I am picture strong, I can get the feel of what I want in the text. I love working with a good editor can get that feeling all in line alongside my images.
After many years in this craft and after many years of hardship for many photographers in getting stories published in a ‘visual’ world, I have given much thought to what I might actually be in all this…
I am the go-between, the messenger, a soother and sometimes the grit in a shoe. The intercessor speaks for the other, the intercessor speaks to another too. The intercessor goes in between for two parties or viewpoints. Sometimes my work can be soothing like an applied balm, and at other times these perceptions can be uncomfortable truths that also need some of the light of the day.
Like any craftsman, it is not enough to just make nice chairs, for example. The craftsman has to keep a note of how his ‘chairs’ are fitting into the rooms and doing all the jobs that they were intended to do. As a photog, I have to keep a firm hold on my position-at-work as I frame images and link words for others to view and read.
What I Love About Looking at Paula Lycan‘s Work is its Ability to Travel Through Time. These photos feel incredibly contemporary, depicting queerness in a way that is both sensitive and political. But there are also references to the early beginnings of queer photography, the textural and sensual darkroom prints of people like Peter Hujar. Paula’s construction of the visual language of the darkroom also feels like a very fresh take on visualizing queerness. Reclaiming the labor and physicality of the darkroom tangles into the physicality of the body present in Paula’s images creating a poetically intricate narrative. – LENSCRATCH
When Any Camera Intrudes Into a Person’s Space that Person Becomes Normative or in Other Words, Adopts a Pose That They Feel Is the Right Way for Them to be Perceived
Unless you take out your camera in front of an inanimate object or a person without any prior knowledge of cameras and photography there will be a change in your subject when they realize they are being photographed. The photographer has always hankered for invisibility.
When any camera intrudes into a person’s space that person becomes normative or in other words adopts a pose that they feel is the right way for them to be perceived by the photographer at hand. Big setups like those with a camera on a tripod and studio lights will give off a more formal feel from the subject while small cameras and less of a studio setup will give off a more informal feel from the subject at hand. In both situations, the intervention of more of the joint humanness shared by both the subject and photographer can lessen the normative behaviour of the person or people photographed.
If the photographer comes away from behind the camera body by using a waist-level viewfinder and or engages more with the subject, the subject will in turn relax and give more of their spirit to the resulting photographic images.
The subject too must be able to trust the photographer to give of their self into the same resulting photographs.
Drink some coffee.
When photography was born, the early cameras were bulky and very noticeable. The image through the lens was transferred onto a large sheet of glass and from this glass plate, a contact print was made. Candid photography was not generally possible. It was only with the start of production of the small rangefinder camera in 1932 and later SLR cameras that it was possible for the photographer to focus accurately and fast candid photography with a small camera was also born.
With the advent of digital photography, the world is awash with the photographic images of everybody and all their neighbours too. The days of many people feeling the need for the services of a person who understood the art of photography are largely over. Everyone now thinks that they are a photographer in their own right. In this wash of people taking pictures of themselves and their friends, the narrative photographer can at last hide in plain sight. The photographer can be invisible in plain sight in this wash of image takers while continuing documenting life as he or she uniquely perceives.
The Leica M6 camera is a small analogue rangefinder camera, it is what I use for most of my personal photographic work. The Leica M6 is a small quiet rangefinder camera and in many ways, it is just like the first rangefinder cameras of 1932 which could be used without much attention called to its self unlike the bulky cameras of those times.
Alongside my Leica M6, I am now starting to use my iPhone 6 phone camera for some of my personal work too.
With the wash of many people taking selfies with mobile phone cameras in public places, I have found out that I can use my mobile phone camera for street photography with drawing close to zero attention to myself while doing my stuff as a narrative photographer.
In many ways, the modern mobile phone camera is the Leica M camera of its day. My iPhone 6 camera is hiding in plain sight in the midst of all the other mobile phone cameras clicking round about…
One goal Of dialogue Among Cultures And Civilisations Is To Recognise And To Understand Not Only Cultures And Civilisations Of Others, But Those Of “One’s Own.” We could know ourselves by taking a step away from ourselves and embarking on a journey away from self and homeland and eventually attaining a more profound appreciation of our true identity.
It is only through immersion into another existential dimension that we could attain mediated and acquired knowledge of ourselves in addition to the immediate and direct knowledge that we commonly possess. Through seeing others we attain a hitherto impossible knowledge of ourselves. – Mohammad Khatami, former president of Iran. (pp 267) Reconciliation, Pocket Books, London.
How To Properly Measure Your Instagram Engagement Numbers
When building a business on Instagram, everything you do should be focused on 1. maximizing the number of people who look at your content and 2. care enough about it to take action whenever you ask them to do anything (tap, click, buy, comment, share, think, etc.).
You can buy or hack your way to millions of people looking at your content, but if none or a very low percentage of them care enough about it to engage with it (like, comment, share, save, repost, etc.), then how can you expect them to make the even more involved step of visiting your website, or buying your products, or donating to your charity, or being interested in the products you promote? You can’t (and you shouldn’t)…
This Weekend I Am Sharing An Exhibition That is On Display But Not Available To The Public.
Kick In It, Photo Cheryl. L. Guerrero
The exhibition, Distinction, is at the Photographic Center North West in Seattle, jurored by Kris Graves.
“Kris Graves (b. 1982 New York, NY) is an artist and publisher based in New York and London. He received his BFA in Visual Arts from S.U.N.Y. Purchase College and has been published and exhibited globally, including the National Portrait Gallery in London, England; Aperture Gallery, New York; University of Arizona, Tucson; Blue Sky Gallery in Portland, Oregon; and Brooklyn Museum, New York; among others. Permanent collections include the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Brooklyn Museum, New York; The Wedge Collection, Toronto; and Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania.
Currently, Kris is an Adjunct Professor at The New School / Parsons School of Design, New York and is the Director of Kris Graves Projects and Gallery (KGP), Brooklyn. KGP collaborates with artists to create limited edition publication and archival prints, focusing on contemporary photography and works on paper. KCP focuses their publishing efforts on stories that empower the long-forgotten and underrepresented. These stories deal with issues of race, policy, social awareness, feminism, culture, and wealth. The goal at KCP is to make books and prints affordable to every level of collector.” – lenscratch.com
People Behave In A Normative Way In Front Of The Camera.
The camera produces a photograph which is a representation of what is in front of the camera lens, this photograph is not a painting that is first interpreted by the eye and mind of the artist and then painted onto a canvas or other surface.
When taking pictures the photographer must feel as at home with the camera in hand, as with the very fingers when picking up a mobile phone for example. Get to internalise the aperture, shutter speed and ISO of your camera and photography. Photography is about the images photographed as brushing teeth is about mouth hygiene and not the toothbrush its self. There are many people around that are more interested in the technology of photography and the camera then the moments seen with it. I feel photographers must keep the main thing the main thing…
Taking a photograph is as much about what is cropped out as much as what is left in the camera frame. A photograph is also about the position of the photographer and the camera introduced onto the scene or moment captured too. When a Photograph is taken the photographer has left some aspects of the scene out of the picture entirely, made other things seem small and insignificant in the background and highlighted other aspects of the scene in the foreground giving them more prominence.
Stop for some coffee.
The act of photographing needs the photographer to introduce into the scene a camera body and lens. This act alone lets the subject know that they are now ‘on camera’ as it were and the photographer is there to record their activities while there. The mere introduction of a camera into a situation can cause situational changes once it is out there… Pierre Bourdieu says the introduction of a camera into a subject’s setting introduces a reaction from the subject, people behave in a normative way in front of the camera. There are decisions that the photographer has made during the moment in time it was captured.
The social documentary photographer Dorothea Lange said that to know ahead of time what you were looking for meant that you were only photographing your preconceptions. Lange said that you should rather work by looking at that which you instinctively respond. Certain moments just catch the eye…
Durban Beachfront in Total Covid 19 Lockdown.
South Africa is taking the call of President Cyril Ramaposa seriously, freelance photographer John Robinson cycled the length of the Durban beachfront in total isolation, meeting no one except for a few security guards and police. The public pools of Wedge Beach now have a post-apocalyptic feel to them.