3 Important Things in Telling a Story

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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.

If you like what you have seen and read here, you can always buy me a $3.00 coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/JohnRobinson or PayPal.Me/jrphotographer

 

 

 

Visiting Mom

Images Of an Old Lady At the End of Her Life and a Girl Who Is Starting Out on Life

Photos John Robinson

At the time when my mother’s independence failed her, my daughter Erin’s (1) was just developing. These seven images are aspects of an interaction between an old lady at the end of her life and a little girl who is only starting on her life. We are all somewhere between these two points. These images were taken during family visits to the frail care centre where my mother spent the last few months of her life on this earth.

My mother Lin Robinson had an Astrocytoma grade 4 tumour removed from her brain, after the operation, the surgeon said to my dad and I that mom had 3 to 6 months to live. Lin Robinson went on to live another 10 years or so. After one more operation, my mom opted to have no more surgery done in her head. The last years of her life were quieting ones, there were the visible effects of brain surgery and the invisible ones too to be detoured around by the whole family.

My dad cared for mom at their home until the point came where mom had to be cared for in a frail care centre. Lin Robinson always liked to walk around in the garden with her husband holding the flowers that he grew for her. She died in a room with a wheelchair beside her bed and had to rely on my dad to get food into her mouth. The last time I saw her alive she knew that I was taking pictures and she smiled at me, it was too late for words.

I feel that my mother just got tired of what is, my father and mother were people of great faith and she wanted to move into the great beyond.

That night I drove home under a starlit night after taking the last photograph of my father’s hand and my mother’s now dead face.

 

Around The Buhe Flames in Durban

Members of the Ethiopian community dance around the fire of the Celebration of Light at St Mary Ethiopian Chruch in Durban, South Africa.

Photo John Robinson.

Buhe is celebrated with flames, around 19 August each year the Ethiopian Coptic community light a bonfire in the remembrance of the transfiguration of Christ as in Matthew 17:2. St Mary’s Ethiopian Coptic Church, South Beach, Durban, South Africa.

The Inter Faith Prayer Room, Denis Hurley Centre, Durban

“If You Are Foreigner Man Living in Durban This Program is Gonna Help you to improve your health and to prevent some kinds of diseases which can lead you to early death…”

The late winter sun and the sound of hustling taxis filter up through the window behind my back. I know Dr Emmanuel Tshimanga as a Congolese parking attendant at a local shopping centre here in Durban, South Africa.

The man in front of me glows with an inner light, he has such piercing eyes. he is now doing what has been bubbling up within him. Dr Tshimanga trained as a doctor in the Democratic Republic of Congo and now just waiting for his South African Health Council number to practice as a doctor in South Africa. He is here today advising fellow foreign men on how to cope with their health.

The tall figure of Dr Tshimanga flows without effort between French, Swahili and English using voice, eyes and hands to get the 3 men to my side up to speed on handling stress in their lives.

I will come back for pictures when I have the consent of the director of the Denis Hurley Centre and the men in this room. For now, I am just seeing my friend in a new light.

I now have some European editors in waiting for my proposed inner Durban City stories.

But without connection and trust, these stories will never touch down on sensor or film, so today is about connecting with a friend and building trust for tomorrow.

 

 

 

Photography a Middle Brow Art

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A Worker Pauses From Clearing Graves For a Smoke.

As JP Sudre States in Photography A Middle-Brow Art. “The Subject That I Photograph is Ephemeral.

Photography alone captures a precise moment, which disappears and which cannot be brought back to life, hence my distress and also the essential originality of my profession. What could be more transient then a facial expression? Within these words of Sudre lies the importance of the cameras we as photographers use. Alongside the importance of the ephemeral moments that photography alone can capture, revisting the technology inherent in the camera systems that we use, as photographers trying to capture these moments, is of great importance too. I as a photographer use a ‘M6 rangefinder camera for important personal projects when possible.

Family Portraiture

ROANNE TRIGG
ROANNE TRIGG, Photo John Robinson

Portraiture has been at the heart of photography from the start.

A good portrait is much more then a likeness of someone, a good portrait tells the viewer something about the subject, like the importance of family for Roanne Trigg. To do this the photographer and subject need a base of trust and to connect first, only then the spirit might come through the lens and touch down the film and then only for a micro second. John Robinson

Thoughts While Watching ‘The Good Doctor, Season One’

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I Know of a Family Who’s Daughter Bounced Out of a Coma After Massive Brain Trauma.

She will do somethings a little different now and other things way better then those around her; and to her parents I say not all is lost and much is gained too.

The Good Doctor is a television series about a gifted and autistic young surgeon in a San Jose hospital. While the caractor in The Good Doctor is a surgeon way above par, he battles to cope with social skills, obsesses about little things and gets visibly upset because the handy man in the building where he lives fixes something that was not on his “to fix list”.

I cheer, laugh out loud and cry while watching The Good Doctor. The producers of the show have captured realities of post brain injury life. The presence of being a bit weird to others, not always having the word you really wanted and knowing that my left hand likes to do the funky without telling me first. On the other hand being so focused and perceptive now that I feel that my photography is enhanced. I feel that the pictures I now take are some of the best and better then before I had my stroke in 2012.

I don’t want other’s pity, I am comfortable in my skin now. I now know the new me and am leaving that somewhat arrogant person in the past; there is no reversing option after coming around after a stroke in a hospital bed. There is no going back after brain injury, you have got what you have now got, like wetting my hospital bed ’cause my muscle control had to be still relearned. With time you realise that you have got more then first realised too. Rather then your pity I always like a bit of space when my brain is rebooting, often you won’t even realise that I am in pause mode as it only takes about 20 seconds and we are a masters at masking when it happens in public.

While in that hospital bed I talked with a doctor doing her rounds “ma’am, people are supposed to die from strokes”. The doctor just said “yes”. A stroke is devastating. As devastating as it has been, my stroke has also proved to me a life changing event too. I live consciously now, every day, each day, I smell, see things as never before and I am stronger in mind and body then before the stroke.

I am shit awful at religion and in that class I am a bad Johnny at the back, but I sense a greater being, I so believe. I believe in a God that let his son die a public death in Palestine and loves me more then any parent loves their child. Belief is different to religion, it’s not like the brittle dead stick of religion. Belief has flex and it is so strong.

I really like my whole self now with all the quirks and yes my favourite colour is magenta. A friend who knew me pre stroke said that I seem different “you are more tender now, I recognise you as John but you have changed”. My CT scan report includes the following; “A large wedge shaped hypo density involving the grey and white matter is noted in the right frontal region with involvement of the insular region and the right basal ganglia… in keeping with right chronic MCA territory infarct”. I am not medically trained and I do not know what my right frontal region does or does not do now, but I do know about living in my body post stroke. I find other words when the ‘right’ word is not there anymore. Day to day I have slight fine motor skill loss in my left hand, a very slight weakness in my left lower leg and foot. I find that eating with my right hand is easier, riding a bicycle is better then walking long distances and living as though each day is a gift as I could have been already dead as the lady doctor said.

I would not like to back track anymore if it were even possible, I am now accepting of my self and I am a lot more accepting of others too. Though I cope much better when in a congruent situation be that my home office or on a bicycle rush hour traffic and I am so much more perceptive now.

I would not wish a stroke on anyone, but my brain injury has come to me as a bit of a gift in disguise and life is short enough as it is to not take hold of what is. – John Robinson

 

Beverly ‘Guru Girl’ Burne in Her Shop

Beverley And I Were at Design School Together, She Discovered Her Inner Guru

I discovered those moments that are as fleeting as a cat at the bottom of your garden. JR

While Taking Pictures In The Sudan

 

In 2004 I Was in The Sudan Taking Pictures for Mennonite Central Committee.

After taking pictures in IDP camps in Darfur of people who were raped, burned by the Sudanese government backed Janjaweed militia. I was stopped by security officers at the Nyala Airport on our way back to Khartoum with my camera, detailed notes and the client’s 40 rolls of films. I was allowed onto the flight with the assurance that I would be taken aside by more government men on landing in Khartoum.

While we flew out of Darfur a deep sense of peace descended down over me while sitting in that seat on the Marsland Aviation Tupolev airplane , I prayed to God for a way out, heard a voice saying that I was his loved son had to just accept his peace and walk on… He would position the hole in the net that I was caught in, I just had to walk on and trust him to do the rest.

I looked around the cabin for government agents, I was trying to do things my way and the deep sense of peace lifted up off me with the words “do you want my peace or not?” I re accepted the peace and it fell right down tangibly over me again.

I walked down off the Tupolev on the airport apron with my camera, notebook and film right pass a reception of about 6 men who did nothing to stop me, again in the airport building 2 police officers ran into the terminal building where we landed looking for someone again they ran right straight past me.

A few days later an Italian Roman Catholic nun approached me in the Athbarah Comboni Mission Centre; she said that she just had to hug me because she felt that I needed it; and I did need it after Darfur.

Back at our hotel in Khartoum a journalist from a Nairobi based news service offered to secret my film out of the country with all their camera kit for me…

I believe that God is true to his word; and loves us so deeply and can be trusted. He did position holes right where I needed them and I, my kit and pictures got out of the net that I felt to be caught in in The Sudan and then added a much needed hug because he can.

Shooting In A Quiet Place

The Relationship Between People And God is a Soulful Place

Photos John Robinson

Belief is such a strong force; and there is very little that can break that system. I know this from my own relationship with God or Abba Father. I commune and walk in this space too.

To take out a camera in a place of worship is not something I can do lightly, I have to be trusted and walk through these flowers with out a hint of damage, each picture will be seen by those in that place and as a fellow worshipper I am not an outsider that can get away and never come back after the stems are broken and petals crushed.

The moments taken are considered first before committed to a place in the public space. I also know of no better tool then a 35mm film based rangefinder camera for this work, there is no hurry in this way of work; and thus plenty of time for the considering of the fall out from my actions on the day…