Durban Beachfront in Covid 19 Lockdown

Durban beachfront in total Covid 19 lockdown.

Photo John Robinson

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.

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Covid 19 In South Africa, Coming Through Bitter Experience…

HIV and TB, And Now Covid 19 In South Africa

Photos and Words John Robinson

Gogo, you kept us strong when we were bitten by the whip, and we are still strong. Though we are not a nanny state people, through you our elders, we are strong. Though we are not of orderly streets and straight lines. In this Gogo, we are strong.
We know of viruses and microbes in our midst. The devastation they cause runs deep on our pathways, soaking our fields with premature endings that alter the ways of our left-behinds totally, but Gogo, you have made us strong.
Gogo, you have done your bit, you have been strong for us. If it is your time now, pass with peace of mind, you have made us strong. What you have taught us over the years is with us now in this new thing. All your grandchildren are strong now.
-I have had an inner peace that the people of Africa will come through the Covid 19 pandemic stronger than many others with better resources. The difference is in our collective strength through the bitter experience with the viruses and microbes of our daily lives… John Robinson

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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.

 

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

 

Environmental Portraits, Shooting For Myself

Jessica and Mark Byerley in Jessica Byerley's home at 43 Cromwell Road, Glenwood, durban.

Jessica On a Red Sofa. Photo John Robinson

“There is nothing new in this world” – Ecclesiastes, the preacher, son of David, King in Jerusalem.

When I first got a camera in my hands it was personal; at this point in my life I work well with leather and have started again to make a financial way for myself. Photography has always been a personal thing, now as ever it has always been…

Max and Jason gave me a day job as a leather smith, it’s been a game changer for me I am good at this leather thing and I can get much better too. I feel that where there is leather there is a way forward for me also. I say the following to Max and Jason, “we have a long way together still”.

I have written about perception in the past and it’s personal, now with leather in my picture I am freed to shoot personal, for myself and the best is still to come on all fronts…

 

 

 

 

…WHILE WALKING DOWN DR PIXLEY KASEME STREET

Hate, fear and love are also 4 letter words; and by another 4 letter word, if I don’t grapple with their out working each and every day of my life.

H is now a friend of mine; she lives just off South Beach with her husband and works in her brother’s restaurant at the top end of Dr Pixley KaSeme Street across from the old grave yard. She makes a petite Ethiopian coffee that my homeopath should never know about, and with its clove infusion is my favorite shot of down town coffee. Her brother’s restaurant is a scent filled alcove, without a menu he serves meat and salad on a plate of injera; a sour flatbread from their home in Ethiopia. H’s coffee is roasted and brewed on charcoal in front of me, she serves it in fine porcelain that her friend G sells alongside the coffee beans from the highlands of their homeland. It is because of local ‘hate of other’ that the brother has said no to photos of H here, it is out of respect for him that H quietly shook her head to me when I took out the M6 just off this road in down town Durban.

F is fearful and is still the victim of a brutal hijacking about 3 years ago. F can’t go out at night alone, and has panic attacks in dark places.

Fear is so debilitating, it’s a part of the psyche of many people who I know around me. As an age we are preoccupied with the concept of ‘safety’, America has a department devoted to the safety of their homeland. South Africa is devoted to the issue of their ‘crime’. For all our other advances we are not a people of can do but a people of can’t do due to our fear. I would like to be able to take F for a walk along a down town street, to sample coffee with clove, I feel that it will be awhile yet before F is ready to browse for porcelain on Dr Pixley KaSeme Street. F’s fear is real, I can see it; there is nothing put on about it.

I will always love X, L and Y. But I lost my temper with L a long time ago, I did apologise and I am so sorry for what I did.

L is deeply hurt and I have to love from a distance. I live with these consequences and now know that love is not a fluffy thing. Love is deep like a river, it has a power of its own, and I have to love for all of us for now.

I will never stop loving and doing what I can for X, L and Y. I will continue to walk along side F and maybe one day we will go browse for porcelain together. I will be a friend to H and all others in little Addis Ababa on the top end of Dr Pixley KaSeme Street.

Names have been changed to protect all those involved in this down town walk of mine.

JR

XENOPHOBIA

Fear of the other took the United Kingdom out of the European Union; this takes me back to the Roman Empire and the Huns on it’s eastern frontier, and the ongoing mistrust between the sedentary and the nomad.

Both peoples have a thirst for land, and we all live in the same village now, it’s called Earth.

Understanding is a good antidote for fear-of-other or xenophobia. No country is really an island in the end. Humankind will have to live together, and just get to understand each other in our midst…

ONE CHALK LINE AT A TIME…

It’s a part of my existence, only having in-the-ball-park words to work with, having to get used to the idea that the fear of stress makes fluid conversation only a partly achievable goal, when once they just rolled off my tongue.

It’s like “I wouldn’t think you had a stroke”; What are we supposed to look like after one? I know what I look like after months of swimming, skipping and push ups… I know that I like my body more now then before. I don’t think a doctor will give me a grant based on the slight drag in my left leg, my core is solid, and my arms and legs are worked without being bulky as that of a body builder and now I don’t have a flabby bum. I wear a size 34/32 inch pair of old Levi 501s now; I once wore a 38/32 generous cut of the same. I don’t use my stick when walking around Durban anymore too.

It’s like “He didn’t get out of bed in the morning.” And it was the faeries who did the laundry for six and cooking and cleaning for the same… Yes I do go into neutral sometimes, it’s worse when I have to corral too many butterflies at any one time. I also have to pace myself more now then I did before that morning in the darkroom while at university when everything changed. When I am in neutral it’s my brain working through a detour. A stroke just damages a part of the brain; it then works out another way through like a track through the bush alongside what was once a flowing highway, this can take time, I don’t stay in neutral for long, it’s just long enough to get sorted out again. Yes I do get very tired but after a nap of about a hour I am normally good!

I don’t have a full time job, so I am doing 3 pro Deo murals for a local church in south Durban and it’s been a long and slow process. Starting with the scale sketches which have to be in end-colour and approved by the client, the boards have to be whitened in preparation for a yellow chalk grid that aids the outlines for the mural it’s self… I procrastinate with my e mails before carrying on with the job at hand, it seems just to much for me… But one chalk line is finished at a time; and with some lunch in me I get all the chalk work done. I was just in neutral, I was tired, but I now know the signs and know that I can still push through though maybe a bit slower at times then before but now with much more eye to detail which is also a slide over from the stroke too. Oops, there is another in-the-ball-park word that works quite well too…

 

COMING UP FOR BREATH

I pull my body through the sharp bright winter’s water,  I count down today’s 40 circuits of the swimming pool. As I come up for breath, I think over all the ‘already has beens’ and paranoid thought that float around in my head. My almost daily swims in the cold winter water have been as much a time for intense thought as it is for strengthening a post stroke body, I guess I can’t change what people may or may not think.

I can live my life as best as I can on a daily basis, I can get up again when ever I fail and I know that truth always comes out in the end. I am a little brain by design, God is my creator, he has the big brain, he knows all things by his own design; because of my perspective I cannot see all things all the time.

As I swim the pool, the water’s cold horizon dips and sways, my eyes sting from the same and I battle to know if I have done 38 or 39 circuits. I know that I am pushing through, one day at a time, through the stinging blur I come up to the edge of the pool; I have another 40 circuits to my credit with many more to come.

 

 

GLOBAL CLIMATE MARCH; HOWICK FALLS AREA SOUTH AFRICA

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Community members march together against the threat of fracking in the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa. South Africa is a water scarce region, there is not enough water for those who live here.

The community is afraid of what fracking will do the water table beneath their feet and want nothing to threaten their valuable resource.