A Flat Tyre, Muggers and Angels…

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.

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

#Paula Lycan

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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

Camera & Coffee Sessions, Small Cameras

SINDI ZILWA
SINDI ZILWA Photo John Robinson

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

Order coffees.

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…

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

#Dialogue…

IPJR
NELSON MANDELA ATTENDS A REUNION OF HIS WITS UNIVERSITY LAW CLASS. 1996 WITS UNIVERSITY JOHANNESBURG SOUTH AFRICA PHOTO/JOHN ROBINSON

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.

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

Camera & Coffee Sessions, The Camera In The World

People Behave In A Normative Way In Front Of The Camera.

PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES, A FATHER WHO IS DISABLED.

Photo John Robinson

Order coffees.

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…

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

Xenophobia On The Streets of Durban

Crowded in between a landlord and fear of Xenophobia in the streets of South Africa.

Crowded in Between a Landlord And Fear of Xenophobia in the Streets of South Africa. Photo John Robinson

The Madiengua family lives in an overcrowded flat in the Point area of Durban, South Africa or “Little Nigeria” as it is locally known.

This family lives with their personal belongings packed in plastic bags in case of immediate eviction by the landlord of their building in the Point area of Durban, South Africa, Paty Madiengua stands with his wife Yvette and 4 children L to R Ephraim (15), Sabrina (14), Geffrey (10) and Genesis (2) in the kitchen of their flat ready be on the move again.

Yvette comes from the village of Buta in Oriental Province, DRC. her parents were killed by the DRC army, she escaped to Kinshasa with her brother and sister where her brother went missing. Yvette met Paty who worked as an egg vendor on the streets of Kinshasa and followed him to South Africa with their 4 children.

Paty works the night shift as a security guard in the city and Yvette sells clothes on the beachfront. Mr Madiengua’s salary does not match up to the rent on their 14th floor flat, the landlords in the area are getting rid of families on the overcrowding rule. While the Madiengua family feel safe in their flat they struggle to keep up with the rent and the cost of a family and they are “fearful of the xenophobia in the townships”.

 

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

 

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…

Over Heard in the Palace

Abba Father, You and I Both Know That He Doesn’t Need To Go…

Yes M, that is the case and quite frankly I wish he too would soon come to a place where he could just have the freedom to know that I love him no matter. It’s an order M, just keep an eye on him while he is at that Sunday morning meeting, they call it church and anything could happen to my beloved while there…

The Church!?

Yes M, that’s what these people call it now; yes, I know it’s nothing of the sort of what I wanted, but it is what it has become…

But the other ‘messengers’ are all going biking… And some are looking after some beloved in both trenches in that minor war, that’s what I am trained for, it’s what we all are trained for Papa!

Danger is all over M, including this religion thing called church, there is a very real danger in this thing too…