Making sense of my photography hobby in retirement

Random Thoughts

Go North Turn Left

With our pending three month journey to Europe and North America about to begin in just under two weeks, my wife Valerie and I have established an companion blog to this one called Go North Turn Left.  In this blog we will relate tales of our travels (hopefully not travails) as we venture forth on the various legs of our journey.

So, where did the blog name come from?

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We have a very dear friend who believes that everything in the world is up and to the left of New Zealand. Her view of the geography of the world dates back to primary school days when she first looked at a map of the world. On that map New Zealand was at the bottom right corner. This view of the world has always intrigued us, especially Valerie who was a former geography teacher. So, to honour this unusual view we have named the blog “Go North Turn Left”

Our travels this year start at the end of July 2013.  We trust you will enjoy the journey with us.

Posts will also continue here as time and internet connections permit.


The end is in sight!

SONY DSC

The last six weeks have been a trial.  In February we sold our home of the last 32 years.  We built it then to replace the home that my wife grew up in until we were married 44 years ago. Thirty two years of raising three sons and accumulating life’s possessions, plus those possessions that flowed out of the old house, have made the last few weeks difficult at times as decisions needed to be made on to what to keep and what to re-house elsewhere.  Yesterday we left the house with just three small cartons to top-up and close.  Our life is now housed in a storage facility awaiting rediscovery when we find a new home some time in the next year.  Finding a view of the end over the last two weeks has been difficult, but yesterday it emerged.

In two weeks we leave for a three month holiday that will take us to China, Europe, the USA and Canada.  Needless to say, we are really looking forward to the adventure. Just like the last few weeks, transmission over the next three months may be a bit patchy as we search for internet connections and time to update posts. Every attempt will be made to create a regular stream of posts and express views on what we discover.


Unconsecrated Ground

The story of Chinese immigration into New Zealand at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is not a happy one, as witnessed by a Government Apology in 2002 by the then Prime Minister Helen Clark.  Chinese immigrant stories, especially around the goldfields of Central Otago, went generally untold and therefore unnoticed by the general population until well into the twentieth century.  From 1977 – 1987  the New Zealand Historic Places Trust commissioned an archaeological study of Chinese gold mining sites along the Clutha River near Cromwell before it was dammed and flooded, and in 1993 Chinese physician Dr James Ng produced Volume 1 of his four volume definitive work “Windows on a Chinese Past”. These two documents brought many of  the issues and hardships that faced the hard working Chinese settlers into public view.

The Alaskan, Californian, Australian and then New Zealand gold rushes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries attracted fortune seekers from all over the world, with many moving from one boom to the next as hopes of hitting pay dirt diminished. Among those numbers were peasant men from China seeking another means of supporting their families. Because few spoke English they tended to cluster together and there was only a minimum of interaction with other miners. They were generally no more of less successful in their search for gold than any others however. At best they were tolerated, but when times toughened and the gold ran out they were ostracised. As a result of intense lobbying to politicians by “European” settlers the Government introduced a Poll Tax of £10 at the border for new Chinese immigrants, which was increased to £100 in 1896. It was for this and other discriminatory laws that the Government apologied in 2002.

Chinese miners were represented in many of the early gold fields in Central Otago, the best known and documented site being at Arrowtown near Queenstown. So also it was the case at Naseby and nearby Blacks.  But what happened to them when they died?

Luey Mee Hok, Naseby, Otago, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Luey Mee Hok

In some settlements  grave sites were established by the Chinese communities themselves, but in others such as Naseby they were buried at the local cemetery – sort of. Being non-Christian, and considered by many therefore to be heathen, they were interred in unconsecrated ground outside the boundary of the normal cemetery.  Such was the fate of Luey Mee Hok in 1907, whose grave can be found under the trees with other members of his Chinese fraternity.  Its a sad reflection of former less tolerant times.


Unexpected

We had read and had been told also that Turkey was a secular country, but the predominant religion was Islam.  As such we expected and experienced a degree of conservatism in dress and behaviours during our two week visit in 2006.  Yet despite this underlying conservatism, we encountered a number of things that surprised us.  Imagine if you can our reaction to seeing this poster mounted prominently on a pole in one of Istanbul’s busiest shopping streets, Istiklal Cadesi.

Cinema Poster, Istanbul, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Istanbul is described as the crossroads between the east and the west.  It is an amalgam of modern and old.   For every young woman in the streets wearing up-to-date western fashion, there is probably an equal number wearing traditional conservative Islamic dress.  The modern women are not provocative in their dress, but are as stylish as you would see in Paris or London.  This poster therefore seemed to be an aberration and completely out there. Just one block away from this very fashionable street most of the women had their heads covered with scarves and their arms and legs covered  in the usual Islamic fashion.


Corsets

I am presently reading “The Genius of Photography” by Gerry Badger, the book of the 2007 BBC TV series of the same name.  In the prelude to Chapter 2 the following photograph, which was taken in 1912 by French photographer Eugene Atget, reminded me of one I took in Istanbul, Turkey in 2006.

Eugene Atget - Corsets, Boulevard de Strasbourg 1912

Boulevard de Strasbourg, Corsets, Paris 1912 – Eugene Atget (1857-1927)

Atget built up a large portfolio of documentary photographs of Paris during a period of great change.  The importance of his collection was only recognised much later.  I doubt that my single image taken in a back street in Istanbul will carry the same gravitas in years to come!

Corsets, Istanbul, Turkey, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Istiklal Cadesi, Corsets, Istanbul 2006 – Chris Gregory (19xx-Stll Here)

Corsets, Istanbul, Turkey, copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Istiklal Cadesi, Corsets, Istanbul 2006 – Chris Gregory (Original colour version)


Colour on a Drab Day

I was overcast when I woke this morning.  Although its summer here, one of the westerly fronts that regularly arrives from the Tasman Sea during summer is making a visit today.  After the wonderful sunny weather we have had for the past few weeks, today feels drab and grey.  It reminds me of the day in 2008 when we visited Fengdu on the Yangtze River in China, but without the air pollution which gives the grey sky a yellow hue to match the muddy river.  At least in “Ghost City” there was colour to be found but, to give today its due, the sun is at least trying to break through.

Yangtze Cruise Ships, Fengdu, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Temple at Fengdu, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Red & Green, Fengdu, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013

Blue & Red, Fengdu, China, Copyright Chris Gregory 2013


Co-existence

Co-existence, Kaikoura, New Zealand, Copyright Chris Gregory 2012

“I read the news today, Oh Boy!”  The words of the Beatles 1967 “A Day in the Life” song from the group’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  album came to mind as yet more bad news emerged from Syria.  Although I have never been there I know Syria to be a country rich in history and world heritage sites.  Our eldest son backpacked through that country with his wife-to-be a few years ago, before the present troubles .  While staying with us over the Christmas break they expressed their sadness that the places they visited have been destroyed and the people they met have been cast into desperation by a man and his need to retain power at all costs.

Why can’t people learn to co-exist?  This may be a kind of Utopian dream for all of humanity, but by and large most of the people, most of the time seem to achieve a version of peaceful co-existence.  It may be that the saying “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely” just has to play out in some places.

The image above was taken on a miserable rainy day on the Kaikoura coast of New Zealand’s South Island, and is the nearest I can find among my photographs to demonstrate co-existence – in this instance, among species.