I’ve Opened a Store!

My Etsy Store

Just a quick note. From time to time I get emails from people who like my photos and want to know if they can buy them or if there is a way to help support my blog. Until now I’ve mostly done all of that via email but hopefully now I won’t have to…

… because I’ve finally opened a store! 😀

It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while and after getting another few emails recently, I thought now was a good time to give it a try.

I’ve set it up with Etsy and for now I’ve added a selection of my favourite photos and will be adding more soon.

All the photos are digital files so people can print them themselves or through a printshop (saving money and time on postage). Or alternatively they can be used as wallpaper, printed on canvas or however else someone wants to use them.

Each photo is $5 and I thought that was fair given they’re digital files… about the same price as a cup of coffee. There’s also a 20% discount for buying 3 or more.

I’ve called it Shutter & Pen to match this site and over time I plan to add some pieces of my writing as well, like my haiku printed on some of the photos and possibly an ebook I’m working on.

Anyway it’s all set up now so if you’d like to check it out, I’d love to know what you think.

I can also do special one-off orders so if there’s a particular photo you’d like that isn’t there yet, just let me know. 😀

Some Thoughts on the Election

Like a lot of Australians, I’m still digesting the results – or rather lack of results – from Saturday’s election. I thought I’d share a few thoughts while it’s all still fresh in my mind.

  • At the moment we still don’t know the final result and won’t know until Tuesday at the earliest, probably later. Right now the most likely outcomes look like being either another hung parliament or possibly the Turnbull government just hanging on by the skin of its teeth and forming a slender majority by one or two seats. Either way it’s not what most people expected.
  • My overall impression of all this is, well, what a mess. The prospect of another hung parliament isn’t something I particularly relish; while the 2010 parliament did actually pass some good legislation, the whole process was so chaotic and there were so many wasteful promises that in the end it just seemed incredibly disorganised and unstable. Likewise the Turnbull government being returned with a tiny majority doesn’t seem very workable either as Turnbull would have to keep his entire party in line and that seems unlikely to say the least after this result.
  • Personally I was hoping that, whoever won the election, we’d get a clear result to end the chaos we’ve seen in the recent past. But now it looks like the only way to get that would be through another election, which would be expensive and after such a long campaign already, there’s very little appetite for that. And even if another election were held, there’s no guarantee we wouldn’t end up with a similar result either. So, yes. It’s all looking like a pretty big mess unfortunately.
  • To be honest, though, Turnbull only has himself to blame for this result. This should have been a fairly comfortable victory given his popularity after replacing Tony Abbott last year. But that support disappeared and then the Coalition’s entire campaign felt lacklustre and uninspired – we barely even heard about the main premise for the election throughout the campaign, the government not being able to pass its ABCC legislation, when you’d expect that to be one of the main issues. And that’s just one example. Likewise Turnbull seemed strangely disengaged, like the whole process was taxing and something he was simply enduring before getting back to the main business of running the country. Add a clever campaign by Labor built primarily around Medicare and this is the result, a government that may be on its way out after only one term.
  • So what went wrong? Honestly I think you’d have to say that most of this result is due to people becoming very frustrated with Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition in general. When Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as PM there was a feeling of relief in the community, like Turnbull would be able to change direction and align the government more closely with public sentiment on issues like climate change and marriage equality. But the Turnbull who emerged as PM was not the one people expected; he was hamstrung by the right faction of his party and it gave the impression that he stood for nothing and had sacrificed his convictions to become PM. In the end it seemed like very little had changed, just the face of the government, and when you add in the disappointing campaign performance by Turnbull and the Coalition as a whole, it’s not that surprising that people turned to Labor and the minor parties as their trust evaporated.
  • To be fair to Turnbull, much of the public expectation when he became PM was unfair. He was never going to be the PM they wanted, not just because the right would go after him if he even dreamed of trying to be, but also because that simply isn’t who he is as a person or as a politician. He is a pragmatist and realistically the best chance Turnbull had to change the government’s direction was after the election, by winning with enough of a margin to claim a mandate and to slowly move the government more towards where he wanted them to be over time. The irony though is that he’ll probably never get that chance now as the result means he’ll have to be even more beholden to the right to survive – saying he can survive after this result.
  • While the Coalition’s campaign was lacklustre, I also don’t want to take credit away from Labor either. Labor did extremely well in the campaign and Bill Shorten performed extraordinarily well as leader. He transformed himself into a true alternative PM during the campaign and his enthusiasm and enjoyment for the process was infectious, which was particularly impressive given it was such a long, exhausting eight weeks.
  • Looking objectively, Labor ran a very professional campaign, particularly at the grassroots level, and they successfully presented themselves as a party with new ideas for the country. It’s no surprise that they emerged reinvigorated and that is the truly good thing to come out of this election; at the very least it’s shown that they’ll be a strong opposition and as any democracy is only as strong as it’s opposition, that’s a good sign. And they look capable if they do somehow claim government too.
  • The one thing I didn’t like about the Labor campaign though was the Medicare scare campaign. I thought they pushed it way too hard, particularly in the last week of the campaign. I don’t think it was accurate or necessary to go so far as to suggest that the government was thinking about privatising Medicare when there was little evidence of that; there was already enough concern over GP co-payments for Labor to make their case about health and Medicare and it took their campaign into negative territory which I didn’t like at all. But it worked and ended up being one of the biggest issues for them, so I can’t really argue with it, I guess.
  • Labor did very well but I think the big winner, though, was Pauline Hanson. At the moment it looks like One Nation has secured two senate spots and may end up with as many as four. It’s a remarkable resurrection for Hanson and will give her much of the balance of power in the senate.
  • I can’t begin to say how disappointed I am to see Hanson not only back but potentially wielding that much power. As far as I’m concerned One Nation is a party based on fear and ignorance and I despaired when I saw the result. Listening to Hanson today, it seems One Nation wants to abolish the Family Law Court and will be pushing for royal commissions into the science of climate change and to examine whether Islam is a “religion or a political ideology”. All of which sound utterly bizarre to me.
  • One Nation’s views don’t surprise me – it’s the same old ignorance, just with new targets – but I guess I am disappointed that, after twenty years, people continue to not be able to see through them as hollow and xenophobic. But to be honest One Nation’s success is not unique or even that unexpected, if anything it’s just another example of the continued rise of far-right parties and figures that we’ve been seeing around the world over the last few years. The same fears about immigration, muslims, the economy and the decline of the working class that drove the Brexit outcome and are behind a lot of Donald Trump’s support are the same reasons many people voted for One Nation too.
  • Given that trend and how many votes One Nation received in this election, you’d have to say that the main parties have good reason to be worried about the growing power of the far right fringe. It’s becoming harder to dismiss that support as just a small number of people; it’s a growing and very vocal minority that is very dissatisfied with the political system and wants to shake it up or overturn it entirely. I’m not sure what the parties can really do about those people either except to try to find a way to reengage with them, which would be very difficult, perhaps even impossible at this point. Either way, it gives a voice to some of these kinds of views for at least the next few years and will make negotiating with the senate a nightmare.
  • So how is all this going to play out? At this stage I really have no idea; the election is so close that pretty much anything could happen. I think the most likely scenario is a hung parliament with the Coalition getting about 74 seats but I honestly do not know how it would play out from there. If that were to happen I’m not sure I could see Labor securing enough crossbench support to form government, and while theoretically the Coalition could, I’m not sure how workable it would be or how tenuous Turnbull’s position would then become, particularly given the senate.
  • If I had to guess I’d say that I think the Coalition will just manage to form a minority government but I would not be at all surprised if it all falls apart very quickly. I also wouldn’t be surprised if neither party can form government and we have to have another election. Which honestly no one would be happy about but I think would probably be the fairest outcome at this stage.
  • Either way I just hope we get a result soon and that somehow, some way, whoever forms government manages to provide some kind of stability. The chaos has gone on for far too long. But I doubt it unfortunately.
  • What a mess.

Belmont Lions Park

Belmont Lion's Park

I went for a walk along the Belmont lakefront yesterday afternoon and ended up near Belmont Lions Park, which is a small grassed area and playground for kids down by the wharf.

It’s a very nice, peaceful area, with a beautiful view across the lake, and so I sat there for a while, thinking and taking a couple of photos.

The sunset was lovely and there were a couple of children on bikes cycling round and a few people walking dogs or jogging. A few of them smiled at me and said hello as they passed. There was another photographer as well and we nodded at each other while eyeing our respective cameras.

It was all wonderfully ordinary and suburban and it was a great place to sit and think for a while… about writing, photography, love, and life.

I kept thinking how in many ways, with beautiful, friendly people going about their lives, it could have been a scene in pretty much any country, any place in the world – like Orlando.

How ordinary families just like these ones are grieving a terrible loss and how it could so easily be any of us, any of our friends, any of our loved ones.

The massacre has upset me a lot and I was grateful for the quiet time by the lake to think. Grateful for the peace and beauty the lake offered.

I hope you like the photos and my heart goes out to all of the victims, their families and to everyone in the US.

Playground

Playground equipment

Looking across the lake

Looking across the lake

Across the lake in Black & White

Looking across the lake in black and white

Photos © CJ Levinson 2016

Sydney Photo Collage #2

This is another collage of Sydney photos that I made recently. It’s the third collage in the series and I really like how it came out.

Like the second collage, the photos were all taken around places I knew well while I lived in Sydney like Centennial Park and the QVB but I tried to choose ones which were a little more recognisable this time, like Centrepoint Tower.

The photos were taken over about five years and several of these photos are actually among some of my earliest serious works – the one of the Bali Memorial statue, in fact, is actually the very first photo I ever took with an SLR.

I think they work well together and show glimpses of the Sydney I know and love, which is what I wanted to try to represent. I look forward to hanging it on my wall.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2016

The Bridge and Opera House

The Coathanger

Distant memories
Frozen in time
Remind me of
My harbour home

Opera HouseI was going back through some of my archives earlier for another collage and I found these photos from about four years ago. I took them during a trip to Taronga Zoo and didn’t do much with them at the time… I think I gave them a quick edit and then they sat in my archives, mostly forgotten until now.

I’m glad I found them again today and took the time to edit them properly. I like the results – it can be difficult to photograph subjects that are as well known as the Harbour Bridge and Opera House, particularly from a distance, as it can be hard to find new angles and perspectives but I like how the framing is a bit different and how the edits help evoke a more vintage feel.

I was also happy to find the one of the Opera House as despite living in Sydney for so long (twenty five years!), I actually didn’t take that many photos of the Opera House. I took lots of the Harbour Bridge and lots of Centrepoint Tower but only a couple of the Opera House for some weird reason. So I’m glad to have this for my collection.

It was nice going back through the photos as well as I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic for Sydney lately. I’ve settled in well up here but in many ways I think Sydney will always be my home and it was nice revisiting some memories.

Photos © CJ Levinson 2012
Haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Sydney Photo Collage

Collage 1

I finished the first of my Sydney photo collages earlier and thought I’d share it after sharing the Newcastle one yesterday.

I like how it came out, particularly the way the photos stand out from each other but also how the repetition of colours and styles gives it a feeling of consistency too.

I was aiming for something slightly different with this collage as the photos were all taken around where I used to live in Randwick and other places I used to visit regularly in Sydney, like Centennial Park and Queen’s Park. In fact the photo above the bottom right is of the Parish Centre at St Jude’s Church in Randwick, which is where I used to live with my parents in the early 1990s when they worked as vergers at the church (pictured on the left).

I chose the photos as I thought they worked well together and that it would be nice to have a reminder of my life in Sydney. It’ll look very nice once it’s printed and hung next to the Newcastle collage on my wall.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2016
Like the photo? Click here to buy it for $5

Newcastle Photo Collage

Collage 2

I’ve been busy moving over the last few weeks. I’ve been thinking about moving for a while and after the break in a few months ago and some other safety issues, I finally decided I’d had enough and needed to get out. So I’ve put most of my possessions in storage for now and I’m staying with my mother in Belmont while I recoup some of the costs and eventually start to look for a place of my own.

I am happy to be out and in a safer area but I guess I have slightly mixed feelings as this is the second time in three years I have had to put everything in to storage and leave home. On the other hand it’s the first time in a long time that I feel like I’m not looking over my shoulder and worrying about ice addicted neighbours which is a big relief. And it’s nice being with mum again and being able to help her and shares costs, etc.

More than anything I think this will be a good opportunity to find some peace and heal. It’s a beautiful area right by the lake and this little cabin already feels more like a home than where I’ve been living did.

So at the moment I’m still settling in and since I packed most of my photos I thought I’d look at printing some new ones to make my room a little more inviting. What I really want is to create a kind of gallery feel so I thought I’d create some collages.

The photo above is the first one I’ve done so far. I compiled it in Photoshop and it’s made up of photos I’ve taken around Newcastle and Lake Macquarie since we left Sydney three years ago. It seemed like a good place to start and I really like how it’s turned out and the contrast between all the photos.

I also plan to do two collages of photos from Sydney and another of photos from New Zealand, which I’ll then print to around poster size. It should create a nice showcase and hopefully be a bit of a talking point too.

I hope you like it. I’ll post the other collages as I do them too.

Photo © CJ Levinson 2015/16
Like the photo? Click here to buy it for $5

Sitting by the Window

CJ by the Window

Each morning
I look in the mirror
And fix my mask
To face the day

I took this photo yesterday. I wanted a photo for a new profile pic for my social media sites and possibly for an about the author photo. I’d been meaning to practise taking more self-portraits as well (mainly to experiment on myself first so I can feel more comfortable directing lighting and poses) so I thought this would be a good start too.

I’m usually quite difficult to photograph so this is quite a good one for me. Most photos of me come out looking a little strained and flat. The reason is because it’s quite hard to capture a posed photo of someone when they’re in pain a lot of the time; sitting still and holding a pose is difficult and I usually look better in more spontaneous photos. They tend to capture the real me, not the me hiding his face behind a mask.

I think we all wear masks in life; there is the real us and then there is the persona we want others to see, the mask we wear to project an image we find desirable. I find with chronic pain that is doubly true as I don’t want people to see I’m in pain and so I have a carefully created mask I wear that I only take off when I’m alone or with very close family and friends. It helps to hold me together in public and let me function when the pain is awful and for me, my smile and my sense of humour are my mask. They help deflect questions and attention and tell people I’m okay.

The haiqua above is very much a reflection of my daily routine; before I go out or see someone, I always look at myself in the mirror and make sure my mask is in place. Sometimes it is harder than others depending on how much pain I am in or how tired I am but I never go out without practising a smile and making sure it is in place.

Ironically though that mask usually tends to fail with posed portraits like this. I can’t sit still and hold a pose for long very easily and trying to hold a smile in place tends to end up looking rather strained or flat in the photo. That’s why I quite like this photo as it doesn’t have that look and for once I got it without having to take a few dozens photos to capture it. That could have been luck or maybe it’s that I’m now starting to understand more about posing and so I’m starting to get better at capturing the real me sooner.

I could have done more with it; some gentle lighting across my face would have softened my face and removed some of the shadows under my eyes and a flash might have created a little more separation. But to be honest I didn’t want to do any of that. This is close to the real me and the real me usually does have those flaws and shadows from being tired and in pain. If the goal was to try to capture the real me then removing those wouldn’t be an accurate representation.

I also like that there isn’t too much separation and you can see the photo frames and some of my books etc properly. They’re a part of my life and I wanted to show that too and make it more of an environmental portrait.

CJ by the Window 2

I took this photo at the same time and converted it to black and white in Lightroom afterward. I like it as well, particularly the black tones, but you can probably see my expression is a little more strained in it. I thought it was a useful comparison anyway.

Photos and Haiqua © CJ Levinson 2016

Which Door Would you Choose?

 

So I came across an interesting post on Facebook earlier today. It asked a question that in turn got me thinking about something else. So I thought I’d borrow the idea and explore it in a bit more detail on the blog.

First, here’s the post itself:

which door would you choose

I guess I found it interesting as when I was young I used to daydream a little about this kind of thing. Quite often I used to imagine I was in Sherwood Forrest or Camelot and I loved using my imagination to make me feel like I was really there and not in my bedroom or back yard. This doesn’t seem all that different from those childhood fantasies.

What would I do now, given the choice as an adult? Where would I love to visit and what would I love to see? Maybe the beauty of Rivendell or the grandeur of Camelot? The fun of magical London or the breadth of the Wall?

I find that idea really fun to think about but, funnily enough, treating it seriously for a moment, I don’t think I’d actually want to go to any of those worlds.

When you stop and think about it and place them into context, all these worlds are wonderfully imagined, magical places but they’re also all torn apart by war and strife. That’s the nature of fiction, that it needs conflict to drive the narrative, and that’s often what interests us about these worlds as backdrops – but that becomes very different when you think about these places as potentially being ‘real’. While a child might dream of playing and adventuring in those worlds, for an adult they probably wouldn’t be as attractive and likely would be very dangerous.

I guess if you were to imagine a real world equivalent, it would be a bit like visiting Syria at the moment; it would be a wonderful place to see and learn about but probably not that safe and not somewhere most people would choose to go.

Given that, I find it quite hard to answer the question. All of the places would have incredible beauty and interesting landmarks, so it would be hard for me to decide simply based on that also.

So I guess this is how I would answer and why:

For me Narnia would be first out as, no matter how interesting that world is, it’s basically set against a never-ending religious civil war and there is enough of that in our world. And Neverland is a pretty weird and dangerous place when you think about it, so that’s out for me as well. Wonderland is too trippy for me and Westeros is a pretty hard land where everyone wants to kill you, including George RR Martin, so that’s out too.

That leaves Hogwarts, Camelot and Middle-Earth. Hogwarts is nice but there’s a really dark undercurrent to those stories too and as much as I love Camelot, there’s an awful lot of betrayal and loss.

Which leaves Middle-Earth. While there’s fighting, there are also long periods of peace and a quiet life in the Shire sounds like a pretty good option overall. Plus there’s a lot of beauty in that world.

So I guess I’d choose the Middle-Earth door and try to have a quiet life.

That’s more or less how I answered on Facebook as well, except with a little more humour.

I spent a while reading through the comments afterwards as well and something occurred to me while reading them. The choices were split pretty evenly on the whole, except for Hogwarts and Middle-Earth which both had a slight advantage, but the most interesting thing was how the answers often seemed to reflect bits and pieces of people’s lives and personalities.

For instance, people who chose Narnia often said they did so because they related to the themes in the world, while others who liked Neverland said they liked the innocence of the story, and Hogwarts because they would have loved to have escaped like Harry did when they were young. And so on.

I find that fascinating, how a simple question can reveal so much about us. It reminds me of some of the tests psychologists use and I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere something like this is actually being used that way.

I thought about it for a while and came up with this to describe the traits based on the choices people made and the reasons they gave. I’m obviously not a psychologist so this is obviously highly unscientific(!) but these traits definitely seemed to come up again and again in the answers which I thought was interesting.

Narnia: someone who is quite religious or enjoys religious themes. Neverland: someone who is a child at heart and has a sense of wonder about the world. Wonderland: someone who is attracted to more offbeat, eccentric subjects and thinks outside the box. Hogwarts: someone attracted to escapism and wishes they could be/could have been someone else during their life. Camelot: someone who is a bit of a romantic and a traditionalist and often wishes for simpler times. Middle-Earth: someone who seeks beauty and/or adventure and is a bit of a dreamer at heart. Westeros: someone who enjoys testing themselves and/or has experienced pain and loss.

I doubt those would be accurate for everyone but they corresponded with a lot of the answers and I’d say they’re accurate for me as well. I would definitely describe myself as a bit of a dreamer, and I’d say I’d also relate to some of those reasons for enjoying Harry Potter and the Arthurian stories too at different times in my life.

Overall I found the question and the answers really interesting and it’s funny how something like a simple Facebook post or a blog quiz can reveal so much about us.

Sometimes I wonder what historians in five hundred or a thousand years will make of a lot of the data we’ve put online and what it will tell them about our lives. Because that’s what we’re actually doing by keeping a blog or updating social media, we’re creating a collective tapestry of life that will far outlive us. Which is a bit scary when you think about it. But pretty amazing too.

I imagine a lot of it will seem very pedantic and self-absorbed (because honestly, a lot of it is) but at the same time things like blogs and social media will be a real boon to them, showing what our interests were like, our speech and writing patterns, clothing, politics, etc. Even a simple question like this might provide a huge amount of insight.

Something to think about the next time we write a post or share something on Facebook or Twitter.

So which door would you choose and what do you think it says about you? I’d love to find out. 🙂