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

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
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The Next Day (September 12)


Images from Wikimedia Commons

The next day of life:
Sorrow rising with the sun
A broken heart mourns

Memories of you:
A kiss under candlelight
Our daughter’s first smile

Clothes in the closet
Sleeping in an empty bed:
An intense longing

Faces on billboards
Flags unmoving in the breeze:
Two towers, falling

One among thousands
Lying in a smoky grave:

A river of dreams:
Thoughts of a different life
I shall not forget

Our children playing:
Moments of laughter and joy
Love lasts forever

Rain striking windows
Sunset on the horizon:
Life begins again

Licenced under a Creative Commons Licence


I almost can’t believe it has been seven years since 9/11. It’s gone so quickly; the memories and emotions are still so raw. And yet so much has happened in the seven years. It feels like a different world now; less innocent and sure of itself. That one moment changed so much.

I still remember it so clearly. My parents told me there had been an explosion at the World Trade Center; I came through to watch just as the second plane struck. For hours we just sat there, feeling helpless and numb. My thoughts went to my friends in America and while they were okay, it seemed like everyone knew someone who had been affected by the attacks.

What I remember most about 9/11 is actually the following day, September 12. As it happened during our night there wasn’t much information available until the 12th our time. All during that day, wherever you went, people were stunned. That an attack like 9/11 might happen somewhere had always been a grim possibility but the extent was beyond anyone’s worst fears.

As time passed we heard about the signs people missed but I try not to think about them too much. I don’t think anything could have stopped 9/11; contained the damage, perhaps, but not stopped it. While knowing where the agencies and bureaucracy went wrong is important, it’s easy to focus on that so much that we forget the human impact as well.

Almost 3000 people died on 9/11 but it means so much more than that… the husbands and wives who never went home, the fire fighters and police officers who gave their lives. I can’t imagine what it must be like, to live with the grief the families must still feel… to watch your child grow up without their mother or father. It must be heart-breaking.

I started to write this poem for last year’s anniversary but it was never quite what I wanted it to be. I’m happier with it now; I decided to post it on the 12th instead as it’s about the day after the attacks and learning to live with the grief. I hope it is a respectful tribute to the people who died and their families. May we never forget them.

When Sydney Ruled the World

I’ve been watching a lot of the Olympic coverage from Beijing this week. To be honest I’m not sure what to make of it all. So far the Games themselves have been good; the events have been much closer than in recent years and Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have been outstanding. It’s a moment of great national pride for China and seeing their citizens happy and excited before the opening ceremony is something I’ll remember, even if some of it felt forced.

Yet I still feel uncomfortable about it. I was opposed to China hosting the Games when it was announced; I felt awarding the Games to China with its human rights record sent the wrong message. 7 years on I still feel the same way and there have been few signs of change, despite China’s assurances. What surprises me, though, is that many of the stadiums seem half-empty. Perhaps that’s the ticket prices or the security, I’m not sure, but with such excitement about the Games empty seats are the last thing I expected.

The security in particular bothers me and it just doesn’t feel like the Olympic Games… but perhaps I’m being unfair. I still remember the Sydney Games so well and it’s not a fair comparison. Sydney’s were the last innocent Games, before 9/11. The security in China is harsh but it’s a different world now. With the exception of allowing protests I’m not sure Sydney would be all that different if we were hosting the Games in 2008, not after APEC.

But the Games themselves have been excellent and they’ve brought back a lot of memories from Sydney. What I remember best about the Sydney Games is the feeling that surrounded them. The Games felt like our moment to shine, to show what hosting a truly global event meant to us. The torch relay was an example of that. It passed through many small countries first and when it finally reached Sydney, it was amazing! It passed right outside our street; the roads were five deep with people cheering and waving flags. It was an amazing moment and something I’ll always cherish.

When I think back to the Sydney Games it’s really a few moments I remember best; they went by so quickly that everything else is something of a blur. Like the opening ceremony. I remember a lot of dancing and horses and Cathy Freeman lit the cauldron at the end, which was spectacular, but if you asked me what it was about, I couldn’t say. I remember it was quite a strange feeling, though, watching the Games begin. We’d spent seven years waiting for them and watching them begin felt more like a dream than reality.

The Games were wonderful and I had my sixteenth birthday during them. We had pavlova and watched Susie O’Neill win a silver medal. Not a bad day at all! The moment we all remember is when Cathy Freeman won gold in the 400 m. Everyone was cheering for her and when she won, it was like a moment of healing. After all our history with indigenous Australians, Cathy helped to bring us together and when she carried both the Australian and Aboriginal flags, it was a wonderful moment. Earlier this year our PM gave the first apology to indigenous Australians; it would not have happened without Cathy Freeman.

There are other moments I remember fondly too but what really sticks in my mind is Eric Moussambani’s race. Eric came from Equatorial Guinea; he had never even seen an Olympic-sized pool before and could barely swim. But just as the race was about to begin, his competitors were disqualified and Eric was left to swim the whole race by himself! He was cheered on by 17,000 people and was given a bigger cheer at the end than any of the medallists. If that’s not what the Olympics are all about, what is?

Seeing Michael Johnson defend the 400 m and watching Kieren Perkins in his last race were also highlights. But finally the Games came to an end and it was a bittersweet feeling. We felt very proud but we had spent so long preparing for the Games and they had become such an industry (creating jobs, stimulating the economy) that it was strange to think they were over. But it was a great celebration as well. When Samaranch said that the Games were the “best ever”, it felt like this huge validation; like it had all been worth it in the end.

Looking back now I think we had this idea that the Olympics were going to change how we were perceived overseas, that they’d show the “real” Australia people never saw. But hosting the Games actually changed very little; they didn’t even make a profit, they were so expensive to run. What they did instead was to give us a new confidence. For two weeks the world had seen how proud we were of our country and the legacy of the Games is not that they were successful but that they helped to pave the way for the Australia we want to become. That’s something you can’t put a price on.

So I think I understand what the Chinese people must be feeling right now. The Games are almost over and it must be a proud moment for them, but also a sad one as it’s coming to an end. So far the Games have been good and they should be proud of that… but I still can’t help but feel that it’s come at a cost. I mean, just yesterday I read about a story where two women in their late 70s were sentenced to “re-education through labor” for seeking permission to protest in the zones China had set up for the Games. How are two elderly women a threat to the Chinese authorities?

While I don’t believe the Games are the right place to make a protest and that should be respected, I think the IOC’s silence on this is remarkable and that’s what I’m getting at. It awarded the Games to China with assurances from the authorities that they would improve human rights and that simply has not happened. The IOC’s silence is emboldening them. If the IOC goes on to name these the best games ever as is customary, it’ll be a farce.

Maybe I’m in the minority; maybe the Olympics are sacrosanct. But I think some things are more important than sport. What I want to take away from these Games are memories of a stunning opening ceremony; of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt, Rafael Nadal and Leisel Jones; of the best athletes coming together in unity… instead what I will remember is an Olympics overshadowed by issues far greater than sport. I find that very sad.

I wonder what you think about all this? I’d be interested to find out.

Update: Just saw the closing ceremony. Jacques Rogge called the Games “truly exceptional”. I suppose they were. But they’ll still be remembered for different reasons than the athletes on display, whether the IOC admits it or not. At least seeing Jimmy Page was fun.

A room full of memories

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like there just aren’t enough hours to get everything done? It’s strange, isn’t it? Some days everything drags by and you’re staring at the wall trying to find something to make life interesting. Others everything rushes by and before you know it, you haven’t got half as much done as you wanted to.

That’s been me for the last few days – distracted. And of course it always happens at the worst possible time. For me that’s just as I’m getting back into my writing, and just as I had some interesting topics to blog about as well. Plus now I’ve got to catch up with all my favourite blogs again.

The weird thing is, I haven’t been particularly busy. It’s just that my mother decided it was time to get her first computer recently, so after helping her choose and set it up, I started moving all of the old photos I’d kept on my computer over to hers. And I couldn’t believe just how many I’d forgotten.

It’s funny the things we remember. I know all the words to “Henry Lee”, but do I remember my first day of school? Or the face of the first girl I had a crush on? As I’ve grown older, the things I remember aren’t what I thought they’d be. Some of the photos bring it back but on the whole I can’t help but feel like I’ve neglected a large part of what should have been important to me. I suppose we all do that, though. We remember what was important to us at the time, but when we look back we realise it wasn’t that important and what really mattered is foggy and unclear.

It was a strange feeling, sitting at my computer and then opening up a few photo albums, seeing these images I barely remembered… it was like a room full of memories that belonged to someone else. It was nice to take that time, to remember and look at those photos, but it still felt distant. Makes me wonder what I’ll remember in another twenty years. To be fair, though, it does work the other way as well; a photo captures a moment, but it doesn’t always capture a memory. There was one photo in particular I kept looking at. It was taken the morning of my last day in Year 2. I was smiling and it captured that moment, but that’s not the memory that comes from it. Instead it’s that a few hours later I was pushed into a concrete pillar and spent four hours with a concussion in the school sickroom. That I remember; sometimes a photo doesn’t tell the whole story.

I guess this is important to me because memories are important to me; I value them as part of what makes me who I am, both the good and the bad ones. Photos are great for reliving a moment but I don’t trust them. They often give you a false memory; you see a photo, ask someone what was happening when it was taken, and from then on you remember it from their perspective, not yours. That’s the same reason I cringe when I see people photoshopping photos. There’s nothing wrong with touching up an image but when you start taking away too many of the flaws, or put a person into it who wasn’t there, you’re trying to improve the memory, not the photo, and it’s not real. Once again nothing is so beautiful that we can’t improve it by tweaking it just a little…

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t updated the blog for a couple of days; I’ve been busy in the past. I’m refocused now, though, and to my blog friends, I promise I’ll be popping across to catch up later. And maybe you can tell me if you’re as forgetful as I am. 😉