Nobody Knows

Self-Portrait in Black and White

Nobody knows the world is ending
Nobody knows we’re all alone
Nobody knows how we got here
Nobody knows the way back home

Nobody knows the pain you live with
Nobody knows the masks you wear
Nobody knows the promises you’ve broken
Nobody knows the scars you bear

Did you think love would save you?
Did you think everything would just work out?
Don’t you know life’s not like that?
Don’t you know what it was all about?

Nobody knows if Jesus is coming
Nobody knows if God is dead
Nobody knows the clock is ticking
Nobody knows the end is up ahead

Nobody knows what it has cost you
Nobody knows the lies you tell
Nobody knows how hard it is to keep going
Nobody knows how far you fell

Did you think you would find forgiveness?
Did you think you would explain it all away?
Don’t you know some things can’t be forgiven?
Don’t you know there’s nothing you can say?

Nobody knows the war is coming
Nobody knows it’s already too late
Nobody knows the game is over
Nobody knows how to change their fate

Nobody knows the prayers you whisper
Nobody knows the secrets you keep
Nobody knows everything you’ve lost
Nobody knows why you weep

Did you think it was going to be easy?
Did you think you would just start again?
Don’t you know your sins have to be paid for?
Don’t you know there was a price, even then?

Nobody knows how the inmates took over
Nobody knows who’s running the show
Nobody knows who’s going to save us
Nobody knows how the future will go

Nobody knows why I still love you
Nobody knows why I hate you too
Nobody knows why it’s so hard to forgive
Nobody knows what we’ve been through

Nobody knows
No nobody knows

Photo: Self-Portrait in Black and White © CJ Levinson 2016
Poem licenced under Creative Commons

Dusk Silhouettes

Moments fade quickly
There is only how you live
And the way you love

I took this photo a couple of weeks ago now. I had thought I’d shared it after I took it but I just noticed that I didn’t. Oops! I guess I’m getting forgetful in my old age. In any case I really like the photo so I thought I’d share it now anyway.

I had popped down to the lake to shoot the sunset and I’d been down there for a while without getting anything interesting… it was one of those lovely days that you hope will end in a beautiful sunset but ends up being a bit of a fizzer unfortunately.

But just as dusk settled and I was about to give up, the light changed and this beautiful band of yellow light spread across the horizon – the day’s dying rays.

So I started setting up my tripod to capture the scene, fiddled with the composition, and then… just as everything was finally ready and I was about to take the shot… a mother and her son walked into the frame and started fishing!

I know there’s not much you can do when something like that happens – it’s just bad timing and it is a public area, after all – but honestly at the time I couldn’t help but feel a little pissed. I thought I’d lined up the perfect shot, only for someone to walk right into it. Plus I was there first and it was obvious what I was doing – couldn’t they have waited? I only needed a few seconds!

I grumbled a bit to myself under my breath and wondered what to do… I still had a shot lined up but usually I don’t like taking photos that have children in them without permission, particularly if it might show their faces (occasionally I will with street photography when they walk into a scene but again I try not to show faces). But the mother looked over at me and sort of smiled and nodded at me so I took that as permission and took a couple of shots.

It was actually nice watching them fish through the lens, they were laughing and having fun and I felt guilty for feeling a bit annoyed before. So I took the shots and then left them to their fishing and headed home.

When I got back I loaded the photos to have a quick look and this one immediately jumped out at me. The dying light and the colours and the water were beautiful, but it was the human element that really jumped out at me; the emotion, obvious even in simple silhouettes. And ironically, after all the fuss, I think it is that element that helps to make it a far stronger image than if they hadn’t been in it at all.

My only regret now is that I hadn’t thought to offer them a card, I thought afterward that they might like to see it. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Photos and haiku © CJ Levinson 2017

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

The Empty Bench

The Empty Bench

I am like
This empty bench:
Worn, faded,
I sit and watch the world turn

This is a photo from my archives. I’ve not been able to get much further with my writing or take many photos recently, so I thought I’d take the chance to post this photo in the meantime as it’s one of my favourites and I don’t think many people have seen it before.

It’s of an empty bench near a small lake in Sydney’s Centennial Park and I took it almost two years ago now, just after I’d bought my first SLR and was going on a photo walk to try it out. The original photo was just a simple landscape shot and I was quite happy with how it turned out but on a whim I decided to come back to the photo again about a year later and I thought about how I could re-imagine it differently. The kind of stark, minimalistic feel of the photo inspired me to re-edit it more like a painting and this was the result.

I really like it and it’s definitely one of my favourite images. What I find really interesting though is how it shows that the process of editing never stops; you might think you’re done but every now and then it’s worth going back and looking at old images with fresh eyes because you never know, something new might emerge that you just couldn’t imagine before. I find the same is often true with my stories as well; I’ll often rework ideas from past abandoned stories into new ones and in ways I never would have imagined before. I guess it’s all part of honing your skills.

If you’re wondering where the haiqua came from as well, I’ve had a lot on my mind these last few weeks, so the haiqua is a bit of a reflection of that. I’ve always found that writing helps a little and while it is sad, it’s not meant to be particularly depressing; the world turns and the sun sets and rises each day, and life goes on. That’s what I take from the haiqua – that no matter how hard things get, the sun will always rise again tomorrow.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2011-13
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Summer Sunset

Summer Sunset

A summer sunset
A moment of pure beauty
In an ugly world

I took this photo this evening from our balcony, just as the sun began to set. It was a spectacular sunset, with the entire sky seeming to catch fire for many minutes, before gradually fading away.

After receiving some upsetting news today, it was nice to end the day with a sight of such beauty and grace. It’s a reminder that, even in your darkest moments, beauty is never that far away. The world really can take your breath away sometimes.

Photo and haiqua © CJ Levinson 2013