Monthly Archives: December 2013

Tropfest 2013, where was the ‘change’ in the air?

Last night was the finals of Tropfest 2013. Walking into Centennial Park under the final hour of epic golden sun was a perfect way to finish a summer weekend in Sydney. This year the theme was ‘change’ and the 16 finalists interpreted it in different ways, you can see the finalists here.

The finalists were all rather disappointing particularly the third place winner, a first person account of a young Australian soldier in Afghanistan. It was almost too painful to watch and listen as the narrator went on “I keep reminding myself there is a bigger picture, that’s why we’re here, fighting for human rights.” As it closed the regular applause was topped off by a few blokey howls. I was surprised that the majority of the crowd weren’t shocked by how awful the film was and I reminded myself of the same questions I when not too long ago a large portion of voting Australia elected an Abbott Government.

Amongst my group of friends as we waited for the winners to be announced we were unanimous that the the best film of the evening was Off the Meter. Off the Meter follows Daniel Folkmover an older Australian cab driver who refers to himself as a ‘people person’. D Folkmover initially evokes an idea of a character some people may know from their own large family gatherings or someone in attendance at a recent wedding. Daniel Folkmover picks up a van load of refugees in his maxi taxi ‘off the meter’ and takes them on a tour of Melbourne before bringing them home for a meal where his wife is waiting.

The power of the short film is in the closing scene and one of the last lines as Daniel Folkmover addresses the interviewer and says “we are just trying to do decent thing by decent human beings you know, we are all boat people just about aren’t we?”  The character of Daniel Folkmover was significant for me as a day before I was in Wilton a western suburb outside Mount Druitt photographing South Sudanese soccer games. After the games as I said goodbye to some friends I also had a quick chat with the referees who weren’t dissimilar from Mr Folkmover in the film. Two older men in their 60s, they warmed down after refereeing three games of soccer and told me off hand they both had an hour drive home ahead of them but they each week turn up “to give these young fellas a go.”

While the finalists were disappointing, in some ways they weren’t that suprising but more a reminder of how far Australia still has to come.

 

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

Crowds at Tropfest 2013. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013 All rights reserved.

 

 

 

With wonder into the country

Maryam swims in a thermal pool close to the Yarrangobilly Caves located in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Maryam swims in a thermal pool close to the Yarrangobilly Caves located in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

SUMMER by Bernard O’Dowd 

I see a grassy couch

Under a canopy of leaves;

A reedy river murmers by,

Crooning an old, old melody

Tuned to a long-forgotten scale,

Made when the world was young.

 

 

A double rainbow appears in the morning outside Berry on the south coast of NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

A double rainbow appears in the morning outside Berry on the south coast of NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Why can the experience of going into the country be so powerful?

A young woman basks in the spray from the waterfall at Protesters Falls in the Nightcap National Park, northern NSW.  Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

A young woman basks in the spray from the waterfall at Protesters Falls in the Nightcap National Park, northern NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Why does is take leaving an urban environment to evoke that powerful feeling of excitement and wonder in us?

 

Omar throws a bucket into the families empty pool in northern NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Omar throws a bucket into the families empty pool in northern NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

 

My girlfriend came to live in Australia 7 years ago and since then like many migrants she has called Sydney home. By contrast I was born in Wagga Wagga but by age of 6 we moved to Kyogle, a small country town on the north coast of NSW. We then relocated to Newcastle where I attended high school and journeyed through adolescence.

 

Maryam rests in a hammock at a friends home in Kyogle, northern NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Maryam rests in a hammock at a friends home in Kyogle, northern NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

While I spent the first 12 years of my life living in rural Australia. It is now in adulthood that I have been able to appreciate the value of growing up outside  the city. I currently share my life with a woman who grew up in a different city, culture and landscape. I love watching her explore the bush, bumpy roads and waterways, some of which I know well. Since exploring rural Australia together I have been able to capture moments of Maryam that highlight the wonder that also lives in my memory from a childhood in rural Australia.  Photographing her exploration across this landscape and seeing the world through her excited eyes makes it possible for me to convey a sense I believe many of us can relate to.

Omar sleeps. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Omar sleeps. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Ben Latta lies on the grass before a surf at Point Plomber on the mid north coast of NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Ben Latta lies on the grass before a surf at Point Plomber on the mid north coast of NSW. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013. All rights reserved.

Omar swings on a gate at home in northern NSW, Australia. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013.

Omar swings on a gate at home in northern NSW, Australia. Photo- Conor Ashleigh © 2013.