The Adventures of Noddy - A Work in Progress

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to visit a development site in East Brunswick when the earthworks were in progress. The scene was almost post-apocalyptic, with enormous bluestone boulders being dug out and loaded onto huge trucks, some for recycling as pavers to be used in the development, others for the crusher.

It was a great backdrop for a shoot, albeit very hot, dusty and requiring fast footwork to dodge the heavy earthmoving equipment and the continuous fleet of trucks. There was a tight deadline as the site was to be cleared within a couple of weeks.

I was not sure what to shoot until I found a large boulder which had a basic house shape.  Armed with a few tins of spray paint and some plastic flowers, the rock was soon transformed into a very organic little single fronted house in a community of other unpainted rocks.

House shaped rock reveals itself

House shaped rock reveals itself

As the images emerged I was reminded of Noddy, one of my childhood faves. The series is a metaphor for life and the randomness of our tenure. It is evocative and whimsical.

While painting the rock, many of the neighbours in the adjoining apartments came out onto their balconies and shouted encouragement.  One very generous couple let me take some aerial shots of the site and “Noddy” from their balcony. 

View from the neighbour's balcony

View from the neighbour's balcony

The men using the earth moving equipment were incredibly helpful.  They lent a ladder so that Noddy’s roof could be reached.  The rock itself weighs about a ton and is around 6 feet tall.  They very dexterously picked him up in the shovel for a shot and then carefully dropped him onto his side for another.  I must say he looked abandoned on his side.  The next day I received an email from distressed neighbours in the adjoining apartment asking what had happened to him. It is amazing how this rock has captured the hearts of the local community. Even the truckies paid their respects to Noddy’s house, beeping on arrival and departure.

View of the morning after - Noddy on his side. 

View of the morning after - Noddy on his side. 

 When Noddy was due to be taken to the crusher, the workmen were disappointed.  It was decided that he would remain on site at the entrance as a kind of mascot.  I will share his exploits in a bittersweet series called “The Adventures of Noddy". The first chapter  - “Noddy’s Gone” is uploaded on this site in the WORKS section. The next chapter is in the pipeline – “Noddy Escapes the Crusher” .  Stay tuned………

Familiarity and Contempt - The Same Old Story?

"Familiarity is a magician that is cruel to beauty but kind to ugliness."

This is so much more poetic than the usual saying and is attributed to a 19th century English novelist, Maria Louise Ramé, who wrote under the pseudonym Ouida.  By the way, the "familiarity breeds contempt" quotation is widely credited to the traditional translation of Aesop’s fable “The Fox and the Lion” c. 620-564 B.C.  (so old - who knew?) 

It speaks to the notion that the way we see, is shaped by the frequency of the view and implies a downgrade over time; a kind of visual fatigue.  I can hear that old song by the Righteous Brothers playing in the background - "You've lost that lovin' feeling', Now its gone, gone, gone...........".  

The opportunities for a great shot are exciting and abundant the first time around.  However, it is so disappointing to re-visit a much-loved destination and find that the photos from one year to the next start to look the same - a bit like that love affair!

It is therefore  a worthy challenge to find different ways of seeing the same thing;  to bring fresh eyes to the scene, and a return of the excitement of something new.   

I am  fortunate to have travelled to Vienna on many occasions.  It is a very beautiful monumental city, rich in art & culture.  The spare sophistication of the Secessionists & the Wiener Werkstatte is spectacular in black and white and often depicted that way.  So for my new view, seeking a departure from the usual, I took a walk in the early evening.  Watching the city, redolent in glorious colour,  unwind from the day,  I experienced a return of that "lovin' feeling"!

The Barai

The Barai Spa at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Hua Hin Thailand is truly uplifting.  I am not trying to give free plugs here, but the beauty of the building contributes much to the whole experience of the spa.  

The design was inspired by the Baton Temple in Cambodia's Angkor.  Barai is named after "Barays", the large man-made reservoirs created by the Khmers to channel irrigated water for their daily use, believed to be the life arteries providing wellbeing and healing.

The spa complex is an extraordinary interplay of thick walls, repeating corridors, earth colours, lightness, dark, and water.  A trip to a "treatment" at the spa winds around corridors of thick walls, moving up & down small steps in semidarkness & quiet.  The trip is punctuated by sunlight streaming through fissures in the walls & ceilings strategically placed to highlight design features.   In transit one loses all sense of direction & the outside world - the experience imposes mindfulness - awareness only of the here & now, a great prelude to a relaxing massage.  


There is something almost miraculous about the sun, sand, and sea. After a grinding year of work & play, a bit of beach time seems to lift the spirits and restore the soul. It probably also helps to have no schedule and no requirement to cook or clean! Even so, sand between the toes, salty air, and a blue horizon makes the everyday just melt away.  

Clearly this is a common philosophy, as here in Hua Hin, people from all walks of life step out for a daily constitutional. Anything goes on the beach - from  style and self absorption, to real "Martin Parr" moments of families with their kids.  Because of the tidal peculiarities, a beach walk is restricted to the golden hour in the evenings, returning to the hotel gardens for dusk - a photographers dream time. So I reflect on another decade on the clock (yes, a big birthday has come & gone) & look forward to a new year as a senior with renewed vigour & curiosity.  

The Copyist

I have had a very exciting weekend in various galleries with stunning contemporary paintings for company. I was especially impressed with a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek painting, "Art Work" featuring a picture in a picture in a picture, by Australian artist Tony Irving. (  It depicts " The Banquet of Cleopatra" (Tiepolo.  NGV) complete with craquelure and a copyist standing at his easel.

Art Work Tony Irving 2010 oil on linen 122 x 122 cm

It was a weekend of serendipity as we discovered another contemporary Australian artist, more in the surrealist genre, Tom Alberts, who has, himself, been a copyist at the Louvre. He gave an interview to the daily review in which he describes the experience.  

Bedland   Tom Alberts   2012 oil on linen, 76.00 x 91.00

Being allowed to copy a work in the Louvre is a rare privilege, and one granted only to established artists. After an interview, submission of a CV, images of works and a letter explaining why he wanted to make a copy, Tom received permission.

There are strict rules about copy painting;  His canvas had to be 5cm larger or smaller than the original, placement of the easel & materials was limited, and public safety requirements had to be observed. He was not permitted to leave his easel except for toilet breaks. He worked 4-5 hours, 4 days a week alongside several other copyists.  Interestingly, the Louvre administration did not critique the work. Visitors to the Louvre were able to watch the process. He got to keep his copy and has hung it in his home.  

Chardin, an 18th century French painter established and formalised the system of copying paintings in the Louvre with a limited number of easels available.  Each copy is assigned a number and entered into an official registry  - quite an honour for those awarded access.  Interestingly Tom chose a Chardin painting to copy.

Clearly, reproduction of another's image outside of the formal "copyist" genre is plagiarism, the scourge of art.  To copy a painting requires substantial painting prowess and plenty of time.  On the surface, it may seem different for photographers since some think we simply push a button.  Obviously, there is a lot more to it than that!  

However, one of the most enjoyable and informative ways to learn photographic lighting techniques is to try to copy the work of others. With the understanding of how the quality, intensity, colour, and direction of light contributes to the image, we are better able to develop a personal style and adapt lighting techniques to re-interpret the world through the lens.  "Learning by doing" in this way is a powerful tool.

Perhaps we should take a leaf from the canvasses of our painterly colleagues and formalise the copy process - what's good for the goose.............. and a trip in the footsteps of the photographic masters would not go astray!

Tom Albers copies Chardin at the Louvre   from Daily Review March 10 2015





Painting with Light - Tate Britain

Recently I had the opportunity to see an exhibition of painters who inspired early photographers and the photographs that changed painting. (Painting with Light. Art and Photography from the Pre-Raphaelites to the modern age. Until 25 September 2016 Tate Britain)

The blurb read:

"This exhibition celebrates the visual links between early photography and British art, bringing together fascinating vintage photographs and stunning paintings including Pre-Raphaelite, aesthetic and impressionist works.

Spanning 75 years across the Victorian and Edwardian ages, the exhibition showcases the experimental beginnings of photography right through to its flowering as an independent international art form. These are displayed alongside the paintings which they inspired and which inspired them.

This is the first time works by John Everett MillaisDante Gabriel RossettiJAM Whistler, John Singer Sargent and others will be shown alongside photographs by pivotal early photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Alvin Langdon Coburn."

I had one of those "Dah to self" moments because I hadn't really thought about artists using early photography as an "aide memoire", as is done so frequently these days.  But of course they would have been seduced by how easy it was to capture the likenesses.  It must have saved so much time & money compared with the detailed working sketches/paintings & the multiple sittings  necessary before the development of photography.  The images were fascinating - Here are a few.

Just before leaving for London I had been experimenting with Jill Greenberg-style lighting demonstrated so elegantly, if controversially, in the series "End Times".  My model is herself an aspiring painter.  After I had returned, & much to my delight, she sent me her self portrait, aided by my photograph. It was an interesting collaboration, albeit very humble in the face of the past & present masters. Interestingly Jill Greenberg has just done a series of photographs of paintings entitled "Paintings" turning the tables on painters who use photography as their source material.

Bremain instead of Brexit?

Psychology is a powerful marketing tool.  It seems to me that if you call the referendum Brexit you are implanting the seed of leaving right at the start.  For all of those who wanted to stay, why  didn't they fight about the name of the process up front?  

The nation is in shock, divided, & London, a truly cosmopolitan child of the world is reeling. More than 55,000 took to the streets of the City of London marching from Marble Arch to Trafalgar Square expressing their disappointment.  What will happen to us now was shouted from every corner. The home made signs say it all  - we want to stay!

Brexit demo07.jpg

Mothers & Daughters

It is almost a year since my mother died.  I am holidaying with my family in China.  We were in Beijing at the summer palace rebuilt by the dragon empress  - a fearsome regent for the last couple of childling emperors.  She was a tiger mama if ever there was one!  In a dragon boat on the lake, the air was thick & we were in a cocoon, not able to see the shore.  It was hot but the breeze was cool.   I was drawn to all the mothers with their children. No surprises there! They appeared almost heavenly against the glowing white of the hazy sky & I was a brief intruder into their intimacy.    

“That’s the thing about Chinese mothers: hidden behind their maternal expectations and critical diatribes are women who will fight to the death for you.― Kaitlin Solimine, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China

“My mother’s dress bears the stains of her life: blueberries, blood, bleach, and breast milk; She cradles in her arms a lifetime of love and sorrow; Its brilliance nearly blinds me.” ― Brenda Sutton Rose

I too am a mother, but even when I need to, I can no longer just be a daughter.  This duality was precious. I miss my mum.

Unsung Heroes

I love to shop. I have that "take no prisoners, have no regrets" kind of attitude. I liked the artist Barbara Kruger from the moment I saw her work "I shop therefore I am".  It seems to say it all, even if it is rather editorial.

The excitement of shopping apparently shares the same part of the brain as falling in love.  A thrilling purchase is accompanied by release of dopamine & endorphins in the brain - hence the rush - & the need for more.  Extremes of this behaviour become recognisable as addiction. But we digress.......

Worrying about a companion on a shopathon leads to loss of focus & hasty decisions - or worse, the onset of responsibility, after which nothing is purchased. This is a particular problem when travelling - the fellow traveller cannot be left to their own devices for long (enough!).  For this reason, I have found that my prowess is best when shopping alone & feeling good. Retail as therapy doesn't do it for me - the black is still there long after the parcels have been unwrapped.   For many, it is fashion which floats the boat.  For me, these days, a  precision prime lens on a great camera, a fabulous light, even a whizz-bang piece of software, triggers the dopamine release & I fall in love all over again!

Dedicated shoppers enter a truly narcissistic zone, trespassed at peril, inflicting a state quite the opposite of falling in love on their hapless companions.  Often, there is no choice but to trek along, because of the need to be the transporter, the child minder, or even, on occasion, the bankroller.  They exude boredom, exhaustion, & frustration, as they wait, doze & follow.  Then, there are the trap questions for which there are no winning answers; "does this make me look big/fat/large?" or worse, the wide open "what do you think?" (NEVER attempt to answer these!)

I was sent a set of photographs succinctly capturing this  darker side of the shopping experience. Unfortunately, I do not have attribution for these photos & my apologies if you are reading this & see your work.   The legions of shopping companions are unsung heroes. They spend seemingly endless ghastly hours in the pursuit of another's  temporary happiness. They should have their own Kruger Mantra ..............

Recognise a familiar pattern here?   The high of a great shot, the obsessive pursuit of the perfect street scene/landscape/portrait/still life.  Companions for the journey share  many of the same frustrations, often without the comfort of a sofa/bed/chair found in a shop.  We should make a global apology to all the long-suffering photography companions,  & present a new opportunity for Barbara Kruger with alteration of only 2 letters!

A truckload of money : wouldn't it be nice!

Peter Lik-The Age Dec 13 2014

There was great hue & cry in 1904 when Edward Steichen's photograph The Pond Moonlight sold for $2.298 million at Sothebys.  Many have followed in these huge money-laden footsteps. Cindy Sherman, untitled #96 in 1981 for $3.8905 million, Andreas Gursky, Rhein 11 1999, for $4.3885 million & now Peter Lik, Phantom apparently for $6.5 million, a new record.  Each of these is accompanied by sharp in-drawing of breath from the community at large, & a big sigh of communal longing from the art photography fraternity. 

Steichen, Sherman & Gursky were sold through reputable auction houses therefore lending a sense of authenticity to the value, even though worth in this context is really only about what someone is willing to pay. Because Lik's work was sold privately & there is little evidence provided for the sale amount, the art mafia rails against his work & calls it's value into question.  Even the credibility of the buyer is denigrated. The fact that he does the Bear Grylls thing, & is a consummate marketer probably doesn't help! He is painted as an upstart.  And then he is Australian, & we do cut down our tall poppies!  

It is noteworthy that the origins of the saying "hue & cry" are to be found in English law; pursuit of a criminal immediately after he had committed a felony. Whoever witnessed or discovered the crime was required to raise the hue and cry against the perpetrator (e.g., call out "Stop, thief !") and to begin pursuit; all persons within hearing were under the same obligation, and it was a punishable offense not to join in the chase and capture. (The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved)  So, even the popular vernacular implies that acts for which there was hue & cry were somehow rip-offs. The logical conclusion to be drawn is that artists should somehow have to starve in a garret in order to produce meaningful worthwhile art - & further it should be given away, preferably to a person or institution with an impeccable art pedigree!  

For me, Sotheby's or Las Vegas, is not really the point.  The point, I think, is that photographs are increasingly recognised as legitimate & collectable, to rival traditional art forms.  For those of us with aspirations, even Peter Lik is doing his bit to raise awareness of the craft - in his case,  the notoriety afforded by the bad press is probably as powerful a marketing tool as the quality of his work. The fact that he is laughing all the way to the bank, & is readily able to fund his passion, is enviable & no doubt the green monster contributes a little, or a lot  to the outpouring of invective.  

Since I married for love, (& that avenue of wealth building is closed!) & look dreadful in the great outdoors, (a la Grylls),  I am left to the tawdry existence of working at the day job (it's not actually tawdry at all!) & hoping that occasionally someone will take a look at my work & find it worthy..........but wouldn't it be nice!


The Beginning

Have just  created this website after much fighting with the software & myself.  Don't know how I will use this blog but perhaps I can make it like a visual diary.  Love Lippmann. Objects chosen  compositionally perfect.

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peter lippmann 2.jpg
Lippmann 7.jpg