Friday, August 1, 2014

Dream Boat Refugees

Why are Australian’ so passionately afraid of Boat People?  Is it because we are genuinely concerned about safety at sea for these desperate people or are we appealing to the fear and racism that is buried deep amongst many of us?  After all the largest consignment of ‘boat people’ disembarked on this land on the 17th of January 1788 and many of the same people who are paranoid of refugees trace their ancestry back to this date. 

We are in Byron Bay to contemplate this and many other topics. 

We have decided to kick start the 3 day Writer’s Festival by sitting in on a session aptly titled Dream Boat Refugees!  The session includes Carina Hoang a Vietnamese refugee who left Vietnam by boat when she was just a teenager with her two younger sisters.  She has come to Australia via Indonesia, and the US. 

Read her amazing story:

Carina has now been inducted to WA’s inaugural Women’s Hall of Fame as one of their most courageous and inspiring women.  She has just produced a beautiful book of photos and stories about the journeys of boat people.  She shares small insights on her harrowing journey out of Vietnam, where she watched people die at sea.  Her story highlights what many refugees will tell you—that most people don’t really want to leave families and everything that constitutes home for them but they do so because they are fleeing persecution and have no option but to find a safer place to live. 

The session allows us to get our head around some numbers.  Only a small number of people who actually arrive in Australia come by boat—and they are between 2-7% of our annual migration.  Despite this, approximately 94% of people who come by boat are found to be genuine refugees while those who come by plane were more than twice as likely to be refused refugee status!  There are over one thousand children in our detention centres and many who are also living in community detention.  

If you watch the news you may have been led to believe that we are being swamped by refugees. In fact UNHCR numbers tell us that we only receive 3% of the refugee claims made in industrialised countries around the world. The largest number of refugees (80%) are actually hosted in developing nations! 

So in reality we are not really contributing our fair share to help all the people around the world displaced by wars we have helped support! 

One of the people on the panel is Julian Burnside a barrister who specialises in human rights and commercial litigation.  He explains the situation a little more.   The UN Refugee Convention to which we are a signatory recognises that refugees do have a legal right to enter a country and seek asylum regardless of how they arrive or whether they have a visa.  The refugees are not illegal.  Julian explains that the government is failing to comply with its international responsibilities. By suggesting that refugees are illegal it is able to then imply that they are criminals and so justify whatever actions it takes—such as locking up children. 

What if these kids were your own?  What would you do if you had to choose between the persecution of the Taliban or the slim chance you would make it to Australia.  What would you choose?

All I ask is this.  Can we stop the fear mongering, and hear their stories?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Nilmini De Silva Photography – LIKE My Page

I recently created a FB LIKE Page for my photography so if you are interested in photography please LIKE my page.

I love the idea of a like page. It is a way for someone to give positive feedback as well as connect with things they care about.  I can also tailor my posts to those friends who chose to connect with my photography.  I can share posts about my photography with the general public and keep more personal posts for my friends and family.

I think it is a great idea to promote yourself and your creative arts to the world.  So if you agree...Please LIKE my page! 

Embrace the Untamed: Published by National Geographic Your Shot

Today I heard that my photo of the Adelie Penguins (mother and chick) was selected for publication for the National Geographic Assignment on Your Shot.  The assignment titled ‘Embrace the Untamed’ asked for the wildest animal and nature photos we had.  It was looking for nature at its least domesticated – nature displaying its untamed majesty. 

I can hardly believe the email announcing that mine is one of the 32 images selected out of 18,000!  I am ecstatic.  The curator Evelyn Hockstein says “its been a wild and exciting journey—editing the 18,000 images of fantastic photographs of this diverse planet, from the tiniest insects to great mammals to our oceans, weather, and majestic landscapes all across the globe”.

It is exciting to get an email from National Geographic informing me that my photo is trending on National Geographic.  At last count I had more than 225 Likes!  I am not sure where it will end up as the likes are still coming.

Probably my most exciting photographic moment yet.

Read the full story here:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Circular Economies, Photography and Water

We have come to Bondi to meet with Candice Quartermain.   Steve met her husband at a Planning Conference in the City and learnt of her passion to promote the ideas of a Circular Economy.  The Circular Economy website explain that our current model of dig, process, use, and chuck is by definition

unsustainable.  Candice has a commitment to promote and inspire this change.  As explained on the website:
“A Circular Economy is an alternative model that anticipates and designs for biological and technical 'nutrients' to be continuously re-used at the same quality, dramatically reducing our dependency on sourcing new materials.”

Read all about it:

We catch up over lunch at the Queen Victoria Building and Candice is excited to see me as she has gleaned from our website that I am a photographer.  I am equally excited to learn about our shared passion and before long our conversation moves from circular economies to collaboration in photography.
 As I share thoughts about my technical interest in water and my desire to document some of the environmental issues associated with this precious resource, Candice suggests we collaborate on this idea.  I have always wanted to combine my creative passion for photography with my professional passion for water so I feel excited by this idea.  We’ve started sharing ideas and soon we will firm up a plan to begin shooting.
It is also exciting to hear how Candice is slowly turning her passion for photography into a source of income.  Her website Canter Creative showcases her down to earth photography practice.  Check it out if you are interested in engaging her for a family portrait shoot or for your wedding photography.

I love the spontaneity she captures in her photography.  It is so different to the posed photography you usually see at weddings that convey little of the joy experienced on these occasions.  Her website explains that she founded Canter Creative because she wanted to move away from creating for consumption and toward creating for contribution.  It is obvious from her photography that she is achieving her passion for visual story telling through photography.  I am excited to be collaborating with another person who shares my passion for documenting stories through the medium of photography and I am looking forward to this collaboration. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Buildings & Monuments

I’ve signed up for the Sydney Morning Herald Clique Photographer’s challenge.   Members of Clique receive a monthly photographic assignment from Fairfax Media photo editors, designed around different topics.  The winning photos will be published by the SMH on the last Friday of every month in print and online.  Even if your photograph does not make the list of finalists, you can still get feedback form the photo editors.  It’s a great opportunity but I am struggling with deciding which photography to enter for the March challenge – Building and Monuments! 

The challenged of course is to photograph the building or monument in a way that reflects its personality.  The judges want to see the character of the building but often photographing the obvious landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House is best avoided since so many amazing photographs have already been taken of such places   

In the end I choose a photograph taken when storm clouds seemed to envelop this western Sydney suburb that I happened to be passing through.  We pulled off the main road to be storm chasers for a few hours.  I love the way the couple is busy cleaning their driveway seemingly oblivious to the approaching storm. 

I don’t win the challenge or even make the list of finalists but I am pleased with the comments I received. 

A strong image with good use of colour, composition and lines.

Incorporating a human element in a small way may have helped make your photo be even stronger. Loved to have seen a kid on a bike for example, closer to the camera and in the middle of the road to give this image an added dimension. Very nice though.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Photo Books and Photographs

The idea of self publishing my own coffee table book has been lying dormant in the recesses of my brain ever since I came back from my solo trip around the world in 2010. At the end of that journey, I designed and printed my first coffee table book using Blurb and the thrill of seeing something I created was always revived every time I turned the pages of that book.  Since then, I have created two more books and with my second photo exhibition fast approaching made a commitment to myself to realise that dream of self publishing.  The fact that Steven my partner also had a similar dream to self publish a nonfiction book makes this even more special. 

His book called Rethinking the City and my exhibition and book titled Fate or Destiny are wonderful complements to each other.  The fact we will be launching in August to celebrate his 50th birthday is especially meaningful. 

Photo from HeadOn Website
We had only just got home from our road trip to the conference when we heard there was a Photo Book Day as part of the HeadOn 2014 Festival events.  I believe that when you put ideas out to the Universe that align with your Destiny, the Universe conspires to help you realise those dreams.  You pick up a book or you meet a stranger who validates for you the thoughts you have been mulling over.  The chance to actually mingle with like-minded souls with similar passions was too good to be missed so we decided to head out to the city. 

A number of leading photo book editors and publishers have come to Sydney for this event.  Many of the people I speak to have come down from Melbourne.  I am pleased to see that the online coffee table book publishers such as Blurb and Momento are also here.

We learn a lot about the process from chatting to people but also from sitting in on the free seminar at the end of the day.  I had been grappling with the fact that printing a coffee table book is incredibly expensive and learn that this is the balancing act that all artists are struggling with.  The unit cost of offset printing becomes more cost effective, the more books you can afford to print. However, if you don’t have an audience to which you can market your book, then the exercise becomes meaningless as you are left with a large consignment of books which must be stored!

The idea of printing a coffee table book is to have a portfolio of work that you can show to people.   It can reach a much wider audience than an exhibition of your photos ever will.  It is also a chance for you to share deeper ideas if you chose to include more text and writing than is possible in an exhibition.  I come away feeling inspired, motivated and more determined to make this happen. 

I know there are many avenues out there today for people who are keen to give it a go.  Crowd Funding is one of these avenues and Pubslush another.  Pubslush ( is a new publishing company that uses crowdsourcing to select books for publication. Authors submit their manuscripts via the website and visitors vote on which ones they like the most. 

Most people have a desire to be heard.  I think this is a natural human condition.  When you discover the medium where you can express yourself the best, I think you come close to realising the reason for your existence.  I am lucky I have two.  Writing and Photography – they are both my babies and I love them equally. 

“Being heard is so close to being loved 
that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”  ~ David Augsburger

Vivid Sydney

The first time we had been to Vivid I had been amazed at how the lights and music transformed many of this city’s iconic buildings.  This time I knew what to expect so the impact was less but it was still an enjoyable experience.  Word must have got around because the crowds had definitely increased. 

 I was however thankful that unlike the last time we were here where we huddled under an umbrella to shield ourselves from the beating rain, this time we were wondering why we had worn so many layers, it was so warm and barmy even late at night.  We did the walk from the Opera House to the Terminal building and took loads of photos.  It was a good night and I was glad we had made it to Vivid once again.