Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Vist to Narara Ecovillage

We are excited to finally find ourselves at the Narara Ecovillage.  Having visited and volunteered at so many ecovillages in Europe and Asia last year, it is great to find one we can identify with taking shape right on our doorstep.   Narara, in the Gosford Council area, is only an hour’s drive north from our home in Hornsby.  But what is an ecovllage?  Robert Gilman defines it as “ A human-scale, full-featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future.  An ecovillage can be constructed in both an urban and rural environment.  What we love about Narara is that it aims to appeal to mainstream Australia, creating a place that is appealing and sustainable, intergenerational and economically viable. 

The project at Narara was the dream of Lyndall Parris and her husband Dave.  A couple of years ago, this dream became a reality when they bid for the 100 year-old Gosford Horticultural Institute at Narara.  The chattering of birds accompanies us wherever we walk and we learn there are about a 100 different species of birds here.  A few hawks hover overhead as we walk up the hill to take in the breathtaking views of the bushland on the site that people in Stage 1 will enjoy.  Heritage buildings, a    Vegie beds and the fruit trees in the orchards are already hinting of the promise of this land for eventually achieving food security.  Just on the edges of the land is a pocket of rainforest with bunya pines that seemed to stretch up to the sky—a magical space to reconnect both with yourself and the natural environment. 

Dams, orchards, greenhouses, abandoned offices and heritage homes are all part of the property, so the potential to making this a thriving, vibrant, sustainable place for people to live is huge.

As we listen to a description of what Narara will offer by Toni, a resident here, we learn that all three elements sustainability—social, ecological and economic—are equally important elements in the vision for this model village.  I am excited to hear about their integrated water cycle approach and the fact they have a water supply on the site—a beautiful freshwater dam.  They will have state of the art systems for their black and grey water and also harvesting rainwater as needed.  Part of the site is a floodplain but they plan to use the area for agriculture rather than residential development which is a very sustainable use of such land.

They plan to have solar panels on buildings as well as a solar farm and treat their waste onsite.  Shared cars, a community bus, bikes and parking cars on the periphery of the property are other ideas   In addition, the site is within walking distance from the rail station.  So often we have found ecovillages situated in areas that are completely cut-off from existing infrastructure and towns, so it is exciting to realise the location of Narara is ideal.  
on the agenda.

They also have great ideas for local businesses from cafes and a supply shop to offices that people will be able to lease.  The sense of community has already been created and I get a great vibe from the group.  Yet, it is the human connections that are often hardest to solve.  We learn a little about the system of dynamic governance that they practice here which is different to a democratic process or that of consensus decision-making.  The idea of sociocracy is making sure everyone has a voice and is heard and that the decision that is reached is one that each person can live with. 

For both Steven and me, the current system of living in the suburbs is no longer working.  We are looking forward to living a more simpler life, making connections with like minded people, being resilient to the changes in life that are inevitable because of climate change, peak oil and other global   We want to live a life that has a smaller footprint but at this stage of our life we are also looking to be more mobile. To contribute our skills to far away communities, while living in these places temporarily.  It is exciting to find a community who are taking their destiny into their own hands, working together to achieve a more resilient future without looking toward government for all the solutions.  We have signed up to be part of this network and have already made connections with some of the people we met.  We are looking forward to learning and growing with this ecovillage that is just taking shape and watching the landscape be transformed by a group of thoughtful, motivate people who have made a conscious choice to live differently.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Brooklyn Community

After our author talk at Hornsby, we have been invited to Brooklyn to meet with the local community there.  They are keen for us to present ideas to the Brooklyn Community Association as Hornsby Council is currently involved in the preparation of a master plan for this village.  We are here to meet with a core group of concerned residents and to take a walk around the area to get a sense of the issues.

Brooklyn is an idyllic place, but perhaps a forgotten jewel in the crown of Hornsby Council.  It is a place with great potential given its location on the Hawkesbury River and adjacent bushland.  As Sydney develops, places like Brooklyn provide the space for people to get away from the city and enjoy the recreational sports that proximity to water and bush afford.

Brooklyn truly is a nature lovers paradise but with a number of issues that need resolving, one of which is parking.  The nearby car free Dangar Islanders catch the ferry at Brooklyn and use prime waterfront land to park their cars.  This is one of the issues that the locals here would like resolved so this land can be used more effectively for recreation but the available options are not all attractive to those that use the current parking, adjacent to the ferry.

We meet some of the locals as we walk around and end up back at the Red Fish Café for a coffee and wrap up.  The gallery is a great opportunity for local artist to showcase their work and I have been   We talk about the possibility of exhibiting in January and doing a combined author talk during the time it is here.
invited by Peter and Myff who run the space to bring my own exhibition Fate or Destiny down here.

It is a beautiful spring day and we enjoy some fish and chips before we head home, excited about the possibility of working with a local community.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Exhibition Travels to Wallsend District Library

My exhibition has now travelled up to the Wallsend District Gallery.  It will be here from 15th September to 25th October.  We have made a second trip up to meet with Carol Edmonds who runs the programs in the library to fix a date for our joint author talks and to view the exhibition.  The   We have fixed the date for Wednesday, October 22nd at 5.30 pm.  We are hoping to engage with Council planners and place makers as well as the University students next door.
gallery space in this building is great and we are excited to see it and to plan for our author talk here.

As we were in Newcastle, we met with an old friend of mine Kelly Mulhearn, who I had worked with more than 12 years ago, at Fairfield City Council.  We caught up for morning tea with her and two of her three children at their home.  It was great to reminisce about old times and hear her story and share ours.

We had lunch downtown in a nice café with a great vibe.  We walked around the downtown area and discovered that vacant spaces were also being used for pop ups by the Council here.  There was also a fair bit of street art around and we walked around enjoying the glorious sunshine on a wonderful spring day.  We head back, stopping for a cup of afternoon tea at Toronto, another lovely laid back Australian town on the East Coast.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Digital Playground: If your eyes could speak, what would they say?

I am excited to be spending 3 days at the Digital Playground in Luna Park where photographers from many genres will be sharing their stories together with an exciting expo showcasing the latest equipment from the likes of Canon and Nikon.  The annual Australian Professional Photographers Association conduct their judging in a very open forum at this event, giving us the chance to listen in on what the pros look for in a photograph.

I have learnt so much at this event that it is hard to summarise in a blog post but there are some key things that stand out for me.  I enjoyed Mike Langford and Jackie Ranken’s talk who shoot the same places from very different perspectives highlighting for me how differently we all see the world.  It also reminded me that no one else sees the world in quite the same way as I do…so our art is a way to share the things that press our buttons.  While it is great to be inspired by other people’s work, ultimately, we must develop our own voices.  When I had my first exhibition Connections, many people commented that it was clear one person had shot all the photographers.  Unconsciously, I realised I had started to develop my own voice.

I also learnt the importance of a good edit as people judge you by what you put out there.  Less is always more and adopting a minimalist approach is key when it comes to show casing your work! 

Vincent Van Gogh once said about his art, “I dream my painting and then I paint my dream.”  I learn that in photography as well, it is important to first have a vision, to write the story you want to portray and then go in search of the photographs that will bring it to life.

There are a number of sessions on wedding photography.  While I have never dabbled in this myself, I am intrigued by these discussions because ultimately, they are all about capturing great portraits and more importantly the emotion of the day.  Establishing a connection with the people involved can create these moments, but many of these shots just happen—and being ready to capture them is key.

Many of the photographers talked about the importance of light.  Light is the most important element of a photograph.  The colour of light evokes emotion and can create very different moods.  Blue light gives an uneasy, cold mood to the scene whereas the oranges of a sunset will create a sense of warmth.  The source of light, whether it is big or small and its distance will also affect the mood and texture of your photograph, as it will mean the photo is either soft or harsh.  Having areas that are lit and areas in shadow is also important in creating depth and interest in a photograph and will add to giving the viewer a true sense of the place you are capturing. 

We got a spontaneous lesson in the use of light from Glynn Lavendar when he asked to shoot me after his inspiring session on street portraits.  A group of us walked over to an adjacent window and I had the unusual sensation of being a model for this group of photographers.  It was a great lesson in the use of available light.  Glynn taught us how to observe the direction of light by just holding up our fingers to the window and then rotating them.  When we learn to use light effectively in our photographs, we learn to create drama.  After all the meaning of photography is Greek is learning to write with light!  So as Glynn explained that day, learn to be a seeker of light.   

Of course this is not enough.  We must become really familiar with our gear, learn which lens will tell the story better for each situation, learn to shoot fast and make quick decisions, learn when to under expose and when to over expose to add to the drama, and ultimately, learn to be more than just a   The magic is not in the tool, it is in your heart! What story are you trying to convey?
person with a camera.

I came away feeling good about the way I was going about my portrait photography.  Making a connection with people has always been important for me and that takes courage.  Being able to step up to a stranger and strike up a conversation enables you to capture more than just a photograph.  It also allows you to learn a little bit about the person you are photographing, enabling you to tell a more complete story. 

If I were to sum up an important lesson from this series, here it is.  If you want to become a great photographer, first find out what turns you on.  Then work, travel, study, exhibit, go for awards and scholarships and show the world what you are all about.  Shoot what surprises you, what shocks you, what makes you laugh, what inspires you and what repulses you and you will begin to find that it resonates with others.

As with anything in life, if you are not prepared to invest in yourself, can you expect anyone else to?

I leave you with this thought.  If you eyes could speak, what would they say?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pop Ups - A Creative Use of Empty Spaces

Pop Up spaces and Empty Spaces Projects seem to be taking off in Sydney.  The key aim of these projects are to activate vacant spaces in the city and revitalise areas that might otherwise look empty and of course to encourage the flourishing of creative enterprise.  It gives the communities a chance to engage with arts and culture, it enlivens the town centres and of course it is an affordable opportunity for the artists to display their work in places they may otherwise not have access to.

We stumbled on the Parramatta Pop Up quite by accident while enquiring about gallery spaces in the City at the Library and the Heritage Centre.

We walked over to the downtown arcade and started chatting to Lyndsey Hatchwell who had some experience running pop up spaces.  She invited us to collaborate with her and offered us space to hang a couple of images and display our books.  We went along to her opening and enjoyed the day, chatting to the visitors and other artist who stopped by.  The space called Pop Goes the Easel, is colourful and has quite an eclectic mix of artwork including painting, sculpture, photography, and books. 

I even sold a couple of books on the day.  We met with Parramatta Council and have submitted an application for a space of our own.  We should hear about this application in the next few weeks.  This is the website for those who may be interested.

After our author talk in Hornsby, we met a number of artists who are also collaborating in a similar pop up space in North Sydney.  Their space is called Shiny 2 and is located at 53 Ridge Street.  Five very diverse artist have come together in a belief that creativity and innovation are essential ingredients to all facets of our lives.  They range from artists, artisans, sculptors and authors.

Once again, we have been invited to the opening and we enjoy the wine and the ambience and connect with some interesting people.  We have been invited to exhibit and do some author talks here as well…so our creative journey continues to unfold and unravel exciting opportunities.