SUE JACKSON Therapist/Writer/Photographer/Activist

Last year, as the unofficial blogger/photographer to the anti-East-West Link campaign, our battles were my blog's entire focus. But by Christmas, with the electoral win for people power and the dumping of the dud Tunnel, I was suddenly at a loss. What to write about now? Not sure yet. But there will be ongoing musings and images from this Australian life. So please leave a message. (No need to sign into an account. Simply comment as ‘anonymous’; then leave your name within the comment itself.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Multi-tasking: Bring it on!

Community activist and gardener extraordinaire, Alby Clark

I had a revelation recently. I have been writing for Earth Garden Publications for some time now about urban farming and other aspects of sustainability. Even though EG had always insisted on high quality photos to accompany articles, I was in the habit of paying scant attention to them, seeing the photos as mere 'add-ons' to the writing, after-thoughts that I often had to remind myself to even take. But slowly, the realisation began to dawn - photos were increasingly integral to EG and other publications. The time had come to lift my game.
If I'd required further convincing, the need became starkly evident a fortnight ago when I visited the Collingwood Housing Estate to interview the inspiring resident and Yarra Council Sustainability Award winner Alby Clark. Attempting to take photos and talk to Alby at the same time, I got into such a tangle that I dropped my notebook into the garden. He ended up having to retrieve it, and carry the camera - so much for my professional image!
Fortunately, only days later, my friend, Ponch Hawkes, who over the years has often saved my bacon, stepped in. Ponch, who is a renowned photographer, suggested I attend a talk by Alan Attwood, editor of The Big Issue and a keen photographer, one Saturday morning at the New North Gallery in Fairfield.
The audience was packed with photographers keen to make themselves more marketable by learning how to write words to accompany their pictures. I, of course, was coming from the opposite direction, wanting to learn how to take half-decent photos to enhance my articles.
Reflecting on his 30 year career, Alan said that when he started out as a journalist, he was always accompanied on assignments by a photographer. He felt it could almost have turned into an industrial issue had he attempted to take a photo himself. But these days, with budgetary cuts all around - even Obama's travelling media roadshow is a shadow of its former self - if journalists want photos, they frequently have to take them themselves. Everybody is multi-tasking. In fact one person in the audience, currently studying photojournalism, said that today's students are required to be equally adept at writing, photography and videoing.
Although I can never imagine developing proficiency as a video journalist, I felt inspired by the seminar to improve my photography skills. I was also grateful for a simple tip of Alan's. He has found that it works best to clearly divide up the time spent with a subject. First do the interview and then take the photos - if only I had known that when I visited Alby.
I have been writing steadily over the last little while. Ponch kindly took some wonderful photos to accompany my article 'High Density Honey', which appeared in the Spring edition of Earth Garden magazine. (I wish I had the technological know-how to reproduce them here, but perhaps one day...) The article featured a young couple, Ross Waller and Nicola Patron, who are producing their own honey and keeping quails in inner-city Melbourne.
Luckily, in that I had taken no suitable photos while in Spain, another recently-published article 'Lapsed and Loving it', about falling under the spell of Spanish Catholicism, that appeared in the Travel section of The Australian a fortnight ago, didn't require them.
And at the top of this post I have included a picture I took of Alby that accompanies the article 'Flourishing Against the Odds' recently submitted to Earth Garden magazine.
But from now on for me, it's practise, practise, practise.