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Learning from kitsch

Kitschs

What is kitsch? My photography group didn’t know the answer to that one, when we were dreaming up our next topic of the month. Well, back in 1980 Barry Humphries wrote a book on it. He ought to know – his early manifestation of Dame Edna Everidge was one hundred percent kitsch, before he started taking her (and himself) so seriously.

The most common, if somewhat laboured, definition is something like: ‘art, objects and design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way’. That doesn’t mention that it can be just a bit of fun.

Humphries did include a few learned quotes on the topic, including a lengthy one in French(!). D.H. Lawrence had the last word: ‘All creative art must rise out of a specific soil, and flicker with a sense of place.’ That brings me straight to the photograph above of the Big Pelican on the Noosa River foreshore, perfectly placed to mirror its surroundings with tongue in cheek and eye on the flocks of pelicans following the fishing boats and hanging around the jetty.

I believe the same goes for writing: an authentic sense of place defines the characters, their actions and reactions, their options and choices. It is part of who they, and we, are.

What’s the point?

I’m editing the first draft of a novel at the moment. As every writer knows, that involves re-reading the text with an eagle eye and questioning the value of every chapter, every paragraph and every sentence: what is the point here? Do these words advance the plot? enhance the atmosphere? give more depth to a character? As they say, every word has to earn its place. Otherwise, what are they doing there? Hit delete? This can be a very painful process!

I’m increasingly aware that exactly the same questions apply to my hobby of photography: what is the point here? What is that photograph about? what point is it trying to make – or what story is it telling? How can that point be emphasised? With the wonderful photo-editing software so readily available these days, photographers can spend many happy hours asking themselves these questions and trying to tweak the image to answer them. Now that process is more addictive than painful.

Just a few thoughts from the keyboard …

More about postcards

postcards

I started my ‘Postcards’ page as a way of keeping the website fresh. It’s a long time between books, after all! But creating postcards seems to be becoming an end in itself for me, feeding my twin passions of writing and photography. As well as taking or hunting out photos that can be cobbled together to tell some sort of story, I’m finding that I’m using fewer and fewer words to tell that story, and in a much looser structure. I’ve always admired those fiction writers who are also poets – they seem to pack such a punch with such economy. Perhaps I’m nudging into their territory? Would that I could! At the same time, I’m looking at my photos with a different eye – the image needs to be very simple, and very clear, to work in this context. Lots of cropping needed!

Anyway, I hope you’re enjoying reading the postcards as much as I’m enjoying creating them.

postcards

The postcard series

After a long break I’m back at the keyboard and the blog – and now I’m looking through the lens as well.

I’ve decided to add a new page to my website, marrying my interests in text and images. Postcards seemed to be the way to go – short, simple, colourful, aimed to a theme, with room for a few words to form a bridge between my photographs and the readers’ interpretation.

I hope you enjoy them. Like the blog, they’ll appear intermittently. I heard an international writer recently expressing amazement at how little time she had left for writing, after doing everything else!

I know how she feels.

Cranbourne1r

The Big Picture

I’m always fascinated by the Big Picture. Look at this recreation of Central Australia which has been installed in the fabulous Cranbourne Gardens southeast of Melbourne. Someone was able to stand back and find the essence of the colours and the feel of our Red Centre, then plunge into the detail to find a way of representing it so vividly in a totally different climate.

My work in progress was put aside for a fortnight’s holiday. Of course it came with me – in my head. But instead of focussing on details, I was able to muse on my Big Picture: what is this story really about? what’s  the point? what needs to happen for that point to be made? While I haven’t added many words I’ve now got a clearer idea where I’m heading with this novel. I never plot too far ahead, but all authors have to keep a grip on their Big Picture or their writing can start to meander.

Having a breather let me do some reading too. ‘Me, Antman and Fleabag’ by prizewinning Aboriginal author Gayle Kennedy is a sparkling collection of short stories about life as a ‘blackfulla’ – written in the vernacular, it’s funny, quirky, sad and above all insightful. This was one of several Australian books I took with me on my Kindle – what talent we have here.