All the world’s a stage, when you look at it.

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Søren KierkegaardIt’s

So much happens in the world, in life in general, in a fortnight. A few media stories, among the many headlines, caught and kept my attention. I found myself  reflecting at different times on a variety of matters. My reflection has led me down different paths; some in search of clarity, some nonsensical and irrelevant (maybe that should be irreverent) some paths have led to a greater sense of acceptance and an awareness that, come what may, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude. 

Pop icon Prince died. Many beautiful tributes from celebrities and fans around the world shone a light on his talent and helped me realise how instrumental he was in forging a brave new world in music.  Though I was never a fan, I do agree that he was a talented musician and, in my mind’s eye, I remember seeing his flamboyant appearances on countdown, a popular music TV show, when I was younger.

Queen Elizabeth II turned 90, making her the first monarch to still rule at that wonderful age. When I see the Queen in photographs with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, she reminds me of my own grandmother and I wonder if the Queen too has a heart of gold as well as being an incredibly determined, passionate and focused leader. I’ve marvelled for many years at her particular talents. Her job is certainly not one for the faint hearted and she seems to manage it with dignity, grace and ease.

The 25th April in Australia is ANZAC Day. It marks the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli of Australian and New Zealand troops in 1915.  But it is more than that.  It is a day of remembrance in Australia, a day to give thanks to all the men and women who served and died in war. The ANZACs embodied the qualities of courage, mateship, and sacrifice. These qualities contribute to our sense of national identity. My own flesh and blood have fought in various wars, their stories I am only now uncovering. Lest we forget.

This past week marked the one year anniversary of my most recent trip to Nepal and the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed 9000 people and left close to 21 000 people homeless. The initial earthquake and many powerful aftershocks devastated many parts of Nepal which sadly are still in rubble. Apart from the human cost and loss of life many buildings have been marked as condemned with little in the way of financial support reaching those in need. Having been among the people of Nepal at that time and experiencing terror like never before, it is cold comfort to be living in safety knowing those in need are still suffering.

Having been a teacher of ancient history I read with bated breath about the discovery of a 4500 year old female mummy in Peru. The mummy and the items found with her suggest she was of nobel rank and that gender equity existed at the time. Fascinating exciting stuff.  This significant finding opens the door on a civilisation about which we have little knowledge. While cause for celebration archeologists disagree on a number of points, and there’s the rub, while this is an exciting discovery leading to new insights we also, and rightfully so, have more questions to answer, theories to explore and ideas to support.

I was startled to realise it had been 10 years since the Beaconsfield mine disaster that made news headlines around the world. A rock fall in a gold mine in Tasmania trapped 17 miners. As luck would have it fourteen escaped relatively quickly, leaving 3 men trapped below. For two weeks the rescue efforts were televised and were the focus of many Australians.  Two of the three men trapped below were rescued. the third, Larry Knight died in the collapse.  I remember meeting the two survivors Brant Webb and Todd Russell at a book signing. While I am sure they will forever and a day remember their experience their humble, exuberant, larrikin spirit will stay with me forever. I am known to wear my heart upon my sleeve and empathise deeply with others and this was definitely one occasion where I truly felt a maelstrom of emotions vying for release.

The game is afoot – Game of Thrones that is.  There has been much buzz about the next season of Game of Thrones. Not a show for the faint hearted. Fans are enthralled with the idea of Jon Snow being reprised and raised from the dead.  In this show, if such a thing were possible, the reanimation of this much-loved character would be like an ill wind which blows no man to good. Would death by such means not change one’s outlook, would not one’s heart be as cold as any stone?

This year marks the 400th year since the great Bard himself departed our fair earth. Shakespeare died on April 23rd 1616. Interestingly, he was baptised on April 26th 1564 and so, many people celebrate an assumed birthday on April 23rd. If the numerous events locally and internationally are anything to go by the celebrations have been as merry as the day is long. With so many opportunities to celebrate with plays, dinners, fancy dress and readings it is hard to find the one event that’s the be all and end all of celebrations. For goodness sake it’s hard to be fancy free when you are torn and indecisive.  Amid all the hype I did find one option rather inviting. It was a challenge to weave five of Shakespeare’s most common expressions into a conversation.

I trust my attempt has not set your teeth on edge. I have not slept one wink wondering if the method in my madness will please or displease. I trust none will be up in arms over too much of a good thing. There are over 20 phrases coined or popularised by Shakespeare in the above post. Can you find them?And thereby hangs a tale of a week, or so,  in review.

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The world is pressing in on me

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I hope that, by looking at my photographs, people will develop a better understanding of the world around them and more empathy with the people in it. – Lucian Perkins

I feel decidedly unsettled after visiting the World Press Photo Exhibition.  I realise the images are meant to affect the viewer but I wasn’t expecting to walk away so heavy hearted.

Many of the images shone a light on human tragedy, on life around the globe, on the pointless nonsensical nature of war, terror, hatred and force.  In the past I have walked away having been moved by the resilience of the human spirit, triumph against the odds, and the rawness of human emotion.  This year I found myself contemplating the role of the photo journalist and the personal lines they  cross to deliver to us news from around the world in an effort to inform and move us.

I couldn’t help but shudder.  What must it be like to photograph human bodies having fallen from aeroplanes, been slaughtered at play or left to die in fields? I contemplated the range of emotions that would surface when confronted with evil, hatred and violence such as that portrayed in a great majority of this year’s images. I cannot imagine how one keeps perspective, how one is not strongly impacted by the terror and horror of being present at such scenes.

I do not condemn.  I am agog. Startled into contemplation.  I cannot begin to place myself in their shoes to even get a glimpse of the courage and strength needed to shoot these images. Nor can I fathom the unrelenting turmoil, destruction and deprivation suffered by so many around the globe.

This year I was overwhelmed by the heaviness of the exhibition. Oh, there was variety, I know that as I sit here and reflect. I guess that’s why art is so subjective. I interacted with the images and those that stood out for me were the ones that burdened my heart.

I am haunted by Mark Metcalfe’s image of 25 year old cricketer Phillip Hughes being cradled by his mates after being struck on the head by a cricket ball.  This story made headlines in Australia. The country was shaken by the subsequent death of this young man several days later.  The tenderness with which these men attended to their friend was moving. Tears well even now as I recall the scene portrayed by Metcalfe.

Photographer Arash Khamooshi investigated public hangings in Iran. In one of his images an old woman, given permission to kick the chair from under the condemned man and send him to his death, chooses instead to slap him. The slap is a public declaration of forgiveness, thus saving the life of the man who took the life of her son. I am speechless.

An oasis amid the horror was Michele Palazzi’s photograph of a Mongolian mother and child at rest, in their tent. There was a gentleness to this photo that softened the blow the others had landed. I felt myself draw breath, not realising I’d been holding it as I moved from image to image.

The intent of the World Press Exhibition is to confront and provoke the viewer through visual story telling. This year I walked away feeling raw rather than uplifted. I can’t shake the images or the depths of depravity, sadness, and the heinous reality in which many of my fellow humans live.

Is it naive of me to give thanks for my life and the hand I’ve been dealt in the wake of what I’ve just viewed? Perhaps. But I am grateful and I thank God for my many, many blessings.

Is there more I can do to raise awareness, aide and improve the lives of those faced with tragedy and violence and circumstance? Perhaps there is. And so the exhibition has succeeded in moving me to tears, to think and to take action.

I congratulate the photojournalists for their moving, emotive and thought provoking work, the organisers of the exhibition for 60 years of insight and the Brisbane Powerhouse for hosting the display.