Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Visual disturbances: Two

The following photos are 16 photos taken on Sunday 29 June 2008. What follows constitutes a kind of collage, or a compendium of ephemeral moments, that happen to be made up of images rather than words.

The images below depict cars and buses on Elizabeth Street at the point where, on its western side, Market Street abuts it. Buses use Elizabeth Street heavily and so it is very busy, especially at this corner. Many cars turn here heading west onto Market street in order to get to the Western Distributor and, from there, onto the Anzac Bridge.

The corner is also used heavily by pedestrians. An entrance to St James Station (opened in 1926), on the City Circle Line, is right there as is Hyde Park, which people use not only for recreation but also to cross to make their way to the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW; opened in 1882), which stands on the other side of College Street, to the east. Another feature of this corner is an outlet belonging to the David Jones department store (founded in 1838). This store was, in 2008, heavily used by shoppers but retailers nowadays are struggling because of the rise in popularity of online shopping. At the time I write this post some floors of the DJs on the northeast corner of the intersection are being renovated.

So, the following photos were taken in what is, by world standards, a relatively new city. Sydney is a mere stripling compared to London or Nanjing or Kyoto or Amman. But it is a beautiful city and Hyde Park is popular with tourists, many of whom pose for photos next to the Archibald Fountain (unveiled in 1932) with its figures inspired by classical mythology and its sparkling jets of water. Standing in front of the fountain newly-weds, dressed in their finery, are often seen having commemorative snaps taken by professional photographers.

Just for the sake of completeness, it’s worth noting that Elizabeth Street was not named after the current monarch but, rather, after the second wife of the (in)famous governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie. Her name was Elizabeth Henrietta Campbell. Before 1810 the street was known as Mulgrave Street.

Perversely, my artistic attempt at making a true chronicle of the times leaves out the picturesque fountain, the venerable buildings made out of Pyrmont sandstone, and the lofty modern skyscrapers.

To take the photos you can see below I stood, facing southwest and west, on the footpath on the eastern side of Elizabeth Street. Between 2.12pm and 2.15pm, as people of all ages walked past me on the pavement, calmly going about their business, I took photos of vehicles in the carriageway, both vehicles at rest and some that were moving. I tried to time the shutter action for each photo to catch vehicles rolling in the carriageway. In one photo there is no vehicle at all, just bare macadam.

At the time the photos were taken I had just been to the AGNSW. Over the entire day I took a total of 669 images and I wrote about the ones I took on the train that took me to the city in an earlier post.  Other photos of a similar nature that were taken on that day will appear in another blogpost.

The folder on my PC that contains all these images was labelled with the creation date of the photos it contains as well as the letters “bos” but now I do not remember what those letters stood for. It can’t possibly be a word but at the time it would have meant something to me. The art exhibition I had seen on that day was titled ‘Taisho Chic’ so what did “bos” mean to me? Being outside? Best one since? Began overseas? Beginning of struggle? Brought out strife? Bare our soul? Bands of steel? Broken on stone?

Bereft of sense? Much can be known but mysteries can endure. We can’t even know many things about our own past. We can know where the Archibald Fountain was made (in France) and when it was constructed, but how did those Aborigines feel when Governor Macquarie ordered them to be slaughtered in the colonial frontier wars? What did the families of those people think when they saw the bodies of the slain hanging from trees, put there to instil fear in the hearts of the survivors of terrible violence Macquarie unleashed upon their communities?

Taking the photos from which the ones shown here were selected – all 62 of them – took me three minutes. How much time did it take the band of convicts and free settlers at Myall Creek in New England, on 10 June 1838, to hack to death 38 men, women and children? How much time does it take to kill, how much time to fall in love? Moments are fleeting but it only takes a few of them to change a life forever.

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