Letter from the Gold Coast

IMG_5160_edited-1 IMG_5168_edited-1Many of us acknowledge the old, loosely expressed idea that time does not stand still. During a visit to Queensland’s Gold Coast, I have started to think that perhaps it is more accurate to say that places and things do not stand still. More correctly, the human built environment moves and changes, sometimes at a speed we do not approve of.

For some, the pace of change will always be too slow. For others, the built environment changes too quickly for our liking. People change too over the years, creating a complex interaction between changing people and changing places.

My first memory of the Gold Coast is from about 1973, though some old photographs show that I was there earlier than that as a very young child. From 1973 to today is about 40 years of memory of a place. To put 40 years in perspective, think of the changes in the world from the end of WW2 in 1945 to 1985.

For me, for over 20 years the Gold Coast was a sort of holiday haven. Perhaps it felt that way most noticeably in 1994, when on a long holiday from the Army I swam, trained in a gym and generally relaxed by the ocean.

After that it was never quite the same. The ocean and the beaches remain, of course, but the ‘City of the Gold Coast’ has changed. In 1973 the partly rustic seaside strip seemed to be called a ‘city’ as a sort of in-joke. It is less funny today, as the strip of Gold Coast beachfront is joined to Brisbane by an unbroken urban sprawl. Somewhere in the middle of that is the ‘City of Logan’, another expanse of suburbs.

I do not seek to argue that urban sprawl is a good, or a bad, thing. It is simply something that exists now. I do think that people in the midst of the sprawl want something different for themselves, and one of the places that may be found is at the Gold Coast where the expressways end. That, or get on a flight to Bali. This, too, is neither good nor bad. It simply is that way.

Some things that simply are can be considered a useful subject for reflection. I was reminded of this as I read numerous articles or blog posts about matters such as the difficulty of taking children into cafes. Numerous similar articles exist about similar modern day dramas such as the pros and cons of mobile phone use, texting while driving or flying toy drones. It is easy to get excited about all these things and dash off an opinion piece (as I am doing now), but does anyone really care? Getting excited about some of these things is a good way to be nominated for the King Canute ‘Holding back the tide’ award, in that they cannot be stopped. We may wish and hope that our own opinion will win out, but most of the time no-one cares.

If we acknowledge the truth, we realise that the things that concern most people (including your humble correspondent) are trivialities to everyone else. This probably explains why no one cares. They may care if they get fined for texting while driving but generally will not care if they read a million articles for or against the practice. As for using mobile phones while sitting in movie theatres, on that issue I am a good candidate for a King Canute award myself.

I deplore the selfishness and stupidity of people who cannot be without their glowing phone screen for the period of time a film takes to screen. Truthfully, I am sick of asking them to turn their device off. It is not any particular age group of people, so it is not a case of the smartphone generation lording their devices over everyone else. The smartphone has captured the attention of all age groups equally.

Ergo, I am heading for a King Canute award because I seek to hold back the tide of mobile phone use in movie theatres. I am almost certain that the smartphone will win and the ‘solution’ will be that everyone will use phones during movies. Those who do not want the distraction will be invited to sit in a ‘phone free zone’ akin to a railway ‘quiet carriage’. This will succeed in New York where people are used to obeying ‘the rules’ but will fail in Australia where people will sit in the phone-free area to make their call with all that lovely quiet around them.

So, like any good writer of opinion pieces, I cannot tell you what any of this means. We are probably headed for a new era of accepting that things will be working in a different way. Perhaps people in the middle ages came to this realisation when they found they were no longer allowed to spontaneously burn heretics. I might just stop lobbying against phone use in theatres and start asking where the ‘quiet zone’ is so I can make my calls from there.

Harold Cazneaux and Sancta Sophia College, Camperdown

Harold Cazneaux took a number of photos of the interior of Sancta Sophia College at the University of Sydney, pre WW2. Some of these can be seen at the College, others were used in published materials such as a college brochure from circa 1930. Cazneaux was a great Australian photographer of the first half of the 20th Century and to honour the great man I am taking some photographs from similar positions to those he used. I am using modern black and white film so the effect is not exactly the same as Cazneaux obtained (using gelatin silver) but I have been pleased with the results so far.

I won’t post the original photos at this stage though, at a later date (having checked copyright issues – Cazneaux died in 1953), I hope to show side by side photographs for artistic interest. Here are a couple of my pictures for now, showing the chapel and library. Nikon F100 with 24 mm f2.8 lens and Kodak ISO 400 film. See some more photos here.ImageImage