Oprah in the first (and worst) Photoshopping experience

October 29th, 2008 § 5 comments § permalink

I may have come across the earliest attempt to beautify someone by gross manipulation. In 1989 the magazine TV Guide was doing a front page article on Oprah, then the possible richest woman on earth, now a demi-God in many people’s eyes. The illustrator based the cartoon on Ann-Margret Ollson’s body from a picture dating 1979. The details included the same dress and jewelery.

alt textOprah on the TV Guide cover
alt textAnn-Margaret in 1979

Like most magazines today, TV Guide didn’t even point out the cut-and-paste job until they were outed by the designer of Ann-Margret’s dress. The illustrator was told firmly not to copy photos so literally. Oprah’s publicist stated ““Oprah would not pose on a pile of money like that nor would she pose in that revealing a dress.” I don’t know what’s more depressing. The fact that they were doing this in 1989, so soon after the feminist movement, or the fact that this is common practice now.

I hate photoshopping out imperfections. It’s what makes us human, tells something of our character. Scars whisper stories of our past, even cellulite has a story. One of my favourite things about my love is the faint lines around his eyes when he smiles. I love finding out the story behind each scar. If I see someone who has frown wrinkles around their mouth or forehead, I stay way away from them cause experience tells me their grumpy motherfuckers.

What I learnt from photojournalism and why I chose creative writing.

October 24th, 2008 § 11 comments § permalink

Gemma Palmer was a photojournalist. This alone is fascinating but recently she quit her job to take up writing. So, why the switch and is photojournalism as awesome as I think it is?

Gemma Palmer

“I worked full-time for a daily newspaper. I kind of fell into the job – I had just finished my first semester of a Bachelor of Arts and was really disenchanted with the course and looking for a full-time job. The [local] newspaper advertised a position was available for a cadet photojournalist, I put my resume in on the very last day that applications were open and the next morning they rang me to come in for an interview. The day after that I was offered the job.”

What was on your resume that made you stick out?

“It was a list consisting of my employment record, my computer capabilities and my personal strengths. However my cover letter was written with the intention to impress. I think the cover letter is about the most important part of your resume – don’t be afraid to boast about yourself a little. Just don’t lie!

“I didn’t have a degree or anything, but I had been the editor of a youth magazine for three years prior. It was a part-time job and the magazine was funded by the local council.

Photography-wise, I’d studied it for the last two years of high school, but I wasn’t particularly fantastic at it. With a cadetship, you get on-the-job training. I was chucked in the deep end and had to learn to swim pretty bloody quickly.

How did you handle your interview?

I went to my interview in what I was already wearing that day for the youth mag – skinny black jeans, old Converse All Stars and a red hoodie. How professional (I was only 19 at the time). I was friendly, positive and emphasised how interested I was in working for the newspaper.

How did you pitch a story to a newsroom full of pros?

“We had a newsroom meeting every morning where all the journos and photographers met with the editor and discussed what stories we’d be covering that day. If you had a story idea you told everyone during the meeting, and if it was voted worthwhile you got to cover it, basically. Unpredictable stuff would happen during the day and if something huge occurred then whoever was available would go out to cover it.

“If there was an accident the police or ambos would often inform us, but our office was in the same street as the fire station and the police station, so we always heard the sirens and we’d phone them to find out what was going on. We all read other local papers every day and compared our work to theirs.

“Personally, to get inspiration for my photos I looked at a lot of national geographic photojournalists’ work. They are pretty much top of the game in my opinion.

Dealing with stress, staying detached and keeping cool.

“The worst bit about the job was the really horrible things I had to cover; like car accidents and one story in particular where a woman found three newborn puppies that someone had thrown into a council rubbish bin. Thankfully, they were still alive. A big part of the reason I left was because I was covering more and more accidents and I started to suffer from anxiety attacks every time I got in a car. Not fun. It was a pretty stressful job at times and I saw things that I’d have preferred not to.

To be honest, I didn’t deal with it well. I ended up suffering from frequent anxiety attacks in the last few months and my doctor prescribed anti-anxiety medication for me. Before I was taking medication, I would tend to get very emotional, very easily.

When I took the job they gave me the impression that I’d be writing stories, and it turned out that I ended up being a photographer. We only had one other photographer but quite a few journos. I was pretty disappointed about that.

But there are good things too…

“The best parts were the feeling of achievement I got from getting a great story, seeing one of the photos I’d taken on the front page and my name in print, and the times when everyone pulled together and we worked as a team, as rare as it was.

What gave you the courage to change careers?

“I was working on my creative writing in my spare time and I gradually realised that if I was willing to sit down and write for two hours straight after coming home from a hectic eight hour day at the paper, maybe it was something I should be concentrating on more.

Yes, I could have kept my ‘day job’, but I wanted to go back to university to get a degree and I figured that if I didn’t do it now, I might not ever do it.  I quit when I’d been there almost two years… my cadetship was a three-year one, so I didn’t end up getting my qualification.

A lot of people thought I was pretty stupid for leaving but in the end I became very unhappy working there. I realised that working for a newspaper just wasn’t going to allow me to be as creative as I wanted to be, especially when I was taking photographs instead of writing.

I applied to enter a Bachelor of Creative Writing, and the day I received my acceptance letter I went into the editor’s office and told him I was leaving in two weeks. He was really nice about it, I think they may have seen it coming.

And what’s life like post-photojournalism?

One of the biggest perks for me is that I now have enough spare time to work on my writing a lot more, and I also get a lot of feedback from my [university] tutors regarding my writing. I finished a novel earlier this year which I hope to have published as my debut. I’m posting the first few chapters of it on my blog, to gauge reader reactions and get constructive criticism. Have a read and leave her feedback.

For other people ‘chucked in the deep end’ of photography, what would you say?

Read as much as you can about photography techniques, in particular lighting techniques. Lighting can make or break a photograph. Ask questions of more experienced photographers. Above all, experiment with all kinds of different photos as much as you can. This is why digital is so great – you can take a thousand photos and you don’t have to pay to develop them to see how you’re progressing.

Technical stuff:

At the newspaper I used a Nikon D100 Digital SLR and various different lenses. For my own freelance stuff I use a Nikon D50 with Nikkor and Tamron lenses, plus a Lensbaby lens, and I also use a Holga 120CFN film camera on the odd occasion for more arty stuff.

Photo by Gemma

Where do you want to be in one, five, ten years time?

Well, I’ll be graduating from university in a year and a half. After graduating I hope to find a job at a magazine, preferably an alternative/youth/fashion/music mag. Or maybe I’ll start up my own, who knows. In five years I hope to have at least two books published. Ten years, ideally, I’ll be making a living from my novels and fiction writing.

Virginia Woolf

October 22nd, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

“If one does not lie back and sum up and say to the moment, this very moment, stay you are so fair, what will be one’s gain, dying? No: stay this moment. No one ever says that enough.” – Virginia Woolf, a diary entry, New Year’s Eve 1932

Is coupledom cute or over-share?

October 21st, 2008 § 3 comments § permalink

Friends can be a constant source of laughter in sharing experiences, the good with the embarrassing.

Why is it when we talk about our significant others, we always make them out to be slightly retarded?

A case study: You’re catching up with a close friend. The questions inevitable turn to “and how’s (insert name) going?”. I don’t mean to do it. I try to stop but old habits are so hard to break.

The barrage of “cutesy” stories begins. It could be that someone forgot to take out the toast, stubbed their toe or was muttering things in their sleep. The stories toss back and forth, constantly trying to outdo the other. More often than not, the talk piece is an illustration of the differences between the sexes.

Is this our way of letting off steam? Is it hatred masked as affection, or do we genuinely love our lovers more for their mistakes?

Being an optimistic, I think the swapping of silly stories can be a fun thing, if done in a positive manner. If you think the sun shines out of your significant other’s ass but they snore when drunk, then sure, share away. If you hate one bad trait and take every opportunity to bitch about it to anyone but the person causing the issue, shut the fuck up.

Beware: if you’re friends with a bad couple, don’t ever ever swap stories with either of them. It’ll turn into a bitchfest of awkwardness and passive-aggressive put downs. Been there, not fun.

Make sure there is no meanness behind your anecdotes and it’s not too personal and you can’t go wrong.

What do you think? Is anecdotal swapping a good or bad thing?

Insecurities? Bam! Gone!

October 17th, 2008 § 1 comment § permalink

I find the more I sit completely still, the more insecurities creep into my brain. Am I doing enough for my career, should I swim more often, am I eating healthy? It’s ridiculous. No inner peace for this lady. I had a bout of jetlag-induced insomnia which caused more than usual internal scruitnizing this week. That was until I read this. I printed Gala Darling’s “A reminder” and had it on my bedside until the insecurity turned into inspiration.

Using InDesign, I laid out Gala’s words against a picture I took of Aphrodite (or Venus, which ever name you prefer). All of the Aphrodite statues that I saw were voluptuous, strong and even when they had their arms and torso lopped off, their faces looked like she was in control.

I wasn’t going to put this poster on Little Flutters but then I had a conversation with my drop-dead gorgeous younger sister about how she thought her body wasn’t ideal (when it is, I’ve seen her) so I figured everyone needed a little boost no matter their circumstance.

Print this out, paste it up, pass it on, link to it. Share the love.


P.S Here’s Gala’s blog.

Oh My Goth! Pictures of a woman.

October 15th, 2008 § 4 comments § permalink

Brighten your day with a couple of black jewels.

One of my closest friends dared to get in front of my camera. The beautiful Ratty Batty works at an alternative music shop in the heart of Sydney and is training to be a florist. The lilac was a leftover from her class that was starting to wilt. How suitably goth.

Scroll down to see her wicked calf tattoos. Let me know what you think.

I love these.

Make Great Green Tea

October 11th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

I asked Jodi Holiday from Sympathy for the Kettle what makes a perfect cup of green tea. She dished up everything she knows about the perfect brew.

How to tell you’re buying the good stuff: When drinking green tea, you are essentially drinking dried tea leaves. Non-organic will effect the taste, so organic and freshness is important. Holiday warns “A lot of small tea gardens will not be certified organic due to inability to meet organic certification…yet they are still perfectly organic. Know your tea and what you are putting in your body.”

Buy packaged tea that has a shelf date or ask where your tea comes from. If they don’t know, don’t buy it.

Loose tea is fresh for a year without loosing vibrancy.

“Know these important attributes when buying tea and you will start to see the difference between quality tea and blah.”

Do you strain or stew your tea?

Strain black and herbal teas. “Green, oolong or white leaves, I leave the tea leaves in the pot or cup infuser basket and keep on adding more water.” Never stew or brew on the stove.

“Popular Asian belief is water should be well below boiling; merely hot so it doesn’t scald or burn the tea leaves so you don’t lose nutrients and taste.”

Making the perfect cuppa.

Asian culture measurements use a few grams per 8 to 32 oz (230mls to 950mls) of water. “Size of green tea leaves vary and some people like it strong and others light. You can resteep the leaves over and over again.”

In Japan, Taiwan and China the first infusion of teas are not consumed. The second and third infusions are prized as the most tasteful. Some Chinese start their day with a few grams of tea and refill that same tea for the rest of the day. This is awesome to do in Winter. Keeps you warm and hydrated. “The first infusion has the most caffeine yet antioxidants and vitamins are continually released through multi-infusions.” said Jodi.

You can add milk to all your teas, if your palate agrees. “There have been studies that show milk breaks down the enzyme in the molecule that aids in preventing heart disease.” But that shouldn’t stop you adding milk if it makes your tastebuds tingle.

“I like to drink tea pure rather than with a sweet on the side.” Jodi recommends this Orange Blossom Cake to make when company calls.

What do you drink?

“I prefer Matcha, Japanese ground gyokuro leaves, in the morning. I make it as a latter, mixed with water, honey, steamed milk and soy. Makes a great satisfying tea latte.”

Chargrilled Capsicum with Roanna Goanna

October 5th, 2008 § 4 comments § permalink

Chargrilled capsicum (or peppers, for y’all Americans) is caramelised goodness that is perfect for picnic trips and sandwich stuffing. Rather than a bitter, sharp taste, grilling the capsicum gives it a sweet, mild flavour. Roanna Goanna, my 14-year-old sister showed me how it’s done; quick and easy with plenty of time to roast some marshmallows. The things we make younger siblings do…

First, grab your capsicums. If you’re a clean freak, give them a good scrub. I figure that you’re going to peel off the skin, so what’s the point.
Turn a gas stove or a grill (boiler) on. If you’re using the stove, put any wire rack you have over the direct heat to minimise mess. Put the capsciums on there. Turn every couple of minutes.
Roast marshmallows.
Eat marshmallows.
Once the capsicums have reached an all round blackness, take it off the heat and put in a bowl. Cover with cling wrap.
Wait until the capsicums are cool, about half an hour. The steam makes the skins slide off.
Peel. Don’t wash them unless you want it flavourless. You can core capsicums by running a knife around the stem and pulling them off. Take off all the white pith and slice into chunks.
Serve with cheese, olives, Turkish bread and sun dried tomatoes. Hmmmm. If you’re not using it straight away, cover with olive oil and bung in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Thanks goes to Roanna Gonna for not burning the house down while wearing a “chef’s uniform” and inhaling marshmallows.