You can shine your spanners
But you’ll never ever lose
If you have good manners
I had my 18-125 Sigma lens on the camera, but I also had my 300mm lens in the bag as well. But there was no time to waste. I stopped in the middle of the bridge, crossed to the railing and started shooting the scene as commuters rushed past. In the space of two minutes, the sun was obscured. Such a narrow window of opportunity – and I was just in the right place at the right time.
If I had caught my normal train, I would have missed the sight completely. And if I had changed at Richmond as I always do, to get a direct train to Flinders Street instead of staying on the train (because it was crowded) through the entire City Loop, I would have been too early to capture these scenes.
I often get asked "What makes an interesting photograph?" My reply is always the same. Always unwavering. Always consistent. Anything makes an interesting photograph. Yup, anything. To me, the most interesting shots are those that most people would simply walk past.
But it's true. There is art everywhere. Ah, but to photograph it, you have to recognise it first. I guess there is no such thing as a mundane sight. Why? Because you can interpret anything the way you want to. That, more than any other factor, is the true power of photography.
I was walking down a street in Singapore when I noticed these shelves of cold drinks, stacked three deep. I simply waited for the crowd to thin out and as soon as I had the perfect opportunity, with no one walking through my field of vision, I shot this frame.
It attracted my attention not just because of the colours, not just because of the military-like order in which the drinks were stacked. But if you look carefully at the orientation of the colour on the labels, it looks as if there is a wave motion through the entire frame.
It's almost as graceful as a hula demonstration, isn't it?
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
This shot of the Rialto against the Melbourne sky was taken in 2006 - and I guess it’s a good way to depict this week’s theme of solitude. Until Eureka Tower was opened just across the river, the Rialto was the tallest building in Melbourne and this frame of the distinctive building was my way of capturing its lonely splendour against a striking sky.
When I was a cadet journalist in Calcutta, I worked under the editor and author M. J. Akbar, who began editing "Sunday", the national magazine, when he was still in his late twenties. The magazine was slanted to politics, news and current events, a perfect mix for a vibrantly democratic media in the post-Emergency era.
On one memorable occasion, Akbar decreed that the magazine was to be edited, in his absence during a brief overseas trip, by his good friend, the poet and film producer Pritish Nandy who would later move to Bombay/Mumbai to successfully edit The Illustrated Weekly of India. After that success, he moved on to the role of publishing director of the Times of India group before founding Pritish Nandy Communications.
Nandy declared that "Sunday" would be running a cover story on the theme of "loneliness". I blinked. I was surprised, but I was not alone. Every member of the editorial staff seemed puzzled. Why would a magazine, whose readers expected a weekly diet of politics and news, suddenly deal with what seemed to be such an ephemeral subject?
But I was a cadet, remember. And this was a learning curve, remember. Nandy asked the brilliant New Delhi-based photographer Raghu Rai to send him a selection of black-and-white images to go with the cover story.
The upshot? Simple. The magazine's mailbag was overflowing. The cover story touched a chord in the hearts of hundreds of readers from all round the country. I guess that was the day I learnt that there are other things – apart from headlines, deadlines and breaking news – that matter to the readers.
Solitude is an amazing thing. We all crave it sometimes - but we never crave too much of it. So often, in everyday life and in corporate halls, we hear the phrases "give me some space" or "I need time out" or "I’ll get back to you". So many of us seek "our space".
But do we truly revel in being alone? Truly? Probably not, but I'd like to know what you think.
I took this shot (above) in a Montreal park in late 2005. I used a Canon EOS 3000 and it’s interesting, in retrospect, to note that I only shot one frame. Across the street from where I stood was a man on a bench. He sat alone, and whether or not he had a companion elsewhere in the park, I could not tell.
I didn’t want to encroach on his space as he delved into a paper bag containing his lunch. His clothes were well worn but not threadbare. He was unshaven and his hair was long. Like most human beings, he probably had a poignant story to tell. But all I did was frame him on film, enshrined in a cathedral of ancient green trees. Maybe if time wasn’t so tight, I would have said "G’day" and asked him if he was lonely and sat and chatted to him for a while.
Many times since I was blessed by becoming a parent, I have played the card game Uno with my children. Solitude is a fleeting theme in this grand game, where the object is to get rid of all your cards before anyone else, and where the word "Uno" (Italian for "one") must be spoken aoud before playing your final card.
But there are many types of solitude, most of which we do not seek. There is even medical solitude, which I would not wish on anyone. I saw one of my parents ravaged by Alzheimer’s. That’s not solitude. That is loss. Everybody’s loss. And I really mean everybody.
The first of the standard weekly questions. Why do you blog?
I started mainly to keep in touch with some friends I had made in a trivia chat room when that forum went down the tubes. I also thought it would be a fun and cheap (read 'free') outlet for me. It was more fun than I imagined and I found so many fascinating people out there. I read a wide assortment of blogs and I love the variety of perspectives, the creativity, the humor, and the honesty I find. I have been amazed time and again and I enjoy being able to explore different sides of my own creativity as well.
What's the story behind your blog name?
In Trinidadian slang "to lime" means to hang out with friends. It can be planned or spontaneous but it's always a laid back time perhaps involving food and drink or music and dancing. My name in the trivia room was a reference to that and I became known as "Lime." I started the blog at a time when the trivia forum was dying a slow death partly as a way of keeping in touch with friends from there. Hence, House of Lime was built.
What is the best thing about being a blogger?
When I was in college I spent most of my time with the exchange students. I got such an education from being with them. I spent countless hours in the student union center with friends from all over the world, liming together. Blogging gives me a chance to do that in a virtual sense and intersect with so many people from all over the world that I otherwise never would have met and been enriched by.
I've also been so blessed by the support I've received at times when I have really needed it. I'm not generally one of the confess all and blog for the sake of exorcising demons types, though there is nothing wrong with that. However, when I fell off a zipline and demolished my left arm just six months after starting my blog, the outpouring of concern over my involuntary disappearance and the continued support throughout a long rehabilitation both surprised and
touched me. I was amazed that people I'd never met cared that much and went out of their way to encourage me. The sense of community is tremendous.
What key advice would you give to a newbie blogger?
Don't go crazy looking at stat counters and whether or not you are getting a number of hits that pleases you. Blog what your own passion is and the people who share that will find their way. Some folks will come and go over the course of time because this can be a very transient environment but you'll also find some permanent fixtures and even friends along the way.
Also, the type of environment you cultivate at your blog will be a factor in what kind of people hang around. If you are welcoming and show respect to your readers you'll find that returned to you. I'm not too crazy about the extreme political correctness that is expected in some quarters but I try to be generally respectful. So far I've been fortunate and have not had more than the most fleeting issue with people being nasty.
What is the most significant blog post you've ever read?
Wow, that's a tough one! I don't think I could boil it down to a single post or even a single blog. Brian's blog had a tremendous influence on me and was part of why I started House of Lime for myself after doing a joint blog for merely a month. I was so impressed by not only the way he wrote but what he shared. He was going through some major life changes and blogging about it thoughtfully. At the time he also had a weekly feature on a person of historical significance that I looked forward to so much. He covered a range of topics each week and had an overall positive tone that I aspired to.
The other blog that has impacted me deeply is Phaedrous' Lightning Strikes Twice. He was diagnosed with cancer many years ago and is still fighting it. He has recently been entered in some trials for treatment of his cancer and seems to be responding positively for the time being. This is good news since all other avenues for treatment were exhausted once they proved unsuccessful. He started the blog after his wife was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago.
He has eloquently chronicled the intensity of caring for and watching his beloved die and then adjusting to single fatherhood as he continues his own fight. Through it all he has managed to find joys in life as well. I've said it at my own blog, I will say it here. If anyone can give an honest read of his writings and not come away touched and examining their own life, I dare say that individual lacks both head and heart.
What is the most significant blog post you've ever written?
Gees, that's even harder than the last question! I'm really not good with these superlatives. I think the first one that really revealed a side of me that many people don't grasp was the letter to my birth mother. I have written something like 80 posts on my time in Trinidad, it's culture and people, and how much I loved living there. The hardest one was talking about the dark side we saw when were were robbed at gunpoint in our own home. Those were the two posts I felt the most vulnerable about but I've been blessed by having several others that people have responded to and said were really meaningful to them.
Today's Sunday Roast with Michelle is the seventeenth in a weekly series of interviews with bloggers from around the world.
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
So I can be a little bit slow sometimes, okay? But I’m a bloke, and it comes with the territory. So don’t shake your head and click your tongue when I tell you that I missed all the clues yesterday. Yup, every single clue.
It was cold when I got up. Missed clue #1. It was a cloudless sky. Missed clue #2. I could see smoke-vapour billowing gracefully from the roof heating vent of my neighbour across the road. Missed clue #3.
So, clad in my grey suit and my maroon-and-silver tie and nothing warm except my sense of humour, out I strode through the front door – to find both cars covered with ice. Ice? We’re still a week away from winter but yes, it was cold. And yes, the car doors were frozen shut as well.
But an icy Melbourne night means a cloudless Melbourne day and a blue Melbourne sky, so when I got to the station there was a beautiful crystal-clear sky daubed with pink and blue.
I did the right thing and ignored my train so that I could take these shots of the early-morning moon hanging over the station. Which of these four compositions do you like best?
Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON
I call this the "arm’s length challenge". If I’m sitting at my desk at work or in my study at home, I simply reach for my camera and photograph a random object that is within reach. This was shot on my desk at work at lunchtime a couple of weeks ago.
I chose the Scotch-tape dispenser as my subject. As you can see, I opted to photograph the miniature teeth on the edge of the moulded plastic dispenser. I shot three frames but I reckon I should have hit the button once more, in search of a slightly sharper image.
No colour. No gimmicks. No razzmatazz. But tell me, does the image make you look twice?
Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON
I was brought up to show respect to all and to show special reverence in church. Some of my earliest memories of reading relate to being able to read the brass commemorative plaques in St Nicholas, the Missions to Seamen church not far from Dumayne Avenue, where I grew up in Calcutta. As I grew up, I became an altar boy in that church and on one memorable Sunday morning I was told I was finally old enough to ring the bells before the service began.
My older brothers and I knelt when we were supposed to kneel, we sang when we were supposed to sing, we stood when we were supposed to stand, we sang hymns when we were supposed to sing hymns and we bowed our heads when we were supposed to bow our heads.
You get the picture, right? I'm not a yobbo who picks his teeth in church.
But last December, while I was briefly in Singapore, an old friend (and former colleague) stated, hand on chest, that the only time he has spluttered with mirth in the silent, hallowed confines of a church was during a wedding of another colleague of ours.
Let's call my Singapore-based friend Mister Northbridge. According to his recollection, he and I were standing (reverently) at the back of the church, waiting to usher the latecomers in as the nuptials began. At that point, Mister Northbridge and I both espied someone we knew rather well. He wasn't someone we fraternised with, either by choice or by necessity.
He was kneeling. Nothing unusual about that. But he had left his pew and was kneeling - very theatrically - in the middle of the aisle of this wonderful church. Not the sort of thing you'd do unless you wanted to draw attention to yourself.
Really draw attention to yourself. And as we watched him, he began to bow, so far that it seemed his nose would touch the cold flagstones and he would completely surrender to every gravitational force known to man.
It was exhibitionism like we'd never seen before and will probably never see again.
According to Mister Northbridge, I put down my hymn book and took out my wallet. According to Mister Northbridge, I pulled out a tenner. According to Mister Northbridge, I gave him the tenner. According to Mister Northbridge, I whispered out of the side of my mouth: "Give ya odds of ten to one the daft pillock falls on his arse.''
I have to say, it's all true. I'm so sorry, St Peter.
It ain' every day you see Kneel Armstrong in church.
For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.