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.