Reflections (Lin Richardson, [Still life with flowers], date unknown, digital scan from colour transparency)

By CJ Bowerbird

 
 

at the window cold

on my cheek the cat's

muggy nuzzle recalls

my face from the wraith

of my last breath

into the living room

where the perfume

of flowers slaps me

reminds me

 

                   why did I seek

this posy, array these flowers

place them in a glossy

new vase beside this pane

of glass

 

                    this still life

an arrangement of pieces

to be shattered

 

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CJ Bowerbird explores what it is to be human, writing about things we have lost, things we never had and things that are slipping through our fingers. Most recently featuring at Woodford Folk Festival, CJ has performed across Australia, China, Indonesia and the US. He was the 2012 Australian Poetry Slam Champion and hosts Bloody Lips – Words of Passion, Spoken and Sung in Canberra.

Lin Richardson, [Teenagers gathered around a fire], date unknown, digital scan from photographic negative

By Sophie Verass

My adolescence was spent crossed-legged, hunched shouldered and generally, in a slouch of cohesion. It’s as though young people naturally gravitate to the lowest point of an area and huddle together. Perhaps we assumed that ground level was safe from adulthood?

Like a pride of lions or a murder of crows, my friends and I would slump about together in trendy clothes and solidarity, and form a ‘gathering of young people’.

I think of my old university share house fondly. It was in Lyneham and a quintessential ex-govie property. It had your classic Canberran interior loop, where the lounge room and dining area shared a space at a right angle, and next to the table is the doorway through to the 70s kitchen.

The house’s vinyl flooring made it easy to wipe up spills when you were funnelling goon from its silver bladder into a smaller vessel. Although the 375 ml Coke bottle still contained reminisce of fizzy drink and BPA, its size slid nicely into the drink holders of our second-hand bikes.

The lounge room would become icy from the July drafts, as the Venetian blinds were terrible at keeping the frost of winter at bay. However, my housemates and I would collectively huddle near the big gas heater and fester upon a variety of blankets and op-shop throw cushions. Thinking back to this particular moment, it was an iconic image of my youth.

Even in a lounge room with a perfectly decent settee or a park with a sturdy bench, us Lyneham-dwelling uni students would opt for the dense floorboards, the corner of a coffee table or simply, wallow where our knees became grass-stained.

Unlike our parents or other kinds of ‘proper adults’, who’d call on company and have cocktail hour strutting around on their long limbs, our own entertaining methods suggested that we were unable to shake the memories of sitting low at the kids’ table.

Instead, we would have our overgrown guests on footstool-sized seating, sitting in a tangled shape. Our lanky boyfriends, for example, would look like the hybrid of a Huntsman Spider and the letter ‘M’, with their buttocks playing the role of the middle join and their kneecaps poking right up next to their ears.

In Lyneham, we mostly hung out in the grunge of the carport, where our visitors would descend into a circle. We would grab whatever we could find to take our bums off the concrete and the autumn debris. If you were lucky, you’d get the broken steel stool, stolen from Tilley’s café, but there were enough milk crates to go round if you lost out. Red wine in a chipped mug, a joint and funny pictures on phone screens would be passed around, as well as laughter and the occasional heated debate.

The sting from the fluorescent sensor would light up and frame the garage’s square architecture, and our circle would take centre stage and be on show to Lewin Street. Passers-by would have been able to see our goings on in the carport and I always wondered how we must have looked to them, or to our neighbours across the road.  

A gathering of vintage coats, beanies and Doc Martins sitting upon upside-down buckets, broken garden furniture and a mildew-infested doona. We thought we looked so cool.

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Sophie Verass is a writer, broadcaster and public speaker based in Canberra. She is a radio personality on 2XX FM where she exercises her talents of crapping-on and holding her tongue from cursing. She writes about feminism, pop-culture and ‘the everyday’ and her works can be found in a variety of lifestyle publishings such as, Mamamia, Show and Tell and Lip Mag. Follow Sophie: @sophieverass 

Bruno Kriegel: a retrospective (Lin Richardson, [contact sheet, with kids on pig], c. 1970, digital scan of silver gelatin print in notebook)

By Duncan Felton

He would never admit it, but I knew. I knew, from that wretched light in his eyes, Lucien Espinosa would not cease his festering  subterfuge until I was utterly broken, debased, and destroyed, within and without. He began with the pig.

Well, everyone else just calls it ‘the pig’. Thanks to him, for decades now, nobody’s deemed it fitting to call my artwork by its title:  The Parasitic Suckling of the Living Upon The Great Sow of The Dying Earth. They never noticed, in that now befouled shopping complex, the pig’s scooped-out void-like eyes. They didn’t consider those entitled piglets scrabbling at that black underbelly for the last vestiges of fecundity. I’m certain they didn’t even see the plaque, which I’m convinced he removed before painting the statue’s portrait. That swine with the sickly little sproglets perpetually astride, riding that black sow for his pretty picture, then postcards, fridge magnets, calendars, everyone calling it Lucien’s pig, giving him grants and claps and that entire bloody shopping mall for him to practically ejaculate all over to a standing ovation.

Just thinking of that portrait, never mind every other indignity, it deepens my sickness, a scalpel into my stomach, and I have to divert myself, half-finish a sketch or scribble loose thoughts, bile seeping out via pencil.

The stove top sizzles. I guzzle a tin of steamy grey-brown, soon enough spoon-scraping encrusted gravy, ignoring doctor’s orders. The day’s travails have left me ravenous and recovering. Walk, clinic, bus, mall and what I essentially had smeared into my face within those old doors.

I pace my cottage, peruse dusty canvases, savour the final flavours of mashed meal against gums, then Lucien intervenes, a mind virus. My street scene he may as well have Xeroxed, simple inversion of colour, a cloying gloss to give it his signature dog-whistle to dealers. The whisking away of Francesca, just as soon as she’d sat for me. The paint not even dried before they were rutting in a beach house someplace. And then, of course, the mall, and that line for the papers: In a building near-bereft of art, I shall build a gallery aglow with natural splendour. Bereft! Acid throat, limbs cramped with rage, woozy, I lie on the dim bathroom tiles a while.  But just as paint won’t flow to my will, the day’s ignominies flood through me.

*

Inside, and I’m beaten about the head with piped music, mossy odour, birdsong, bright bustle of crowd and green. I ambled through in a stupor, but not without nostalgia. Lucien’s commission: curated re-wilding of orphaned infrastructure. The kidney-shaped fountain overflowing with fluid and fish. The spiral staircase somehow shell-like, enveloping and enveloped by sun. And there, at the top, on the now-treed balcony: my statue, unplaqued, untitled, but untouched. Somewhere in my mind’s ear, I heard a squeal. Then, from the gawking flocks and leafy undergrowth, Lucien emerged.

‘Bruno Kriegel! Come to see a classic, eh?’ – vague gesture, half-grin, and that look, those eyes and what was inside. I scowled, turned my back, didn’t care to play along with his photosynthetic hubris, caught the first bus home.

*

Flat, cool, soothed at the nape. Lying here, corporeal, rearranging doctor’s syllables in my mouth. Metachromatic autolysomal mucolipidosis.  Is that a mushroom growing up there by the air vent? Glowing? Doesn’t the day know it’s done? I shut my eyes, block it all out, but still: his little deceptions metastasising, corrupting, feeding off me and mine, decomposing my art and soul.

What I despise of Lucien Espinosa, in everything of his, interviews, artists statements, it’s evident in his work: he’s always banging on about light. The qualities of light, virtues of light, everything’s fucking light with him.

There on the tiles, I drift off, and the nightmare recurs. The doctors slice me open, despite my wishes. They botch it, it’s inevitable, and I’m flatlining, then I’m floating, and I look around the surgery, then the dark tunnel, awaiting, and it’ll be okay, so I drift, ready, but then: I see the glimmer, then the gleaming, then the light. It’s everywhere, it’s everything. I’m screaming, but it’s futile. It’s suffocating, all-encompassing. The light is all. All is filled with light.

Duncan Felton is a Canberra-based editor and writer. He also works in a library. He’s the founding editor at independent publisher Grapple Publishing, is one of the coordinators of Canberran literary collective Scissors Paper Pen and is co-producing the inaugural Noted Festival. His words have appeared in some publications like Verity La, Voiceworks, BMA, Burley and The N00bz: New adventures in literature. His overlong URL is duncanwritingeditingpublishing.com

Lin Richardson, [contact sheet, Living room], c.1970, digital scan of silver gelatin print in notebook

By Clare McHugh

Once the image blooms, it can not be voided.

On the contact sheet, even the dark void—the unknown soldier of the set—puts its case to emerge from darkroom fluids or stay forever half-made.Six framed boxes like separate memories wait for photographer to order and make sense. Or for a future hand. But what order, what sense? The shots a child or teenager takes with a new camera. Or someone—hungry to get the money shot developed—finishing off the reel. Unframed, unfocused, uncentered. Click. Click. Click. Hope and half-formed notions to be claimed later.

What was Lin, Lincoln, linking? What was his main shot? A disappointment of trees and greyness? Did he wait for a figure and light on a parkland avenue and find it wanting?

It can’t be the books, looking as books looked for a hundred years. These ones put on notice about the coming age of colour print. The future pinned in front of them.A living room with signs of life, but not of the living. Sagging checked chairs barely vacated, suggest institution but only the institution of television.

Despite the Namatjira-style painting, with its wide hill and blowsy tree, the northern hemisphere hangs over the room as surely as the cuckoo clock’s dangling pendulum hangs over that desk. It is there in the mantled greeting cards, the cups and metal espresso pot that say deep, dense, coffee. Not tea, not instant grounds or chicory war-time substitute but a pungent beverage from another place, and a pot to make it.

A young child, soft and buttoned, draws the eye. Her blunt blondness and the pinkness of her dressing gown seep from the monochrome. One defiant hand on hip, the other bearing an object, hoisted prize-like, posing in front of the black and white television. At first click it is a helmet. But more clicks show otherwise. Once revealed, the black and white past cannot be remade on the contact sheet. 

Did the photographer look for something particular, overlook as I first did, as I half-wish I now could? The hardly contained child in her frame a distracted afterthought.

Every coloured item turned to grey and grey on this sheet.

On first blink, that shape is a diving helmet. Click go the years. As she draws me in it is hard to look away from what she holds. Not a helmet. A kind of doll—an inflatable, calypso doll, although those are not the words used then—the kind sold at a long ago Royal Easter Show. A kewpie-style empire emporium import. An entrepreneur’s idea of a piccaninny with a bow-bone hairdo for hugging close by a girl.

Now that occluded frame gives up the detail. All becomes clear when it is clear what to look for. The girl’s jaw, the blunt line of hair, a soft drape, the goggling manufactured eyes, all visible from the clouded frame.

This is one of the photographer’s forgettable shots that cannot be forgotten once seen. Can not be preferred otherwise.

Look into the void at the girl, at her doll. Central. Focused. Framed.

Clare McHugh’s short fiction and nonfiction has been published in First (2006 and 2009), The Sound of Silence (2011) and Spineless Wonders’ anthology Small Wonder (2012). Clare was part of the 2013 Centenary of Canberra anthology project, The Invisible Thread, and co-ordinated the Out of Place author panel for RMIT’s nonfictionow! (Melbourne, 2012) and Canberra’s Bloom festival (2013). Her writing on young children and technology appears regularly on the blog, The Spoke.

Bloody Tessa (Lin Richardson, [contact sheet, Julie Paech and Theresa McDeed], c. 1970, digital scan of silver gelatin print in notebook)

By Samuel Townsend

 

Julie’s voice snapped down the phone line. ‘I’m not doing it! No bloody way!’

Tessa had pointed her to a notice she found in the university library. Something about a guy wanting to take portraits for his portfolio. He sounded like an old creep.

‘Come on Jules,’ she begged, ‘It’ll be fun! He’s got his own darkroom and everything, and we get to keep a few of the photos. You can give one to Frank.’ She sang this last part, dragging out the name in a playful tease: ‘Fraaank!’ 

Julie was raging inside. She despised having her photo taken and worse still, she loathed Tessa’s tricky manner. The endless plots, schemes and dramas. Bloody Tessa. ‘You’re awful,’ Julie protested as she dropped the receiver back into its cradle.

A deliberate attempt was made to arrive late but as Julie’s bike slowly rolled to a halt in front of a letterbox marked with the number thirty-seven, she saw no sign of Tessa’s wheels. Bloody Tessa. The house was unusual in how ordinary it appeared amongst a street of tightly maintained dwellings. Green squares of lawn. Shiny cars beneath carports. Curtains hanging in windows. In contrast, number thirty-seven appeared bleached and thirsty. Julie reached into her pocket to withdraw the crumpled paper, which held the address, silently hoping she had made a mistake. Scrawled in orange marker were the numbers three followed by seven. No, she wasn’t wrong.

In a sequence of hurried vignettes — door clicking open, shaking of hand, exchange of names and apology for absent friend — Julie found herself inside the living room, alone and waiting for the return of her host. Tightly packed bookshelves kept her busy in the interim. Julie plucked at the faded spines and gently slid out old texts to flip through, consciously attempting to occupy her wandering mind. As pages turned, she tried recalling the image of his face, the face that only left the room moments ago. She failed to remember details, but a lasting impression lingered: his handshake gentle and his smile friendly. Older but not old.

A tarnished platter holding coffee with biscuits and dried apricots sat between them on a crowded table. The concocted image that Julie had created was all but forgotten moments after he took his seat. A week ago she had envisaged an uncomfortable, socially awkward man; darting eyes and words tripping over one another. Instead, he regarded her fondly and listened when she spoke. He shared stories and made jokes. She laughed, not to be polite, but because he was genuinely funny. Julie found herself asking questions, passing comment and sharing thoughts. Julie found herself staring at a stranger, completely transfixed.

After emptying the pot of coffee and taking the last bitter sip, the doorbell rang. Bloody Tessa. Julie flinched at the sound and fixed her eyes on the front door. Her bike rested by the entrance way and behind the tea-stained glass she made out a hovering figure; a muddy cloud shifting back and forth. She looked back at her host who was pushing himself up from the sofa. He stood before her and smiled, ‘That must be your friend.’ Julie pressed her finger to her lips and gently shooshed him. She reached forward and took his hand, ‘Let’s pretend we’re not here.’

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Samuel Townsend

Image maker. Storyteller. Visual arts Educator. Recent exhibitions include I Heart Television (M16), Art of Seduction (CCAS), All the Young Dudes (BAC). Frequent contributor to BMA Magazine and creator of From Sir, With Love (blog). Currently working on a collection of autobiographic tales titled, The Art of Crash Landing, and busy developing new photographic work which explores images of men seen through a porno-prism, or the James Deen 'effect'.  

 

 

 

Lin Richardson, [Birthday party], date unknown, colour transparency

By Yolande Norris


Morning burst

Under the clothesline

She crouches in the shards of sun

The dew

and dawn treading snails

Disturbing the birds and their order of things

And the ants, always beneath her


Breathe, lady.

The day will be long.


*****


When it was Ida’s birthday she could have cried for how much she didn’t want to play with blocks, or with the toy trains. For how much she wanted to be alone.

Being alone in that she could be herself,

or the self she had grown used to being for thirty years.


To be quiet,

Or as quiet as thinking feels.


But her birthday is three months past.


Today they go to Audrey’s for her daughter’s party.

At six AM, Ida had thought she’d never make it, never shape her face into pleasing forms or get enough oxygen into her lungs

that she could unfold and move forwards.


Ida likes Audrey, or can convince herself she does, in the way of women who exist nearby to one another, the walls of their worlds gently pressing.

They can fill hours of their children’s play with the exchange of pleasant words, punctured and laced with warnings, comforts and reprimands.


The language of mothers:

saying nothing, keeping afloat.

Going to Audrey’s home makes her realise what strangers they are.


Because of Ida they are late.

Because they are late the party has already found its natural form.

The children play, not with but around one another, orbiting like tiny, suspicious planets.

Their parents huddle stiffly around the table, conversations split into twos or threes,

About work

House prices

Concreting

And cakes


It is unclear to Ida how she fits.


She nods and smiles, murmurs her replies.

She gave up on Audrey long ago, but now searches the eyes of the other women nearby, some she hasn’t met before.


Looking for a flash,

a mirror

an expression she’ll instantly recognise

of someone else who wants to be elsewhere in time.


Yolande Norris is a writer and producer based in Braidwood NSW. Find her at http://uselesslines.wordpress.com and @yolandenorris.

Lin Richardson, [contact sheet, Australian General Electric], 1972, digital scan of silver gelatin print

Lin Richardson, [contact sheet, Australian General Electric], 1972, digital scan of silver gelatin print

Betty was always disappointed Joanna and Nicholas didn’t become members of the ALP. By the time she died, she couldn’t blame them. Politics went off the dinner table completely in the mid-nineties and there’d been no reason for it to make a comeback. And Lin’s interest had never been a compounding one.

If Lin had ever tried to make their kids show an interest in something, it was what the world looked like. But if the lens of his camera proved anything, it was that not even structurally identical lenses would ever produce the same image in different peoples’ hands, assuming Jo or Nick even thought to point it at the same thing.

We’re awestruck by displays of literary and artistic empathy not because they’re truly real, but because it’s impressive to see someone get close. The fact that no one does, ever, get there, is just a fact, and one that Lin accepted. That didn’t, however, stop him from trying, at least in his earlier days. The Australian General Electric exhibition was a turning point, or rather, his series on it was.

The exhibition was meant to give attendees an insight into the wonders that Australian General Electric Co. had created to harness and process the potential uses of electricity in a newly industrial age. It had seemed ludicrous to Lin from the start. The deification of these machines struck him as being akin to ants celebrating the systems of saliva-based liquefaction they use to digest solids. 

On a contact sheet, he bookended dark, squalid shots of the computers the museum had propped up in dark rooms, lit by moody skylights and ceiling-long fluorescent tubes, with two shots of sun, water and trees – of the gods, really. And he thought it was rather clever.

Unfortunately, when it didn’t persuade anyone, least of all his quite gifted children, that his way of expressing himself was preferable to anyone else’s, Lin let it get to him. Because just as the kids hadn’t shown any increased interest in joining the ALP, they also outgrew the special appeal that a peculiar byproduct of their father’s hobby had to children, and stopped accompanying their father on photographic balloon rides too.

The first balloon ride ticket stub bearing Jo or Nick’s name alongside Lin’s own, after a thirty-year stint of solo rides, coincided with Lin’s seventy-fifth birthday. They did it for him, finally able to accept his silence as he stared down the viewfinder at the landscapes beneath, which became for him, at that height, temporarily more interesting than his children, resigned as he thought he was, for his part, to the fact that they didn’t take after him in this. It had been thirty years since, in the winter following their non-reaction to his Australian General Electric Co. contact sheet, Lin had stopped asking if they wanted to come with him. On this ride, however, he couldn’t help passing the camera to Jo just once. She didn’t even raise it before passing it back to him. ‘You just have fun, Dad.’

It would be a lie to say he did. Truer to say he just managed well enough, and to note that he had the bitter grace to be amused that it still hurt him, even when the camera was digital, and his eyes no longer registered detail; a forty-eight-year-old child, a seventy-five-year-old widower, and not even a half-century could pry his passions from his progeny’s approbation.

Lin spent forty-five minutes on the phone the following weekend, attempting to purchase ALP memberships for Joanna and Nick, giving up when the young man on the other end of line reiterated, for the fourth time, that their signatures were required.

 Ashley Thomson is an editor and writer. Upon graduating the Australian National University in 2011, Ashley worked as Editor-in-Chief of Canberra street press BMA Magazine until early 2014. Since leaving that position, Ashley has worked as a freelance editor and writer for The Australia Times and DESIGN Canberra. Publications include Green Magazine, Architecture Australia, ACTWrite Journal and Feminartsy. Follow him at @aabthom or on his blog, Swimming with Elephants.

You are privileged to view this image titled Lin Richardson, [contact sheet, with bound skeleton], c. 1970, digital scan of silver gelatin print in notebook

By Eleanor Malbon 

Lin Richardson, [contact sheet, with bound skeleton], c. 1970, digital scan of silver gelatin print in notebook

The first two seconds

squint at the picture

your eyes go straight to the skeleton

bound; recognise this as a symbol of the macabre

eyes flick to the androgynous children

playing, industrial infrastructure

juxtaposed with eucalypts

it’s generic (it could be anywhere)

back to the skeleton

 

The next four seconds

bound. tight.

is it real?

or some kind of circus prop?

anthropological transportation method?

it dawns on you that real or not

it’s a symbol of a person bound fast in the foetal position

the thought hits you

that they were locked their until their death

cramping, starving. tears in their muscles.

experiencing impenetrable frustration. 

it dawns on you; another human deliberated this death

feel horror.

reassure yourself that it’s fake.

they bound it after death.

soothe yourself with images of eucalypts.

 

The final six seconds

take in the image as a whole

six frames

glance at the skeleton for the last time.

remind yourself

you’re comfortable. you’re safe.

you can repress the discomfort you felt.

reassure yourself that it’s fake.

flick to the next image. 


Eleanor Malbon is a Canberran who, in between researching healthy equity and teaching classes on complex adaptive systems, writes and reads poetry. 

Biography - Arthur Lincoln (Lin) Richardson

Lin Richardson, [Birthday party], date unknown, colour transparency 


Arthur Lincoln (Lin) Richardson

10 November 1927 - 1 February 2014

Growing up in Sydney around his parents’ photography business, Lin started taking photos as a child. He was often inspired by the landscape he saw while bushwalking (his other favourite pastime and life-long passion). 

Lin moved with his family to Adelaide, where he later went to university. It was there he met Betty Woods who, in 1949, became his wife. Neither Lin nor Betty finished their degrees, instead both left to work for the Weapons Research Establishment. They had two children Nick (1951) and Joanna (1954). 

During the early 1960s, Lin began working on the first computer for Department of Defence. During this time, the family moved to Boston for six months with other Australians to learn how to maintain the new computer. In 1963, the Richardsons returned to Australia to move to Canberra – the home of the new Defence computer. 

During the first few years in Canberra, Lin had to convert the laundry to a dark room on long weekends. Later a double garage was built so that a darkroom could be set up in one corner.  The darkroom had interior walls of chipboard, water from a garden hose and an enlarger made from an aluminium bowl.

Lin and Betty continued to be active bushwalkers, joining the National Parks Association and the Humanist Society.  They also became more politically engaged, with first Betty and then Lin joining the ALP in the 1970s. They lent one of their old army tents to the Aboriginal Embassy.

Over his career, Lin worked on a range of computing design jobs with firms such as Mica and IE, working at PhD level but without the formal qualification. When Lin retired at 65, Lin and Betty moved to Bhutan for two years, helping local organisations with computing skills (Lin) and teaching (Betty). 

Lin moved from film and colour slide photography to digital photography.  This made it easier to cope when he developed macular degeneration.

Betty died in 2001. Lin makes two further visits to Bhutan.  Lin is able to stay on in his own home due to the presence of Bhutanese students as guests in the house, until October 2013. Lin died on 1 February 2014 in an aged care home in Melbourne. His ashes have been scattered near Betty’s in the ridge below St Mary’s Peak in Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges.