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Old files.

Tom dinning

In spite of my lack of interest in producing new images there is some value in revisiting where I have been and ask myself why.

I have no recall of where I took this and why. Yet there is purpose in its structure.
It had gone unnoticed.


Tom dinning


Everything we do is personal.
Taking photographs is personal. Choosing, thinking, analysing, displaying, acting, reacting to photographs is personal.
As I wonder through my photographic archives I can laugh, cry, ponder, remember, forget, reminisce; never question why? Understanding and knowing why is personal.

Each photograph is personal. It is a representation of an experience of the photographer.
We might choose to share that experience with others, like a postcard to a friend, a framed print on a mantle, a memorial in a magazine, a snapshot in a purse or wallet.
But the experience is never fully shared or even understood.
“Wish you were here” often accompanies the sharing.
Platitudes often replace understanding.
“Nice photo”. Without any thought of the experience.

The photograph is not a memory although the experience may have been memorable.
Memories are different. Memories are vague, ill-defined, ever-changing, forgotten, blocked from or dragged screaming to our consciousness. Memories are are part of us. Literally. When we die our memories no longer exist. Even memoirs are peppered with mental indiscretions.

Photographs, on the other hand, are detached, separate, distinct entities. They are not of us but for us, by us.

Photographs rely on their content and context for accuracy.
Beyond the photograph is imagination, extrapolation, projection beyond the photographs perimeter, depth and timeliness.
Photographs remind us, jog our memory, provide access to the past by looking at the present.

We discuss photographs, often as if they are a part of us or that they are the thing photographed, not just a facsimile of the thing.
They gain value based on what we say about them.
The value we nominate to a photograph is personal.
Public interest might place great monetary, historic, political, aesthetic value on a photograph but individuals will use their personal perspective to determine its value to them.
A ragged and faded image of a loved one can be priceless compared to an image in a museum or gallery for one and vice-versa to another.

As I browse through my archives I unconsciously place value on each photograph. Today I will place great value on some. Tomorrow I start again from scratch and re-allocate values to individual photographs.
The context of a photograph changes. When it was recorded and when it is views will influence the context of the photograph.
If I am true to myself I will only determine value based on my own ideals, experiences, beliefs, circumstances, time and place.
Relying on the requirements of others is denying ones own values in what the photograph means to me.

So, the photograph is now a leaf on the forest floor. It moves with the wind, it changes shape with age, colours and discolours as it dries and dies, decays and vanishes. Along the way it is food for thought. When it has turned to dust and I am dead the end has come for both.

The photograph may still exist separate to the photographer but it’s true meaning and value is lost. The photograph is no longer personal. It becomes the property of others.
The true meaning of the individual photograph dies with us. Questions can be asked but remain unanswered. Why was it taken? Who was the person? What were they thinking? What does it mean to the photographer?
Others might place their own value on the photograph but that is independent of its original intent and meaning.
What is carried forward by the photograph is a reminder of those things we remember distinct from those of the photographer.

You might ask me about the photograph in question. While I live I might chose to answer. I prefer not to. You might chose to tell me what you see. I prefer not to hear. It’s not because I can’t tell you. I can’t express it in words. The answer is the photograph itself. Each time I look it will mean something different. That is the beauty of the photograph and it’s personal connection to the photographer.

What you say in regard to a photograph is only of any consequence if it has meaning for me and I am interested in what you say. There is no guarantee that will be the case.
You might whisper a comment to a friend or colleague out of reach to me. Since I am unaware the comment is of no consequence to my recall.

I have filled my brain with experiences I have recorded through photography. Now it is time to re-experience. Not to live the moment again but to live a new moment. Every day I anticipate the newness of first glance, of re-valuing differently each day, of remembering or not, of never being critical of what I have done.

We can also re-experience the photographs of others, as this act is also personal.
When we view someone else’s photograph we do so with our own experiences in mind, our own values, our own time and place, and we can repeat this process over and over again.
Each time we do this is a new experience. The photograph remains the same but the context changes. We see as if with new eyes.

Enjoy the experience both ways.
The photograph is inanimate, unemotional, unthinking, void of imagination. Put your own values and experiences into play and let your mind speak to you.
If your thoughts are distasteful, arrogant, inquiring, fearful, critical, offensive or offending, own them: don’t blame the photograph.
If you experience pleasantries and fond memories, new knowledge and wisdom, own them as well.
The photograph has no knowledge of any of this, not, most likely, does the photographer and nor do they need to.
The photographers goal is achieved in taking the photograph. From there on the image will drift in and out of the consciousness of others, leaving its disturbance as new memories which we can now carry with us.
What we do with those new memories is our choice.

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
...and if I know of a fellow in Darwin and have read his letters, true or false

...and looked at hundreds of his pictures

....read his essays

Perhaps I can approach somewhat his vantage point.

....and perhaps that is not possible, but is at least more likely than just observing one of his pictures without such references.


Tom dinning


Glimpses are all we can ever expect of another persons perspective. The shoes never fit. We are unique in that way.
We might venture to guess. That’s OK as long as you are willing to be surprised.
Perhaps that’s why we find photographs so intriguing. We can be constantly surprised by their affect on us.
The challenge for a photographer who relies on others for justification is to continue to surprise the viewer.
But this is a two edged sword. we become reliant on others to be surprised by following or breaking their rules. Then we forget there are no rules and we fail to surprise ourselves.
I look at the sea grass through turbulent water and am surprised at what comes to mind. Seemingly unrelated experiences surface and intertwine with the scene. That’s what I want to photograph but it fails to appear in the final result for others to see. Only I know it’s there, clear, coherent, contextual.
How can I explain that which is blatantly obvious? Should I say you are blind because you can’t see it? And when I tell you what to look for you either nod or agree because there is nothing else to say.
Perhaps you guess and I become aware of your vision. Should I be disappointed? Should you tell me I got it wrong or you did?
Then it becomes a game. I say:you say. And the photograph becomes superfluous.
Then we make judgement. Wrong and right, good and bad, strong and weak, like and dislike.
These judgements are based on two assumptions: we think we understand the photograph, and we thing, then, that we understand the photographer.
Neither is the case. All we can learn from such an experience is that we might understand ourselves a little more for making such judgement.
And there lies another essential aspect of the photograph. We learn about ourselves as we view, ponder and judge.
The photograph isn’t so much a mirror to the photographer or the world around us but a mirror to the viewer of their own thinking, beliefs, character.
If we understand that there is little more to be said.
just look and learn; about yourself., and be surprised.
The photographer should remain a mystery always.

Tom dinning


What can we know of the man in the sand, searching for stones and shells weathered by the sea?
He speaks to me. I don’t understand. He is a cultured apart from where I stand.
I take his picture. He is happy to comply.
Now I look at his image and I learn no more.
There are two histories here. There is his history. I wonder what brought him here. Then I wonder about what he has left behind. What trace has he left of his existence? What matters have guided him? What thoughts cross his mind as I point the camera his way?
Should I judge him by what he does? I allow my biases to surface and sweep them away as best I can.
He is another human sifting the sand. That’s all I can say of him. The rest is assumptions.
Now when I look at his image I might be inclined to assume more. I hear others talk and nothing is said I can be assured of.

The photograph remains. Time has passed since it was recorded. Both the subject and I have moved on.
Does he remember me? I doubt it.
The impression of the moment is in my hands, stamped solidly in time for me to see over and over.
Each time I look I see the same, yet I have different thoughts and feelings.
How peculiar.
The value in doing this is what the photograph does for me.
It’s not any conformity to aesthetics or declared category.
It is the simple act of allowing the moment happen, to enjoy the experience, to be creative once again.
And I will say: “look at this” and if you do you might find some pleasure in doing so.
I don’t need to know that. I have that pleasure already.

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I like the composition:


Your comments on the fact of the man searching are interesting.

But to me, Tom, just the black and white “blob” of a man, as a bundle of “stuff” in the top left quadrant of fabulously granular gray texture is pleasant to look at.

Yes that is a man, embedded in his activity, but devoid of that it’s still compelling to me, just by virtue of your strong design.


Tom dinning


Imagine a world of shapes and design, lines and curves, textures; everything in its place. For us to enjoy.
Then imagine this is all we see.
When I stand on sand at a beach I know how it feels. It rubs and squeaks on by sole as I walk, giving a little under my weight, edging me to dig my toes in for purchase, damp rising from beneath to cool my skin, shell fragments digging deep.
That sensation is with me now, as I look into the photograph. I know how it is to be there, even if I had not been there.
Doors squeak, grass rustles, dogs bark, the wind whistles, the waves on a beach drum and they break. There are sounds everywhere. Smells fill the air and enter our nostrils. All these things we remember with some degree of accuracy.
A young woman sees a photograph on a billboard and wonders how she would look in that dress. She imagines how it would feel, how she would look, what heart she might win.
I have had my mouth water at the sight of a fully ripened peach in a still life photograph.
I know the stench of a wet dog and remember it less fondly as I browse through Dog Monthly in the doctors surgery.
How much a photograph can conjure in us. How purposeful our memory becomes.

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief

A unique perspective and a great analog in the toes gripping particulate sand!

Your best!


Tom dinning


I shy away from portraiture for fear of misunderstanding their purpose, for I am confused.

A likeness I understand. Even in its blurriest it would be difficult to miss the comparison between the image and the person.
My passport and drivers licence suffice. I look very working class for the customs officer or policeman. Even an electronic recognition system knows who I am at first glance.

for those who want more from a portrait, either of themselves or of others I wish them luck. The demands are too great.

There is the need to look as we wish to look when presented to the world. It’s not enough to be satisfied with reality. I don’t hear the customs officer grimacing when he sees Christine or her portrait, thankfully. He might be holding back but I doubt it. He just wants to know it’s the same person.

Christine, on the other hand, demonstrates her execration with a great deal of openness.

My reflection on the matter is that I am content to be with the right person and said passport image is more than sufficient to verify that.
But what of Christines finer qualities; her inner beauty, her fiery temper, her dedication to family, her obsessiveness to detail, her directness with authority, her ability to extrapolate any incident into Armageddon.
When I look at Christine I know these things and tread accordingly. When I look at her portrait I register some love and pain, contentment and discomfort, happiness and sorrow. But this is from many years of education on the matters. A single glance at her portrait cannot possibly reveal such intimacies. It has been said she resembles a beautiful English Rose. I know of no English Rose that could express such a broad spectrum of characteristics.

as for the musician in the photograph, I know only of his appearance and music. The quality of his music gives me some indication of his education and experience but that is limited by my knowledge and experience as much as it is his.

To say he is handsome or beautiful is subjective. To suggest he has strength of character is beyond all of us. We can only hazard a guess.

I fear we expect too much from portraits. If we know the individual we might recall some of the values of the person. If we don’t, what can we say. Nice things? Flattering things? What others might say of the person? What we might consider worthy of the person? What we would be of ourselves?

I fear portraiture comments are often a verbal conflagration to warm the heart and mind of the photographer or ourselves.

for this I will limit my portraiture to cane toads and cockroaches and remember those times when I have happily hit the toad for a six with a golf club or squashed a cockroach under my size 12 boot.

Tom dinning


“But dad! It’s boring. I’m not interested in steps.” I would demand as I faced the abyss of the incline ahead of me.

“Well, it’s time to get interested, Tommy my boy,” my Old Man would retaliate.

What now?

And so it was. I was told about steps. Not just these step. Other steps as well. I discovered steps ain’t just steps. They have a history. They are constructed in a particular way. They have a physical purpose. They are made of differing material. They are not always useful. They can be dangerous. There are laws governing their construction and use.

Most of this information I learnt from my old man while we walked up and down steps. My legs grew strong as an added benefit to the knowledge I gained. I saw places, fell down some, even fell up some. I also learned a great deal about steps from photographs, especially those concerning steps not accessible to me. Roman steps, polished steps to Two up-Two Downs, natural basalt steps, Dead Mans steps, Suicide steps, nursery rhyme steps, steps going nowhere and step going somewhere.

Now I photograph steps. Now I find the photographs of interest to me: other peoples step photographs as well as my own.

Who’d have thought a photograph of steps could be so interesting?

So, now I set myself a task. What other subject matter portrayed in photographs seems uninteresting to me and what can I learn?

Initially it’s about the content. Then it becomes the context which includes time and place as well as surroundings, either seen or unseen.

Then it becomes connection. How does the content and context relate? What do I know about each? What circumstances brought the photographer to this point and to record the photograph? How did I get to see the photograph? What am I thinking now?

There is a history as well. The historical perspective applies both to the content, the taking of the image, the photographer and its historical journey to me.

When placed with other photograph, either similar or dissimilar, an additional context is formed.

And finally, there is a purpose The photographer might expect the photograph to serve and, of course, it’s success at doing so.

As bland and uninteresting a photograph might seem at first or even second glance, one can find immense value if one is willing to spend the time and effort.

My fathers interest in the mundane as well as the less commonplace lasted until he died. Thus I am left with the lonely task of finding interest in everything.
It’s time consuming, arduous, and tedious but endlessly rewarding. It doesn’t suit everyone. Perhaps they are the bored and boring people I should take more interest in.

I could take their portrait.

PS. My old man would also add: “if a person fails to find interest in some arbitrary subject matter they are either ignorant or a fool. Either way, you might find their behaviour interesting”.

I’m working on it.

PPS I have recently been directed to follow a link sending me into mysterious and unfamiliar Twitter territory to explore Uninteresting Photographs.
What possibilities these images expose to me. How much can I learn about the ordinariness of the subject matter? Where do I even start. I declare the author of these impulses is playing with my obsessiveness. Car parks! Oh, how I love car parks. Suburban houses! Where all and sundry live. An office desk with its personal paraphernalia and stationary. There is a lifetime of interest here. As a collection or ‘Body of Work’, as the critics might call it in jest, is extraordinary.

I can hear the echoes of my fathers voice calling me to order. I fear my life is too short.


Tom dinning


It might be a complete mystery to me why a photographer would take a clearly rendered image of a perfectly satisfactory subject and alter it to suit another agenda if I’d was NT so guilty of such an act myself.

Nevertheless, I am stil somewhat mystifies by my own actions.

Im not talking about delicate manipulation of a few thousand pixels to enhance the appearance of a face or enrich the colour and texture of a flower. I’m talking outright destruction, at least that’s what it seems at first glance.

I dont see it often. I’m not in any way habitual but I do find myself looking rather bemused at the result of my actions on some occasions.

What the hell was I thinking? Could I possibly repeat this? Who could possibly make sense of this?

If I were to dismiss the image as abstract I would be doing both myself and the photograph an injustice. Yes, it is a photograph; at least it’s origin was such. But somewhere along the path to contentment I found myself searching for something more than what appeared at first presentation on the screen.

If I were an enquiring sort I’d ask myself what it was I was in search of? Certainly nothing recognisable as we might expect in a photograph.

Knowing the process I activate when doing such things leads me to believe there is something within my thoughts that doesn’t have a ‘reality’. Like the things one sees in a dream or when my eyes are closed and the colours and lights flash randomly.
Perhaps this is what my memory is composed of. I’m not picturing thoughts so much as picturing ideas.

What does an idea look like when it’s still formulating in the brain? Like an embryo it grows and changes but never matures. Today I see this image and know it’s not finished. Not ‘finished’ in a way others might see something concrete, something they can take home and talk about. Most will say, at best, “Interesting”, which means they don’t understand and that’s OK. I’m not sure I do myself.

If I added a title it might help. But, again, how do I name a vague idea?
“Well, since you ask, it’s a, er, sort of .... you know, stuff; intellectual stuff, you probably wouldn’t understand. Let’s call it ‘Vanishing Point from Level D #2”. Hang it on a white wall in dim light. It’ll impress the guests.