In my mind’s eye

Vanity: my favourite selfie. Image: Su Leslie, 2015

One-eyed selfie. Image: Su Leslie, 2014

Like many people, I don’t enjoy having my photo taken. Somehow, however much others may say they like this or that image, I seldom do. The woman I see may be wearing my clothes, jewellery and hairstyle, but that’s where the resemblance ends. She doesn’t match the mind’s-eye portrait of myself that I carry around.

Selfies are a way of partially managing this discontinuity between pixels and neurons; of controlling the flow of data from physical to electronic world.

Even then, it took about 80 shots to find one I was happy with.

As chance would have it, there is some overlap in the themes for both the Daily Post Photo Challenge (Eye Spy) and Ailsa’s Travel Theme at Where’s my Backpack (Self), and this image I think works quite well for both.

Putting yourself in the picture: how to experience art in the 21st century

#bros #beach #OMG_sculpture. Taking selfies with works of art; is this how to enjoy art in the modern world. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015.

#bros #beach #OMG_sculpture. How to enjoy art in the modern world. The sculpture is Dust by Norton Flavel. Image: Su Leslie, 2015.

My post for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge is very late this week. I’ve been in Sydney to visit the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition, and found posting from my iPad more than a little challenging!

Sculpture by the Sea is an annual outdoor exhibition that locates around 100 works of three dimensional art along a stretch of coastal walkway from Bondi Beach to Tamarama Beach, Sydney*. The exhibition is free to attend and attracts many thousands of visitors — most of whom (like me) seemed to descend on it last Sunday.

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Visitors to Sculpture by the Sea, Bondi 2015, NSW, Australia. Image: Su Leslie, 2015.

Experiencing art amongst a crowd is never particularly easy. It’s almost impossible to get an uninterrupted view of a work, and as for quiet contemplation ….

The flip-side of course, is that there is pleasure to be had in watching and listening to others’ enjoyment of particular works — especially children, who haven’t yet developed the self-censorship that inhibits adults.

But what I noticed about the Bondi exhibition that I didn’t see (or at least register) at last year’s NZ Sculpture OnShore exhibition in Auckland, was the huge number of visitors who seemed to regard the artworks as little more than a backdrop for their selfies. Now, as someone for whom photographing art has become a major passion (and who travelled over 2000km to Sydney to do just that), I’m hardly going to criticize other camera-wielding visitors.  But I watched group after group race up to a work, pose themselves with a smart phone at arms’ length, snap a photo and move on, barely glancing at the sculpture itself. Some posed themselves (or their children) on works — despite the prominent “do not climb on sculpture” signs — to get “better” photos.

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Did you get the shot? Tamarama Beach, NSW. Background sculpture is The Bottles, RCM Collective. Image: Su Leslie, 2015.

The experience of art is uniquely personal, and free exhibitions like Bondi make it possible for many people who would never dream of visiting a gallery to see and engage with the creative output of a large group of talented artists. How sad then, that for some visitors, the focus seemed to be on themselves as central characters in a landscape that contained so much else to appreciate.

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Flying fish, by Gillie and Marc Schattner forms the backdrop for a photo. Image: Su Leslie, 2015.

One sculpture in the exhibition specifically referenced the way mobile technologies have changed our world-view. Fabio Pietrantonio has sculpted two figures; boys playing video games on hand-held devices. Set against the backdrop of dazzling blue water, their focus entirely on the object in their hands, the work acts as a reminder of how easy it is to turn inward and ignore the beauty of the world around us.


Figure from Fabio Pietrantonio’s Quotidanity “the brothers” Image: Su Leslie, 2015


*There is also a sister exhibition at Cottesloe, Western Australia.


All new: a blast from the past

Benedan McGorry, 'Call Me I Love You' 2014. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore. Photo: Su Leslie 2014.

Brendan McGorry, ‘Call Me I Love You’ 2014. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore. Photo: Su Leslie 2014.


Brendan McGorry, ‘Call Me I Love You’ 2014. Exhibited at NZ Sculpture OnShore. Photo: Su Leslie 2014.

Amongst the 100+ sculptures at NZ Sculpture OnShore this year, ‘Call Me I Love You‘ by Auckland artist Brendan McGorry, is proving very popular. A classic “phone box” with a twist; it has the cruciform shape of a traditional church. The smart phone inside the booth works.

Last weekend we had record crowds at the exhibition, and as I arrived I watched people queuing to experience this work of art. And all I could think was “when I was a girl, people actually did this all the time.” And for most of those queuing, it was a wholly novel experience.

And a sign of the times; people aren’t using the phone to call home … they’re taking selfies!