A selected collection of works by invited photographers (including me), artists and others exhibited anonymously.
What’s so different?
Works are not for sale. Each work will be hung without any artist’s identification. At the end of the exhibition each artist will receive another artist’s photograph. (A kind-of adult lucky dip.)
The door to the Hamam closes behind me with an ominous, thundering boom. The sound slowly dissipates around the stone walls, it hangs in the thick air for a few minutes, slides gracefully through the circle of archways and alcoves and finally seeps its way into the cracks in the marble floor. This is my first visit to a Turkish bathhouse. I stand transfixed until the boom dies away completely and all that is left is sound of water trickling, flowing out of the marble basins in the alcoves that surround the central marble slab. The noise and chaos of Istanbul has melted away. I have stepped back in time. I am standing at the heart of Cemberlitas, Istanbul’s most famous Hamam (bathhouse), built in 1584 by Sinan, the Architect... and I don’t know what to do.
I am wearing only a pestemal, a sarong-like cloth, that closely resembles an oversize tea towel, and a pair of blue plastic flip flops. In my right hand I am holding a washing mitt and a small matchbox containing a tiny bar of soap. Clenched in my left fist are a few Turkish coins.
I take off the pestemal and lie naked on the marble slab, marvelling at how warm it is. My newly acquired American friends do the same, and eventually our whispers and embarrassed giggles give way to individual silences. Shafts of light spearing through the holes in the domed roof above me, forming soft searchlights. Motes of dust float in the beams of light and I am at once lost in the history of this marvellous building. I wonder about the women who, throughout its history, have come to rest here. I am close to falling asleep when the door booms closed again.
A turkish women wearing only a bikini bottom shuffles towards me. I sit up, awkwardly covering myself with the pestemal. She is middle-aged, large with a huge belly that overhangs the bikini bottom and full heavy breasts that hang almost to her waist. Her hair is brown and damp from the moist air. Her eyes are dark and as heavy as her breasts. She takes the soap and mitt from me, and I press the coins into her hand. “This is for you”. I say. “Teşekkür”, she responds. “Thank you.” I think I detect a tiny glimmer of light in her eyes. I had been told that if you tip the women, they will sing for you. She takes my money, my soap and mitt and leaves the room. I wait, sitting on the side of the slab, with my feet dangling like a preschooler.
When she returns, she spreads my pestemal out on the slab and indicates that I lie down on it, face down. She has brought a bowl of soapy water with her, and she proceeds to scrub my back and legs. Her hands have the strong confidence of a midwife washing a newborn baby. My back twinges in anticipation, as I recall an episode of the Lonely Planet Globe Trekker when Ian Wright attends a Turkish bathhouse and is tortuously folded into a pretzel. But my woman is gentle with me, and as she washes me, she starts to sing softly, and my mind retrieves long forgotten memories from my childhood.
She gives me small slap on my bottom, it is the universal signal to “turn over”. And she starts the process again. She pours bowl after bowl of warm water over me and then disappears once again, without a word. I am not sure if I am “done”. So I wait. She returns with fresh bowl of soapy water... and a square of muslin cloth. I open my eyes just in time to see a cloud of bubbles descend from above and land on my body. It is the most divine sensation, the caress of a million tiny bubbles. She massages my skin, and I watch, fascinated, as she prepares the next cloud. She dips the cloth into the water and then flicks it to form a billowing spinnaker, she gathers up the edges forming a balloon. Squeezing the cloth, a cloud of champagne bubbles floats towards me. “Make sure you pay extra for the bubbles, a friend had wisely told me”.
When she is done and I am all rinsed off. She sits me up and takes me by the hand to one of the alcoves on the edge of the room. The floor is treacherously wet and she walks slowly with me, still holding my hand, to ensure I don’t slip. She sits me down on the floor between her legs, next to an ancient marble basin. Warm water is flowing from a tap above, and is overflowing across the floor. She pours a jug of water over my head, and I splutter. She squeezes a dollop of cheap shampoo on my head and washes my hair. It is now that I remember, I was recommend to provide my own shampoo. I love having my hair washed, it is one of life’s simplest pleasures. I am totally in the moment as she massages my head and I squeeze my eyes tighly shut, to prevent the shampo from running in my eyes. She rinses me off with a few more spluttery ladles of water. Then, handing me the jug, she urges me to continue rinsing my own hair. The bath house has filled up with more women now, there are murmuring voices mingling with the flowing water, creating a song of the Hamam, an echoing melody. My woman returns, she takes me by the hand and leads me out of the bathhouse. She presents me with a dry pestemal to use as a towel and gives me a gift, a crude plastic comb. Hot pink with widely spaced teeth. And a couple of postcards of Cemberlitas. I thank her, and she thanks me again. There is a hint of a smile.
I stand in the corridor that is now the change room of Cemberlitas. It is not until I visit Cagaloglu Hamam a few days later, that I realise how brutally this Hamam has been robbed of its Camekan (entrance hall) when the adjacent Divanyolu Street was widened in 1868. The men’s section still remains intact, with its wooden balustrades and private rooms. Traditionally, I would have been taken to a small room, where there would be a bed I could rest on and relax after my “bath”. Here I am huddled among other women, dressing, undressing, drying, giggling. It is a thoroughfare, not a room. It has the feel of a locker room. Indeed, I retrieve my street clothes from one of the lockers that line one side of the corridor. I decide to skip the complementary hair dryer, and I slip out into the cool of Istanbul’s evening.
I float, rather than walk down the street. I have never felt so clean. But beyond the cleanness, I have a lightness of being, that only otherwise comes from being in love, or receiving that phone call that a job application has been successful. Euphoric. I glide. I am quite sure there are visible God rays emanating from my body.
There is a light on in the Turkish Rug Emporium. The charismatic Farouk welcomes me inside, he has a cigarette in one hand and a glass of tea in the other. I drink tea with him and his friends. “Your hair is wet.” he says. It is more of a question than a statement. We both know, he knows, the answer. “I have just come from the Hamam.” I reply. He smiles knowingly, “Then after your tea, you must go home to bed,” he says, “You will sleep well tonight.”
And he was right.
I awoke the next morning having slept the sleep of the Sultan’s wife, Queen Valide herself. But I awoke with the obsessive single-mindedness of an addict. Where was my next visit to a Hamam going to be?
This photo was taken not in Cemberlitas, but in the Bathhouse of Roxelana... sadly now, a Government owned rug shop.
I can remember going to Mark Foys as a little girl. It was a big deal then, Mark Foys was a grand Department Store, the good old fashioned sort, with dark timber framed glass cabinets and tall ceilings. The main entrance on Liverpool Street had an impressive set of stone stairs leading up to the front doors. I can remember walking along them, tracing patterns in my head as I walked along the full length of each step, snaking my way to the top.
My favourite doll was bought in Mark Foys. I can still remember her standing on a glass counter on one of the cabinets on the ground floor. I fell in love with her at first sight. She was a large doll, about two feet high, Spanish and I called her Marion, which I believed sounded exotic at the time. She was beautifully made, had a porcelain face and real human hair and finely tailored clothes.
But of course my parents didn’t buy her for me that day. We didn’t get gifts outside of birthdays and Christmas, unless they were books, I could always convince my dad to buy me a new book, a strong believer in education, he didn’t take much persuading. But dolls were a different category.. Marion must have been purchased quietly when I wasn’t around and hidden on the top of my mother’s wardrobe until my next birthday or Christmas... I don’t remember when I was actually given her, but I can clearly recall her in Mark Foys, wearing her white summer dress, leather sandals and tiny lace gloves.
I still have her, tucked away in box somewhere. She won me a Blue Ribbon at the Doll & Teddy Competition at Primary School one year. I still have the ribbon too, its faded to a dull purple now.
Mark Foys was founded by brothers Francis and Mark Foy (1865–1950) and named after their father Mark Foy (Senior).
The store started trading from its Liverpool Street premises in 1909 and housed Australia’s first escalator.
It ceased trading after going into receivership in 1980. The building is now used as a complex of courthouses known as the Downing Centre. However, its former role is preserved in the ornate tile work on the facade and surroundings.
Mark Foy also founded the Hydro Majestic Hotel at Medlow Bath near Katoomba and Australia’s Oldest Open Boat Sailing Club the Sydney Flying Squadron, founded in 1891
This photo shows a downstairs doorway, that opens onto the Museum Railway tunnel entrance.
The facade of Mark Foys still sports the mosaic tile signs that indicated its many departments... Corsets, Gloves, Hosiery, Millinery... a legacy of bygone era!
Hahaha... hot on the heels (pun intended) of my recent photo shoot with the Yellow Stockings. I spied this lady in Sydney's CBD. Aparently yellow stockings are all the rage (or are they?). Apologies for the blur, but I was in a hurry, and clearly so was she!
Naturally the designer cat had to get in on the act. She is fairly useless as pet... but she is perpetually curious about what's going on, so she keeps us amused. And she looks decorative!
Naturally the Designer Cat had to get in on the act, originally uploaded by alison lyons photography.
Sadly, they are not my shoes or my legs!!! My daughter Arcadia bought the shoes (and the yellow stockings) online, specifically for this photo shoot. It is going to be part of a book of poetry, that she has written and I am illustrating. The shoes were supposed to be my size, which is also Sarah's size with the idea that one of us would keep them. As it turned out they are a tiny bit small to be comfortable for either of us. So we both lucked out! The skirt is mine, the bag is Arcadia's and the legs happily belong to Sarah (Gabe's girlfriend).
Interestingly the ribbons aren't part of the shoes and are in fact a totally different shade of blue. I was going to colour match them in Photoshop, but by some magic of the light/or sensor, they've ended up looking the same shade.
I'd only had a handful of roasted almonds for breakfast... well, half a handful actually as I felt compelled to share them with Stan, in the car, during our two and quarter hour drive across Sydney in the rain this morning. Sydney peak hour traffic at its finest, rain drenched and stressful. And not a coffee in sight! I had thought the almonds would stave off the hunger until at least we had a coffee or some morning tea.
At one point, gridlocked in traffic, we really didn't think we'd make it on time for the meeting with our client, but as it turned out, we were the first ones to arrive. I flicked on the lights in their boardroom like I owned it and settled in, wondering why we hadn't made the extra effort to at least pick up a coffee on the way, or indeed, eat breakfast before we left.
It was after 1pm when we left the meeting, dehydrated and famished (and I don't mind admitting, a little ratty).
At a little restaurant called Salt Pepper Nutmeg in Roseville I did the unthinkable and actually ordered and drank my coffee before I ordered my meal. Caffeine withdrawal had clenched my head in its vice-like grip and wasn't letting go. Lunch was a big bowl of Pappardelle served with a blue cheese and broccoli sauce. Honestly I could have eaten the table leg by that time. And while we waited for our food to arrive we amused ourselves by photographing this wonderful bowl of garlic and onions, that was the centrepiece of our table. And for a brief period of time, I nearly forgot I was hungry!
Well I am still convinced that the best part of going to Yoga at 6am on a Thursday morning is the breakfast afterwards! (Apologies to the lovely Louise Yoga Master if you are reading this, but hey, you know how we feel about our breakfasts!) Even in the rain. It looks cold and bleak, but it was quite a mild morning and the sun tried for a little while to force its way through the clouds on the horizon, it sent a few God beams through grey and then promptly gave up. But there was nothing finer that gobbling down some scrambled eggs and hot cup of coffee, just metres away from the beach, the waves rolling in, and breathing in all that fresh salty air. What a great start to the day, (yoga aside). I was momentarily tempted by the freshly baked fig muffins, the aroma was tantilizing, but last night's garlic aoli has lingered on my taste buds making anything sweet taste a little funny! Note to self, stay away from the aoli!
Stay aaaaaaawwwwwwaaaaaaayy! Which is what all my colleagues will be doing today, well almost all. :)
The Alley, as it is known by the locals is an area just south of North Cronulla Beach. It is a permanent rip at the southern end of the beach where the water scoops around from two directions and causes a channel of water to flow back out to sea. The board riders use it to get a tow back out past the breakers, but it is a treacherous area for swimmers. I love watching the waves fold over one another and the rich dark green hue of the water as it swirls and foams. Here the water is deeper than the rest of the beach where the channel has scoured out the sand on its way back to the sea. On any given morning there are coastal showers away on the horizon with the ever present God beams shining through. And there are always board riders, always. Sitting on their surfboards, looking like little black ducks, waiting for the next wave.
Well the good news is that my Red Leather Magnetic iPad Cover arrived in the mail today. Yay! And it smells seriously good. You know, that wonderful leather smell... like new shoes! (And I do confess I feel a little uncomfortable that some friendly bovine sacrificed its life for such a worthy cause.) Unfortunately the iPad itself is possibly weeks away. By which time I will have worn out the cover, just playing with it, turning into a makeshift spyglass on the off chance I will see into the future and find out when my iPad will arrive... and smelling it quietly when no-one is looking (damn it, I shouldn't have written that last bit down).
My ex husband curiously commented on the imminent arrival of my Red Leather Cover only this morning, curious because I hadn't mentioned that it was Red. To which he replied... "Well there wasn't a decent Blue one to choose from."... sadly, I am that predictable... well when it comes to colour that is!
So now I am waiting... waiting... waiting...
"The first Cronulla Shark Island Swim was held in October 1987 on a drizzly overcast day. There was a medium swell running and the water surface was choppy. Sixty-four competitors swam from Cronulla Beach out to sea and around Shark Island and back to the beach; approximately 2.4 kilometres. There were no buoys and the competitors swam their own course causing many to have concern for their safety. There were no prizes but the race had already attracted some attention with long distance swimmer and Australian Belt Champion, David O'Brien winning the race."
You can read more about it here.
For me it has limited appeal... firstly because it contains the word "Swim" and secondly because it contains the word "Shark"
Well my Thursday mornings are now at the beach, apres yoga... and the coffee and cake mornings have been replaced with healthy breakfasts overlooking the ocean. (Coffee and cake has actually been rescheduled to another morning. some things are just not negotiable.)
We went to the Fisho's club the other night. That is, The Fishman's Club at Brighton Le Sands, on the river. We were doing a taste test on the menu for an upcoming function. Tony the Chef (from Laos) cooked us a sensational meal. He is the owner of Holy Basil restaurant in Canley Heights and has worked with Tetsuya and Luke Mangan. The dessert was sensational... Deep fried icecream in filo pasty... it was so good we dived right in and completely forgot to photograph it!!!! But as I know you would all like to see it, as a special favour, I promise I will go back and order another... purely for photographic purposes that is. :)
I used to go the beach every morning, walk along the Esplanade as the sun was rising. I have become lazy, well perhaps thats not true... I got into the habit of going to bed late. So the effort of getting up early is so much harder these days. Thursday mornings I've started yoga. Can't say I enjoy it, but I do enjoy having breakfast at the beach straight afterwards. And of course, I always have my camera with me... just in case.
I turn around and I confronted by this woman, who is woman pointing at me. She has just discovered I was the strange white woman handing out photographs to her friends in Bac Ha markets. Clearly she approves. :)
As my photos pass from hand to hand, woman to woman, a ripple of excitment grows. The women are laughing and pointing at the photos, and it seems to me they are checking out the clothing from 5 years ago, as much as they are looking at the faces. An argument breaks out over the identity of a face in one of the photos. One of the women is suddenly animated as she recognises a friend, and points excitedly off to a distant corner of the markets. Another woman grabs the album and closely scrutinises the photo, she clearly disagrees and shakes her head. The first woman snatches the album back and casts around for agreement from the group of women looking on.
I am so engrossed with the “my” woman, happy and surprised that I have found her in the middle of this crowded marketplace, that I didn’t realise there was a second woman I’d photographed 5 years ago standing right next to her. She holds the photos I’d taken of her and offers them back to me. I push them back towards her. “They are yours to keep” I say. And smiling back at me, she understands. She has happy eyes.
I visited an old woman the other day. She was the Great Aunt of a friend of mine. 101 years old and close to death. She drank half a cup of coffee while I was there. Held to her lips by her devoted son. Slipping in and out of consciousness. Calling out occasionally to her mother, long ago gone. She slept. Her eyelids fluttered open. She slept again. She had a quiet dignity about her. She has been alive a long time, perhaps too long.
It seems the gods are angry at the moment.
Not that I believe in any of that stuff. I stopped believing when, in my teens, someone very close to me died, tragically. Or rather was killed in an accident caused by the drunken irresponsibility of another. It made no sense to me . Forty years later, it still doesn’t. That, and the injustices I’ve seen around the world have left me jaded at the thought of a higher power that is “looking after” us. If that is the case, then I think he/she/it is doing a pretty poor job of it for most of the population of this planet, irrespective of their individual beliefs.
A few years ago, I was standing in an ornamental garden in the centre of Tokyo. I was attending a banquet dinner, where the most exquisite of food had been served. And afterwards we wandered in the gardens while musician serenaded us with the discordant strains of traditional music.
It wasn’t the first tremor I had experienced. But it was the first time I was standing on the ground when it happened. So there was no rattling of windows, no shaking. What felt like a giant creature, a 100 foot sandworm was writhing in the earth underneath my feet. It rolled and writhed and surged and then was gone. I felt it rise up through my feet and legs and vibrate my entire body. I felt it in every molecule of my body and it terrifed me. I felt its might and its ire.
I looked around at the “locals”, but they hadn’t reacted. After all, the Japanese experience around 1500 of these a year. There were earth-quake detecting instruments in the corner of every room, in every public building I entered. Even more disturbing were the illustrations on the back of the door of the hotel, showing what to do during an earthquake evacuation procedure. The idea of placing a pillow over my head to protect me from several floors of concrete landing on my head, was totally ludicrous...
I looked across at the banquet hall and a couple of Japanese people were holding onto the glass window with both hands. I thought it odd.
I caught up with my girlfriend... “Did you feel that?” I said. “Feel what.” She replied. “Oh, it was just an earth tremor.” I said, trying to down-play my experience. I didn’t want to push the conversation, she had already told me that she’d be on the first plane home if an earthquake hit. I could not believe she hadn’t felt it. It was only one of several tremors we would feel in our two weeks in Japan.
The next morning I stood on the observation deck of one of Tokyo’s highest buildings. The view was almost invisible. I was up in the clouds and the mist swirled and clung to the windows obscuring my view of most of Tokyo. What if an earthquake hit now, I thought. Would I ride this building to the ground? What if the lifts failed to work, or just failed. I thought of the people who jumped off the World Trade Centre and I shuddered and I decided not to think about it anymore.