Monday, 24 March 2014

Life: The eternal quest for La Dolce Vita! Perhaps it's here in front of us!

When I was a teenager, I was really taken in by the Peter Stuyvesant cigarette adverts on the TV. They always showed this bunch of happy looking people dining on a yacht in Monte Carlo harbour, having a fag and drinking fine wine. God I wanted to live like that!  Bought the fags.. somehow smoking them under the bridge in Kalinga Park didn't give me that jet set feel.

All it made me do was throw up!

Not like the cool guy on the Vespa with the hot bird on the back!

How cool is that?

But still the dream persisted.

So overseas travel must be the key I thought! At 22 i had a discussion about all of this with my wise old mum. She told me that I could have the La Dolce Vita effect no matter where I was. She told me this tale of the boy looking for the blue bird of happiness. Everywhere he went he couldn't find it! Eventually he realised it was resting on his shoulder!

OK mum... whatever you say. I am still heading O/S to find this elusive thing.

So to pause for a moment; what made me write this today? Well I am as crook as a chook and trying to occupy my mind while I await the arrival of our family quack to sort me out. And I just happened to look down at the shoes I have on at the moment.

And then the link between seeing the object and the history thing starts again...

You see I had these shoes hand made in Florence in 2005. And so looking at them this morning brought back the memories of all of these overseas trips. How many? Well I stopped counting at 35 and a lot of memories there for sure.

So did I find La Dolce Vita?

Yes I did...

Dining on the harbour wall in Monaco (sans the Peter Stuyvesants) with Debra and enjoying the view of the achievers of this world in their large motor yachts in 1992. Or what about flogging an Audi A8 up against the speed limiter at 250 Km/Hr down the autobahns of Germany in 2007. Standing on top of the Empire State Building in 5th Avenue New York in 2010.

All good stuff!

Our A8 rental outside our hotel in Switzerland.

But then what about last Thursday night?

Last Thursday night found us with another two couples having fish and chips at our local chippery at Clayfield and washing them down with sarsaparilla. A magic hour or so with good company. Definitely La Dolce Vita stuff! Yes indeed!

So mother.. wherever you are .. yes you were right! The blue bird of happiness is with us all the time if we look to one side and see him on our shoulder.

Just for you mother!

Ergo; La Dolce Vita is my sweet companion that accompanies Debra and I through life!

Wherever we go!

If only I wasn't feeling so crook today !

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Photography: Genesis. In my beginning. (I remember when I was young, the world had just begun; in black & white.)

So where we are, both in geographical terms as well as in life terms, what we do and the people we are mixing with are the results of the planning of our lives; and the occasional bit of destiny I guess. 

Or perhaps not. 

Perhaps they are the result of drifting along through life with no specific plan and grabbing what comes past us that appeals. 

Like a Sushi Train passing before us perhaps.

But I would like to think that my life and times as a pro photographer are a direct result of planning my journey. As the Hollies said.. "It's a long long road from which there is no return". So why not choose which road and where it leads to? Well ultimately it leads us all to our physical demise.. but hey.. let's have a good time on the trip and go the places we want to go to!

So from day one at school there were only two things I liked about the place

1. Lunch

2. The 3 o"clock bell.

I hated it.. except for my last year.. and you can read about that elsewhere on my blog.

Beyond a passing idea to become a marine biologist, all I ever wanted to do was to leave school and work with my brothers. They were all much older than me and I thought (and still do) the world of them. Now Viv was a press photographer and Nev, Max & Paul were auto electricians.  Max was still unmarried and living at home when he started Max's Speedo Electric Service at Woolloongabba. (Actually east Brisbane in his first shop in 1959)

Viv was married but often left his bag of cameras here on his way home at night. And I used to pull them out of the bag and marvel at them; and fire his big flash bulbs much to his displeasure. All those numbers on the lens.. 5.6, 8. 11 etc. How the hell do you get to know what they all mean? Why couldn't cameras be sensible. Just one button and the picture is taken. Often when he came in at night to see mother he would bring a fist full of 10x8 B&W prints that he had shot that day. As a 5 or 6 year old I was amazed by that frozen moment of time. Although I guess I didn't actually use that expression back then. My father used to tell me that Viv was a good photographer at the time. Looking back now some 55 years later it is obvious that Viv was not a good photographer, but rather a great photographer. One who truly could see the light!

Viv_ Self Portrait Chermside.

So.. enter Neville, also once a keen photographer. Nev and Collen took me into the valley one day and it was there at Coles in Brunswick Street that I discovered a camera. It was a "Baby" brand, made in Hong Kong with fixed focus, one shutter speed 1/45 second and it cost the princely sum of $0.50c at the time. And so it came home after advice from brother Viv just up the road at the Truth.

At this point in my life, I couldn't load the camera.. so I took it to McSweeney's Pharmacy at 682 Sandgate Clayfield (now the home of Deb's Spirit of Life Boutique) and the kindly Mr McSweeney loaded it for me and put the price of a roll of 127 on my dad's account. In a few days I had consumed many pounds worth of film and develop and print and my dad was not happy. No laughing boy at all. Especially when he saw the crap I had produced with that camera! He called in Viv to teach me to take good photos; and not too many at all thank you. But that is another story somewhere else on my blog!

At home we had an old vinyl suitcase that was filled with old B&W photos that Viv had taken.. a lot of them were of family but others were samples of his work. The port was a constant source of inspiration for me. Then one day Viv told me about a guy called Henri Cartier-Bresson. Henri was a French photographer then in his 50s and he coined the expression.. "The decisive moment!" The point when all the elements came together in a photograph and one squeezed the shutter. Viv tried hard to teach me how to "see" pictures before I even picked up the camera. It was like trying to teach a pig to sing. It annoys the pig and is a waste of time.

But eventually.. he showed me this image....

Magic. The decisive moment by Henri Cartier-Bresson.

This picture of a staircase is now a really different picture as the cyclist is snapped riding through, the staircase leads your eye to the cyclist.. or for some people the reverse applies. And it breaks the rules as he is riding out of the picture, not into it!

Now this image and others like it amazed me.

But.. I couldn't make a picture anything like this. No way!

Another photographer who was heavily influenced by HCB was David Bailey. He was there on the spot to document the social revolution in London in the swinging sixties. Google him!

And this was the HCB image that mesmerised a young Bailey....

Another HCB shot. this one launched Bailey on his stellar career.

As a young teenager I loved bailey's work and have a couple of books of it.. always amazing.

One of my favourites is this one.....

David Bailey's shot that really talks to me!

David Bailey.. self portrait!

I saw in an interview that Bailey said he doesn't have a style.. he sort of makes it up as he goes along. This is why nobody ever copied him. They couldn't!

But back to more mundane things...

So at 16 I joined Max's business as an apprentice auto electrician; or more correctly; Electrical fitter, automotive as my indenture papers read.

But still the need to create pictures was there inside of me. At 19 I started to shoot weddings for mates with my trusty Spotmatic and on it went. Viv breezed in one day in 1973 to show me his shots of the then new F111 aircraft arrival and landing at Amberley RAAF base.. and I knew at once that I would eventually be a full time photographer after seeing those images!

But life at Max Instruments went on in the meantime.

The cameras, those fine precision machines came and went on too!

Pentax Spotmatic, Nikons.. too many to mention although my favourites were the F2, F3 & F4s. And of course the medium format cameras.. Yashica MAT124G, Mamiya C220, C330, Pentax 645, Bronica ETRS, Rollei 6008 Pro etc. And of course the mighty Mamiya RB67 outfit. What a versatile camera that was. Many hours from sunset to sunrise in the little darkroom at Albion printing my work.

 By the mid 80s I was divorced (had a fridge full of film & dog food and ate at the local) and now the manager of MAX Instruments and a partner in the enterprise. We produced our own in-house newsletter with help from a local advertising agency. And of course I supplied the images. Well actually me and Chris Osborne who was another photographer who I had happened  to recruit to be on staff at MAX Instruments. (Although he was officially employed as a sales engineer.) Back in 1988 Chris and I shot an AV to launch a new product. No Power Point then but 4 Kodak Carousel projectors all timed by pulses on magnetic tape. Over 300 finished images.. and all shot on E6 tranny.

Now that was something!

And all the time I was out shooting weddings and portraits on weekends and taking some days off from the shop to shoot commercial jobs too!

1995 came quickly, crept right up and then it hit me (sorry Kevin Johnston) and  I knew then it was now or never. Time to burn the boat of security of MAX Instruments and hang out the shingle at Clayfield. Vale Mark Taylor Photography, welcome to the world, Clayfield Studio, "The Professional Photographers".

It took a while but the work came in.. and I found myself really enjoying commercial work more than ever. My now late friend Allan Gay told me always to keep up the commercial work because one day you will be too old to shoot weddings. For me that day will be Sunday August 31, 2014. That is because my last wedding will be the day before!

A lot of Brisbane's best photographers have impressed me and taught me a lot too. People like Clive Buxton, Allan Gay, Karol Gawlick, David and Karen Paton, Richard Thompson, Ian Wharton and the list goes on.. oh yes.. Wayne Radford.. his work is stunning.

And of course.. my late brother Viv!

Brother Max photographed by brother Viv.

My father (RHS) signing the contract to build the Buffalo
Temple in the Valley, another picture by brother Viv.

Great Uncles Alec, Fred & Grandfather C1965 by Viv.

The fatal Wirriway crash on the Sunshine Coast

One of Viv's "Court Shots," a good way to get spat upon.

You can see another of Viv's shots here.

And here is an AV from his funeral on Youtube.

So now for some of my images. I guess as I am a sentimental person I like the instant recall an image brings when the memory has faded a little. That is why I think wedding photography is so important and should not be left to people who have all the gear and no idea. One heads into marriage hoping that it will last and so a wedding album becomes a family heirloom to be passed down to the next generation.

Album Page from a wedding.

On the golf course.

Commissioned shoot.

For a hairdresser.

Another hair dresser shot.

For a glass company catalogue.

Self Promotion Piece

Adam Coleman's "Pilot" CD

Actually shooting Adam's CD Images and then designing and producing the cover was a real buzz. He loved it! (As did his mum Dawn and father Russell)

Door Handles for Bradnams.. showing grey card for colour balance

Another door handle.

These images above were for inclusion in the Bradnams Group catalogue.. below.

The catalogue I shot for Bradnams. One of many over the past 20 years.

View from a Kangaroo Point Penthouse. Amazing!

So the images are as varied as the jobs that come my way. Always it is a case of overcoming technical issues to record the images. Like roofing iron....

Getting the shape of the iron was important.. hence modelling light!

One of my favourite images is this. Taken from a bus in New York right on dusk. I work it and rework it all the time trying to enhance the most delicate part of the image. It all came together that day. The "Decisive Moment" for me when the bus stopped at the right place and all of the planets aligned.....

My favourite shot from New York City 2010

So the images keep coming for me.. sometimes I just take pictures for myself, sometimes for clients. Sometimes for both!

This shot is my old mate Don.. still soldiering on in his mid 80s. Here he is making a radio bracket for my bike!

Don at home in his machine shop.

I am often asked for my thoughts on digital cameras. Well they're great.. but people don't realise you still need talent. You cannot Photoshop a poorly composed and lit picture into a work of art. Something about a silk purse and a sow's ear comes to mind here.

In an age when everybody with a digital camera and a Face Book page is a "Pro Photographer" I find it refreshing to look back over the work of real giants of the industry. These are people who cut their teeth on film stock and who knew the need to get it right, first time, every time. And unlike today's motor driven photo snappers.. these folks could really see the light. They understood the creativity, the assembly of the critical parts of the image. What I call spacial orientation of the picture elements. And I am not talking pixels here either!

And I am truly humbled to have some of them as friends and to have received a lot of guidance from a lot of them along the way.

So.. the journey through life so far has me making pictures; thousands of the buggars. And I love it. As Deb once said to a friend .. "Photography isn't what Mark does, photography is what Mark is!"

There was a time I never went anywhere without a camera.

Deb used to call it the "growth" on my shoulder.

These days if I am revisiting a place I have been a million times.. well the camera stays at home.

But anywhere new?

Well I am hoping for some great B&W images from Amsterdam this July.

Stay tuned to read more of my book of Genesis.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Life: Why don't I learn to fly an aeroplane? I mean, how hard could it be?

Back in the 70s, I decided that a good thing to do would be to learn to fly! Cessna had just released the 152 and flying schools everywhere seemed to have them in their fleet.

Cessna 152.. how hard can this be?

Relatively cheap to run.. so more 'affordable" lessons. Why did I want to learn to fly?

It's obvious... actually, I have no idea! I was and still am an aeroplane nut... who knows?

Anyhow.. lesson one.

Check the aircraft out, kick the tyres etc, open the window and yell, "Clear the prop!" Made me feel rather foolish at the time.. but they's the rules. Start the little thing up, check magnetos and then away we go taxing out to take off.

Now.. it looks easy... but as we rolled down the runway I couldn't get the bloody thing to travel in a straight line. So here I am veering left and right as I try to master the rudder pedals as we hurtle down the strip. At some point I could sense the little plane wanted to take off.. but I am somehow pushing forward on the column.. cause we're not taking off until we're travelling in a bloody straight line!

Now I hear the instructor's voice.. "If you don't take off soon we will need to open the gate at the end of the runway to cross the road!"

Ease back on the column and we're airborne. Wow! This is great.. reel in the flaps, climb out and then trim the aircraft and away we go around the blue skies! And it seems so easy. Push the column forward and the houses get bigger; pull it back and the houses get smaller!

I could get used to this.

Yep.. I really could get used to this!

So more lessons please!

A few weeks later after a run down and around over the Beaudesert training area, we join the landing circuit with a couple of other planes and I am enjoying this so much.

How hard can this be?

Easy .. right?


On final approach we cross the airport boundary fence, flaps are set for landing, the engine is just ticking over and I am determined to show my instructor I can land this little plane really smoothly.

And while I am thinking of this grand plan to show off.. nature intervenes.

From out of NOWHERE a bloody sudden gust of wind hits us from the side.. the 152 turns to starboard, the port wing drops and all of a sudden we are all crossed up with me viewing the runway almost out of my side window.

Now at this point I did what every flying student does!

I turned to  the instructor with a look of terror on my face and yelled.. "Fuck!"

He calmly said.. "My aeroplane" and corrected our approach in a heart beat and then said.. "Your aeroplane.. you land us!"

I said.. "No way mate.. it's all yours."

As we taxied in I decided that my learning to fly a light aircraft days are over.

This is scary shit!

Do I fly now? Yes all the time in fact!

But now it's a case of, "If it ain't Boeing, I ain't going!"

God or the universe or whatever gave us Boeing for a reason.

I have seen the light all those years ago!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Youth: The scooter, the vase and a stupid promise to my mother!

In other parts of this blog I have told about my magic Cyclops scooter that I was given for my 7th birthday. A long time ago now. Gees.. did I love that scooter. Friday night after school it was revealed to me in all of its glory in my bedroom To this day I cannot think of many things that thrilled me as much as that.

Anyhow.. I spent all weekend on it.. and when the sun went down on Sunday night.. I brought it into the house.

To ride of course!

Well mother had other ideas.. told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to ride it through the house.

But what if I sat on the foot board and "walked" it through the house? I thought as that wouldn't be riding, it would be OK?

So I lined the scooter up inside the front door of our so very long hallway and sat on the foot board and sort of propelled myself through the house towards the door to the lounge room.

The best laid plans....

It all went pear shaped all of a sudden!

Somehow, I lost control of the mighty Cyclops and crashed into her prize Italian vase!

Jesus.. was I in trouble.

The vase was in about 3500 bits all over the floor with me and the scooter on top of it.

And.. was mother mad?

No.. that doesn't even cover it.

Not even close!

She was apoplectic and about to introduce me to the next world!

"That vase came from Italy!" she screamed at me.

"Where do you think I will get a replacement from? McWhirters? I told you not to ride that thing in the house. I think we'll give your scooter to the children at the orphanage" she cried at me.

In a moment of silence as she drew breath.. this stupid seven year old made this promise...

"Don't worry mum, when I grow up, I will go to Italy and buy you another one!"

This was too much for my father who up to that point had been silently cowering in the lounge room. He burst out laughing and said.. "Your mother will keep you to that promise son!"

And she did you know.

In 1975 when I had my first overseas trip, she asked if I was going to Italy.

"No mother", Fiji says I.

Again in late 1975 when I went to Fiji again.. and then in 1976 when again I went to Fiji.

This went on until she stopped mentioning it to me.

Apparently she had forgotten about it.. and so had I.

Until.. 1988 and my mate Allen the local vet and I planned this 5 week bludge around Europe.

The day before we left, he was at mum's house and she asked him... "Allen, are you going to Italy this trip?"

"Why yes we are Mrs Taylor" he answered!

Oh no Allen thought I... keep your mouth shut!

Sort of like "Don't mention the  war" around here!

Her reply was... "Well mark smashed my Italian vase yada yada yada etc and promised to buy me a new one when he grew up etc etc. Make sure he does!"

And so it came to pass that one very hot July day in Italy as we soaked our tired feet in a very cold fountain in Verona, Allen said to me, "Mate.. look at all those vases in that shop. You had better go buy one for your mother!"

And so I did, and got it back home in one piece.


Mother was ecstatic! Couldn't believe it when I pulled it out of my case.

Mum has gone to God.. but the vase lives on in my studio.

A physical expression of a small boys promise!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Life: My day with Uhlrich Megger

Back in 1988 in the middle of EXPO 88 I went to Europe for 5 weeks for another look/see at the world outside Australia. Part of that trip was to visit our people at VDO in Frankfurt. Gunter Hartmann kindly gave me some time to discuss a few things that were of concern to us at MAX Instruments at the time.. specifically VDO Road Speed Limiter Actuators. (Boring as hell in this blog.. so I'll leave them right here) He also took us to Mutti Kraus Kitchen where I had the best steak I have ever eaten. It was the "Special green pepper sauce" they told me.

So apart for all of this I was keen to see the new modern factory that VDO had built at Barbenhausen. This was some distance from VDO headquarters in Frankfurt so Gunter asked Uhlrich Megger to drive us out for a tour and lunch in their incredible dining room. I was soon to learn that Uhlrich was a real character. He had learned to speak English in America. So instead of speaking English with a German accent.. he spoke it with a mostly American accent. My brother Max who also knew him called him Megga Bucks as he had this home business ironing sheets for the local hotels. He was determined to become famous.

In his basement he had this giant ironing roller machine thing. I have never seen anything like it before or since. He was so proud of it.. we got a special tour of the thing. But back to the VDO factory. We were obliged to leave our cameras at the door (understandable) and were given two small plastic honey bee characters with VDO on their wings. "We are busy bees here at VDO" the receptionist told me as she handed them to us. From here we had lunch in the factory's 5 star restaurant .. there were some guys there from a Romanian Tractor Factory who were there to negotiate a deal on tractor meters. This was before the wall came down between east and west.. in spite of all the German technology they had seen, they were more amazed by the quality of the strawberries in their desserts. 

The factory tour was amazing.. Uhlrich had never been there before either.. every time he saw something new he would say.. "Bloody Ridiculous" with this American accent. He actually meant it as a compliment I figured out afterwards. Watching a robotic paint system painting a Mercedes Benz instrument cluster mask.. the excess paint collected by a 'wall" of water that allowed for the paint to be filtered out, was always accompanied by.. "bloody ridiculous". Or looking across the machines out through the windows at the pine forest that grew right outside the factory... "bloody ridiculous" The anechoic chamber where they carried out noise control tests was the most amazing thing for me. And as it turned out, for Uhlrich too! "Bloody ridiculous"

 "Bloody ridiculous" he would say to everything! Good or bad I think. And always with that American accent!

To wherever Uhlrich is today.. mate I hope you are the king of commercial ironing in Germany. That would be "Bloody Ridiculous" mate!

Uhlrich and me in Germany 1988

Monday, 3 March 2014

Bikes: Another happy weekend behind bars!

As the title says.. another happy weekend behind bars. The bars of my Yamaha XT1200Z Super Tenere. Does that machine bring a smile to my face?

Well, yes it does.

A bloody huge childish grin in fact.

This weekend past found me, Ian & Gregor on a two day ride around some of our favourite haunts. Up to Mt Glorious for a latish breakfast on Saturday, then down the other side and onwards to Linville for a country pub lunch. We were the only ones there at noon!

Wonderful spot.

Once refreshed we headed up to the headwaters of the Brisbane River. The Western Branch actually. Normally really pretty country and a magic place to ride along and clear all of the crap out of your head... my spiritual recharge in action again. One rides up and down hills, in and out of water crossings; but this time all 30 crossings were bone dry.

As was the grass in the fields. A very sad sight.

Also we note what appear to be early sign of a Triffid invasion!

Note the Triffids on the sign.. an advance party?

And dust! talk about dust! Poor old Maximus Obesus was covered in it. As was I!

At the end of Western Branch road; about to hit the tar again!

From the end of the dirt of Western Branch Road, we headed along the bitumen to Nanango, an old town that has some shared history with me back in the seventies. Standing there looking at one old house in particular, my mind went back some 38 years in a flash.  Instantly I could see a much younger and very much thinner me saying goodbye on the door step late one day. Sliding doors! A decision I made at 15:00 hours on XMAS eve in 1975 very much changed the direction of my life.. and led to where my life has taken me! It makes one wonder.. what might have been!

I am soon brought back to the here and now back at the motel as the guys give me grief because my bike is dirty! Very dirty!

Like the fireman at Penny Lane I do prefer a clean machine!

Dr Karcher can clean this mess!

So after we check into our rooms we go for a bit of a look/see of the back roads around the area. We pass the local cop who is hiding behind a sign on the outskirts of town with his speed gun thing. He is waiting for speeding motorists to exceed the 80 km/h limit as they see the open highway in front of them. Sorry officer.. with Gregor (AKA Captain Slow) in front we are zooming along at a break neck 68 km/h as we fly past him. I watched him in the mirror as he got back into his car and retreated to the sanctity of his Police Station. Bikers: 1, Cops: 0 at close of play.

So.. dinner time in Nanango. Where does one go? Believe it or not they have the most modern RSL and that is where we ended up listening to a couple doing covers of 70s & 80s music as we washed down our meals with some Jim Beam and Coke. A great night!

Sunup on Sunday and we pack up and head to the Bunya Mountains.. a magic place! Although there is evidence of the Triffids really getting a stranglehold on the place. Where next?

The Triffids really have taken ov er the Bunya Mountains!

It's cool up here and totally relaxing as we drink coffee and look at all the pretty face wallabies that abound. Shame we have to leave!

You just have to love this place!

Now, every time I have been to the Bunyas I have always photographed my car (or bike) in this exact same spot!  So why break with tradition?

Must keep up the tradition!
Debra's 318i in 2003. Grass was longer.

Before we leave Ian is reading a local tourist information sheet and discovers a tunnel down the road a bit. Well.. actually a fair way down the road a bit. It is a disused railway tunnel that is the longest of its type in Australia. Located near Cooyar, we head off to have a gander. Once down off the mountain range Gregor and I discover our GPS units have different ideas about how to get to this tunnel near Cooyar. Long story short.. despite lowering fuel levels in Gregor's KTM 990 Adventure, we find the place easily and go for a walk to check it out. (Note to self: Don't try bushwalking in ADV boots again. Oh, the corns!)

Gregor sizing up the situation while Ian rushes in!

You cannot walk right through as a bat colony lives here and
a "cage" has been built to keep humans out!

 After leaving this tunnel we head to Oakey for lunch. As we sit in the heat eating our sandwiches we watch tomorrow's leaders eating their lunch in a small Kia hatchback and throw their fish and chip wrappings out the window. Amazing. Though I guess from their perspective, it is a hot day and the bin is at least 10 metres away! Gregor decides to photograph them  and place the image on Face Book. As soon as he does the driver (a girl) gets out of the car. I thought .. here we go! But she picks all the papers up and puts them in the bin! Perhaps his rally suit makes him look like a Ranger.

Back to Toowoomba and down to Gatton via Flagstone Creek. Another twisty road.

"A curve; the loveliest distance between two points!"

Once down the bottom of the range we stop for a quick leg stretch and a final chat! I then set my GPS to "Home: Quickest Time" and stab the starter button with my thumb. I set the engine management computer to sports mode. Fat Max settles into a throaty idle. I snick him into gear, twist the throttle and slowly ride the clutch out!

Wow! "Houston we have lift off!" says I, the big twin's Staintune exhaust barks in anger and I ride the surge of pure grunt through each gear as I power along the back roads until I rejoin the highway.

It doesn't get any better than this! God I love this bike!

A great weekend away with two good mates. Feet are as sore as.. must visit the podiatrist and then get some thicker socks for my  Setup Boots.

Another happy weekend behind bars draws to a close.. but here's to more adventures to come!