I have written in the past about my Dad and the inspiration that he had on me as a photographer (I still feel like a bit of a fraud when I call myself that by the way). Well the article caused a bit of a stir... Mainly in the form of my Mum saying, in the words of Shannon Knowls, 'What about me?'. Well this ones for you Mum...
My Mum is a bit of a strange story really... I guess we all are in our own ways, but its likely that you will find this story a little stranger than most. I will try and give you a little overview. I think for the purpose of the story its going to be a little easier to start from the end for a minute, and then run through how we got there, at least the how that I know about anyway...
My Mum is Muslim and lives in Saudi Arabia. She has lived there for some time now, and she converted to Islam when I was 12, so thats about 23 years ago now. Long time... So thats the end state, as I said, we will try and dissect how we got there.
I hear you asking already how a Muslim lady living in Saudi Arabia might prove to be a photographic inspiration. Well you might be just a little surprised to hear that my good old Mum is a bit of a street photographer in her own right actually.
Pretty hard to take images as a Muslim women in one of the most religious areas in the whole of Saudi, Some of the stories that I hear from my Mum of sneaking with her little point an shoot camera are really fun, but it seems that by all accounts things are getting a little easier for her and her camera anyway. But we need to go a little further back to start to take a look at the whole inspiration thing I think.
When I was born we lived in the country in a shack. We had no electricity and a drop toilet (for the non Aussie guys, its essentially a hole in the ground). This is how we lived for the first 5 years of my life, until we were told to move by the council as the house wasnt really up to building specs and standards. During this time Mum used to sit with me and we would draw little pictures of birds and the like, I am told that this is when she first started to develop a sense of artistic nature in me, but I will have to take this as gospel as its a little early for me to have many memories.
My Mum used to teach high school art and drama, and also was a drama lecturer at Melbourne University in the 80's. This was before my parents separated and my Mum decided to travel overseas. She started in Europe, and this is where I met her for a lengthy stay overseas with her, travelling around UK, Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, and Italy. This trip is something that I remember very fondly. The fact that I have such vivid memories shows just how important it was, as I was only 8 when I left, and had my 9th birthday in Greece while staying in a small beach side caravan park and sleeping in a tent. It was a simple time, and we had great fun together.
Some of this period was spent in a small hut on the side of a mountain in Tirol in Austria, Whilst there my Mum used to spend hours sitting on the deck at the hut in the cold snow drawing. She was obsessed with drawing dragons at the time, and I tried with great gusto to mimic some of her talents. I was surprised recently when she mentioned that she had some pf her work, as well as some of my efforts of the time. She has scanned them and provided them to include in this post. I will let you try and decide whos is whos.
Its tough I know, but I will let you study them for a while before jumping to any conclusion about who was the artist responsible for which image...
Mum returned from overseas after travelling through the Himalayas for a number of months as well, and on return she stopped in Bali where the process that resulted in her converting to Islam begun. I wont go into too much detail as thats not what this is really about, but for me its interesting to see that even though my Mum has changed in so many ways, she still has the same passion and knack for art in so many forms.
She still does a bit of drawing as well, but what I have seen from her of late is more religious art, sort of Arabic calligraphy I guess. I dont have any of that to share at the moment, but I do have some more of her Street Photos so I will share some more of them.
Photo courtesy of Mum
I think one of the periods of my life where Mums influence was most present on me was during the last years of high school. During this time Dad was away living in the Persian Gulf teaching. Strange huh... Islamic Mum living with me in Melbourne, non religious Dad living in the Gulf... Anyway, as I said at the start, its a funny story in parts.
During this time Mum was my rock for my studies. I remember many an argument about me just having to do things at the last minute. Mum helped a lot with my English work, I just wanted to take photos. This was what I enjoyed the most at the time. But as with all things in life, you cant always just do what you want. I guess you learn these things a little more as you get on in this world.
Photo courtesy of Mum
Mum also helped with my written photography work, as well as most of my other study, I seriously dont think I would have passed without her... That pass did get me entry to Uni. I was accepted into a very well known fine arts photography course in Melbourne, and not many students are accepted straight from High School... Unfortunately I withdrew after just 6 months of study. I wasnt in the right place in life to be studying this sort of topic at Uni. Its something that I may try to return to one day if I ever have the chance. In saying that I dont know if the type of photography that I enjoy really requires study of a formal nature. Life experience and practice in this art form is worth its weight in gold. If you had a plan to make a living from photography and needed to do advertising work then I can see how this might help, but fine arts is a hard thing to teach.
Reading and studying your own photo books, and viewing as much work with a critical eye is surely a better process for the type of learning that is required. So I have said before about buying books. Buy them and love them. Read them and study them. Not just photo books, but read philosophy books that take your fancy as well, anything really. All of this type of information helps you grow as a person as well as an artist. I think that deep down when I think about it, this is likely a lesson that at some point I took from my Mum.
I probably dont say it enough, but thanks Mum for everything. The good, the bad, and the weird. I wouldnt be who I am without it.