Silent Observations

Exhibition 2015

Following on from my 2011 exhibition A Rugged Paradise, I was invited to hang a two months exhibition at Dunedin Airport as part of their ‘Artist in the Terminal’ programme in early 2015. The initial planning for this exhibition began in late 2012 with shooting taking place in locations around Otago during 2013 and 2014. After the two month run at the airport ended in March, 2015, the art works went on to be displayed in numerous locations around Dunedin before finding permanent homes across Otago. What follows is a rerelease of my 2015 exhibition, Silent Observations.

Exhibition Introduction:
I was 12 when I first started using my parent’s camera on family outings. I’ll never forget going to a four wheel drive rally and finding just the right spot to photograph the vehicles as they made their way through all sorts of mud puddles and then waiting excitedly for the local pharmacy to have the prints ready. Since then it’s been a constant search, looking for moments of beauty or action to capture for people to view and enjoy.  I’ll also never forget going on summer holidays to all corners of the Otago region, and some of the sights still last in the back of my mind – recalled as I revisit some locations all these years later.

The only time I’ve really put the camera down is when I embarked on my teaching career that has seen me teach primary school both here and in the United Kingdom. These days I try and balance the life of a primary school teacher with the life of a photographer

Once I was well into my teaching career a shift happened between photography growing into a passion and the desire and aspiration to be more creative. Hidden within the cracks and spaces that separate passion, desire and creativity, a transition started to happen – a transition from Photographer to Artist.

At the moment, I’m increasingly viewing the world through an arrangement of shape, colour, angle, perspective and light. For some reason, I’m drawn to the notion of annotating and transcribing the world around me, not as a passive bystander but as an active participant who alternates between participant and observer, exploring and experiencing new places, sights and sounds. I also find that the notion of telling a story in a single frame, making the viewer feel something and documenting through images and words is highly intriguing to me. Rather than chasing the perfect shot, I’m interested in journeys, voyages and stories.

Silent Observations

This collection of images is based on the notion of Silent Observations. These Silent Observations happen in slow brain time, where looking is more important than doing. It’s a story, a moment, a time, a place, a feeling, a state of mind and a sense that time can stand still. This is my own wee corner of the world, where I share the stories behind my images while trying to seeking out and capture the still, silent and timeless places in New Zealand’s South Island. In a way all these images are my observations and annotations, the things I’ve noticed or will try to explain by way of viewing, watching and looking. My notes aren’t taken with a pen, they’re taken with a camera as I quietly watch the world go by for a while.

My images are about the human experience; the curiosity and inquisitiveness to explore; to feel and to hear.  These are my stories, my Silent Observations of this life as I journey from place to place.

I hope you enjoy

John Caswell

There Grows The Human SpiritThere Grows The Human Spirit (2014).
White Island and Saint Clair Beach, St Clair – Dunedin.

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The Day My Appendix Went Psycho

The Can’t Sleep Blues

My intention today was to bring you a lovely tale recounting a recent adventure along one of Dunedin’s wonderous walking trails, accompanied with some lovely photography that would leave you and your friends completely spellbound. However, on Saturday my appendix went psycho and completely stuffed everything up! The result of this early morning, psychotic rampage by one of my internal organs is that my appendix and I have officially divorced.

It all began early on Saturday morning when my appendix woke me up just after 1am and announced it wanted a separation. Initially, I thought the uncomfortableness was the result of a pulled stomach muscle or an extremely intense digestion issue that would pass with sleep. In the preceding hours, my appendix, determined to have its own way, transferred the pain from my stomach to the lower right region of my abdomen where it parked itself and announced its intention to deny me sleep until it’s wish for a divorce was granted. 

After some harsh words were exchanged in an all night argument between my appendix and I, it became clear in the ED department mid-morning that a divorce was the only option. With the full realisation that a 43 year union was coming to an end and this tube-shaped sac attached to and opening into the lower end of the large intestine was no longer going to be part of me, I wondered what it even did, if anything? Did it have a particular function or has it just been along for the ride all this time? 

Having been admitted onto a ward with three other patients, I lay back on my bed, in pain, nil by month, questions going unanswered, hoping it would be a quick separation without a lengthy custody battle. As the waiting hours passed, afternoon turned to evening, evening turned to night and it became clear that the final separation would happen first thing in the morning. I ate a little, I drank what water I could get my hands on, listened to the jingling of the handcuffs coming from the two policemen walking patients around the ward and started to drift off to sleep. 

What followed was the strangest night’s sleep I’m likely to ever have! My lower abdomen swollen and in pain, prevented me from getting any real sleep while the rhythmic ticking of the drip next to me didn’t help. Nor did the hospital noises of trolley’s, patients and lights, all which can be understood in the circumstances and ignored with a little pain relief! 

What couldn’t be ignored was the bloke in the bed next to me, attempting to break the Guiness World Record for the loudest snore! How it’s possible for the human body to make such a noise is quite beyond me. The next 6 to 8 hours were spent drifting in and out of a drug fueled sleep, trying to stay comfortable, while the ear plugs I had obtained from the nurse in a game of charades played at 11:00pm did little to block out the noise beside me. Imagine if you will, the sound of a rhinoceros in its death throes being attacked by a pride of lions while Darth Varder is having an asthma attack and you’re getting close to the sounds that my roommate was producing at a volume that was shaking the windows and rattling the walls. This chorus of noise only drew to a halt at around 3am when from somewhere up the hall, someone decided that they didn’t like the food they had eaten and scattered it all over the floor causing all sorts of machines to deep and the ward to temporarily spring to life.

Eventually morning came with the twinkling of lights and the nurse producing a pair of sexy whilte compression stockings for me, to go with the lovely white hospital gown.  Having completed the ‘Dunedin hospital look’ and feeling very confident that I was indeed ‘owning it’ as they say in the fashion world, the nurse greeted me with a pleasant and cheerful good morning, which I returned in the most polite, coherent response I could manage. She then continued on her duties and proceeded to the man next to me, again greeting him with a cheerful good morning and asking him how he slept, to which he responded with a very upbeat and enthusiastically  “great!” 

I won’t repeat what I muttered to myself but when he mentioned how annoying it was being woken at around 3am by the commotion up the hall I could have swung for him. I’m not a violent person and I’m not drawn to acts of violence. In fact there’s only been one occasion when I’ve wanted to leap out of bed and physically hurt someone with a breakfast tray and a plastic cup and this was it. But, as I didn’t want to spoil the sexy white compression stockings I was now wearing, I decided to remain calm, went to a place of zen and waited to be wheeled off to surgery. 

The rest of the events over the next 24 hours were a mix of clarity and vagueness. Separating fact from fiction. I quickly discovered injection points, operational scars, shaved body parts and movements that hurt. I discovered there was no pain where there was pain before and that my shoulder hurt. It took me a while longer to remember greeting the whole surgical team in the theater and being amazed by the amount of people that had gathered just for me. It took me even longer to recall being told to take five depth breathes and thinking that they should have photos on the ceiling for people to look at. I relatively quickly recalled talking to the hospital orderly about hamburgers as he wheeled me back to the ward however it took me another three days to remember his recommendation for a great burger, Ombrellos. 

Now, finding myself at home resting and recovering, I am extremely thankful for all the well wishes, lovely thoughts and messages. I’m also extremely thankful to all the nurses who cared for me and the job they do. At one point last year I recall that nurses were renegotiating their pay claim. I sincerely hope they got what they asked for. In my experience these wonderful people can’t get paid enough.

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