State Library of NSW Galleries

Apart from being a library, the State Library of NSW also plays host to various art exhibits throughout the year, usually revolving around photography or exhibitions with a historical slant. The library is hosting three photographic exhibits currently: the Nikon-Walkley Press Photography exhibition, Next Door – a series of photographs on Australian suburbia, and their major exhibit Planting Dreams – a look at contemporary garden design.

While the State Library hosts the World Press Photos event yearly, it also plays host to the Nikon-Walkley Press Photography exhibition which focuses on Australian photojournalism. Like with most photojournalism exhibitions, you shouldn’t really walk in expecting an uplifting time. This year had the usual powerful images of war zones, confronting images of poverty and violence in Australia and the whimsical and extraordinary sports photos, the standard affair when it comes to photojournalism. The exhibition isn’t really that big though, only being eight double sided boards next to the entrance to the library.

Upstairs in the hallway gallery they had the Next Door exhibit by Paul Blackmore, a series of B&W photographs of suburbian homes. Blackmore captures a variety of moments in the suburbs, some candid and others posed, but all with an intimacy that makes people’s homes feel welcoming. What impressed me the most was the range of yards on display, branching out from just white families to include other ethnicities, such as Vietnamese and Chinese, and also his subtle jab at the economic differences, shooting the front gate to one of the upscale houses, making it seem like it was the most unwelcoming of places.

The major exhibit on at the library is Planting Dreams, a look at contemporary garden design through photography and art. While most of the gardens photographed seem grand and out of reach for the person, I do enjoy a good garden regardless, as they require a high level of duty and care to maintain. The first part of the exhibition shows off large backlit photos arranged in an almost maze like manner, making you walk around explore the space much like a garden maze. In the gallery wings, there are more standard photos some very nice looking (and expensive) gardens. While landscape photography generally isn’t my thing, these photos were hard not to be impressed by. Toward the back of the gallery space, the exhibition takes a more historical turn dealing with the history of garden design in Australia all the way back to the founding of Sydney and the Aboriginal influence on gardens.

With the three exhibitions on, its hard to pass up a quick visit to the State Library for a casual stroll through if you’re in the area.

On Photography – Susan Sontag


After a certain point with photography, when I had the technical basics of photography and cameras down, I became a lot more interested in how photograph approached their work and their art. I’d previously read Setting Sun, a series of essays on photography (or around photography, sometimes they barely mentioned taking photos at all), and Araki had mentioned the writing of Susan Sontag. After stumbling upon her book on sale at Kinokuniya, I thought that was serendipitous enough to jump on.

Unlike other essays I’d previously read, Susan Sontag herself isn’t a photographer – she’s more known for her writing, filmmaking and activism. Reflecting that, her essays aren’t necessarily about the act of photography, but the implications of it. Also being an art critic, she takes a somewhat scholarly approach to her writing. But Sontag insights are held in high praise, not so much because people agree with her thoughts, but more that she helps to shine a light on the implications of our photo culture and frame the conversation around it.

In her series of essays, she talks about a range of topics such as how photography is appropriation since we “take” photos, wrenching images from the real world into the abstraction of a photograph¹, to whether photography is an art and whether that even matters. She also delves into our culture, which places so much emphasis on images that photos become the default way we experience the world, such as a tourist snapping a photo as a way to make the experience real.

There’s a lot to stew on in her essays and it often feels like she raises so many little bits of insight that deserve their own essay, but she blows past them to serve her grander point. The other frustration I have with reading this book is Sontag’s scholarly writing, filled with references to photographers, painters, philosophers and art movements that someone who doesn’t have a historical understanding of art or an education in it (like me) can often feel lost as she attempts to justify her stances.

But while it’s not exactly a leisurely book, the insights gleaned from On Photography are invaluable. Sontag isn’t concerned about the trivial matters of what or the how of photography, but in the why and implications of photography on society, and its essential reading for anyone who thinks of photography as an art.

¹ She goes as far as to say that photography is an act of “rape”, since you’re appropriating someone or something’s image for your own purposes, a notion that Araki was all gleefully happy to agree with in one of his essays in Setting Sun. And while I can see how some types of photography can be considered that, just look at Bruce Gilden’s close-up flash images of strangers on the street or the plethora of internet street photographers, but I don’t think I agree that all photography is that aggressive. This might be worth an essay on its own.

Doo Doom Chit – Crayon Pop

Doo Doom Chit…Doom Chit…Shake It! Shake It!

Ever since I heard Crayon Pop’s Bar Bar Bar cut through the dance music in a nightclub in Hongdae, I’ve been one of their fans. They’ve always been an exception in the Kpop world, succeeding in ways that more moneyed Kpop groups and companies can only dream of. They shot to fame with Bar Bar Bar and their shoestring budget performances, then went on to be personally picked by Lady Gaga to open her concerts, giving them arguably the best US success of any Kpop group so far. Now Crayon Pop continues to chug along, sticking true to their characters with Doo Doom Chit.

A big part of Crayon Pop’s success comes down to their addictive sound, which lies somewhere between T-ara’s club bangers and Orange Caramel’s infectiously fun tracks¹. Commercial success in Kpop relies on being super catchy, the kind of catchy that sticks in your head and you find yourself mindlessly humming while you open the fridge looking for something to snack on because its that awkward period before dinner where you can’t really eat a full meal but you’re hungry. And Doo Doom Chit has all the mind sticky elements there for that: it’s upbeat and energetic, it has a catchy hook (“Oh baby woah oooh woah ooh woah“), a simple and repeatable chorus (“Doo Doom Chit…Doo Doom Chit Doom Chit Doom Chit!”), and a saxophone, something the world has sorely been lacking since the 80s.

To add to all of that catchiness of it all, Crayon Pop have also jumped on an ASCII cat meme to base their choreography and MV off of:

c_\ \
   \  \  ^_^
    \  (' ? ')
     >       ? )
     /      ~ \
    /      /\  \
    \     /   )_?
     /  /
    /  / \
   (  ( \ \
   |  |  \ \
   |  |   \ ? )
   )__)    ?_)

I can’t exactly explain what this meme is or what its used or its appeal in South Korea is, but it does fit the simple, if not almost childlike, choreography that Crayon Pop excels at. They’ve also stuck to their cheap production values, which has become their shtick, by being more hands on with each of the members being in charge of different parts of the comeback: Ellin and Gummi choosing the outfits, Choa handling the makeup and hairstyling, Soyul designing the album cover and Way in charge of marketing direction. While they continue to do unconventional things in kpop, it all contributes to their goofy character and remains essentially Crayon Pop.

Overall, the comeback is a little more reminiscent of their catchy, fad songs like Uh-ee or Bar Bar Bar, rather than their more musical songs like FM, Bing Bing and Dancing Queen, songs that I think tend to have more shelf life than the others², but its really hard to not get caught up with this song. The girls seem to be having a blast making this MV and you can’t help but have fun as well.

¹ Like a lot of kpop groups, they share some of the same producers, like Shinsadong Tiger between T-ara and Crayon Pop.

² Vroom Vroom, the pre-release song for this album, fills that gap for me, so all is good.

Bleach: Style over Substance


In a past life, I was a big anime fan. While the whole anime scene and I have drifted away from each other, there are still remnants of that older time, but even they are starting to fade. Bleach is the latest of the Big 3 Shounen manga to end (Naruto ended last year, leaving only One Piece left), and while I haven’t been following that series for a long time, the news has got me waxing nostalgia about the series.

I first started reading/watching Bleach when I was in high school, and being a Naruto fan, Bleach was a natural progression. My brother, a uni student at the time, got the anime off of a friend and binge watched it while I was at school. It would take me a while to get into the series though, but the brief glimpses of the anime my brother was watching seemed so different from the initial episodes I was watching. The anime I was watching had a group of friends fighting ghost monsters, the series he was watching had shinigami fighting each other with crazy swords, if you could even call them swords.

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