Wednesday, February 23, 2011


I'd stayed in the city for what turned out to be a depressing work meeting on Monday night. On the humid drizzly morning-after, forewarned about heavy traffic around the foreshores, I set off to walk to the pool with not much more than a dilly bag with togs and towel, and a book.

The two Queens had slipped into the harbour as the dawn was just breaking through heavy clouds and by the time I was at Mrs Macquarie Chair the huge Queen Mary 2 had docked at the Naval Base and Queen Elizabeth was looking somewhat more glamorous, if that compliment can ever be extended to today's big cruise ships, all top heavy overstuffed with little balconies, at Circular Quay.

I made it three people at the pool, as a light rain came and went, overhead mostly dark with occasional cloud breaks revealing a brilliant Sydney blue sky for a teasing few minutes. It looked like some of the local pleasure boats were taking passengers directly on board from a lowered gangway and jetty.

Swimming in the rain is heaven.

Around the cove, past the Opera House, I threaded my way along the Quay, through a million cameras, to the Museum of Contemporay Art, where the queues for the Annie Liebovitz exhibition were said to be intimidating. Well, there weren't any. Everyone was pointing the other way, looking at Herself, caught in breaking sunlight, and warping the perspective of all our usual landmarks, even the bridge pylons reduced to little stone things.

The exhibition is on one floor - 15 years of her life, with great expansive landscapes, walls of densely compacted personal photos of unnerving intimacy, drawing you close, too close, overlapping life and death, beginnings and endings, and everything in between, and of course riddled with the rich and famous. From an awkward gangly almost frightened early Nicole Kidman snap, for example, Liebovitz then takes you to the fabulous star, wrapped in the narcissism of her own glamour, emerging from a swirl of smoky gauze, nearly unrecognisable with swept back short hair and one vulnerable eye, and in a stunning inversion of reality, the empty theatre blurred out by the spots, leaves just the beautiful one and that door competing for your attention. Queue for it.

I was there for a long time. When I emerged there was more light rain and things were whiting out.

(clicking should enlarge)

I wandered off into the streets of the city, better.


Anonymous said...


This post incites envy and admiration.

The charms of an almost-empty office-hours "Boy George" pool. A simple if elusive pleasure. (Envy, in case you missed it.)

I very much admire the dramatic cloud-beset pic no 3.

I feel more ambivalent about pics of the famous. Is that because of the mixture of E and A? And for some strange reason I have always found Ms Kidman's charms entirely elusive.

Incidentally, if you wander around the inner cities just now just in the early evening, you can spot rehearsing groups of Mardi-Gras paraders, sometimes in the most unlikely spots. Last Thursday I saw a group line-dancing by headlight in the playground at Erskineville Public. Yesterday, it was a troupe more provocatively practising on the piazza on top of Cook & Phillip pool, directly in front of St Mary's cathedral. Wouldn't it be fitting if it was the "Acceptance" float?

wanderer said...

Would you believe those outdoor pics were taken with an iphone? It's just point and click.

I'm not sure about the R and F and E and A (or is it A and E - Accident and Emergency). I don't think I envy any of them, or it, but admire (honest) success.

Anyway, with you on Kidman - no fan great of her as an actress, nothing memorable springs to mind, but recognise her celebrity. Celebrity vs talent, reality vs artifice etc is what makes that photo so hypnotising, for me.

Not holding my breath for acceptance from that lot.

David said...

Such skies behind the Queen! Such a born photographer's angle on 'em. And of course I like the look of the rugged ophicleidist in the more recent post...

wanderer said...

Well blush me down David - your photos are consistently beautiful, wherever, from poppied hills to snap frozen Versailles, to that stunning London blossom. Yes, but no, to the ophicleidist.

And thank you to for the heads up about that BBC Orch Mahler 6, which, despite being compressed to a wafer, was my last fortnight's neurosis before today's Ashkenazy Mahler 6 (SSO in the big white tiled building) which stood up very well. Quite fast driven and muscular, antipodean perhaps, and Adante before Scherzo.

Hope the eye is OK.