Heart Art

Some last minute Valentine’s Day heart art.


This gallery was a collection made in response to an invitation from the good peeps at PEACE to submit some suggestions for 2011’s calendar. They asked for inspiring imagery that was indirectly associated with the ideals of Peace: animals, environment, education, culture and the empowerment of women. All in a Mexican context. The final format was square.


A Point n Shoot has given me a new arrow in my quiver.

I catch more and different moments with the little camera than I do with the monster and motor drive, because it’s always in my pocket.

These are from a Canon SD720 Sureshot. Love it.

international fireworks symposium

The long awaited and highly anticipated 11th International Fireworks Symposium convened in Vallarta in April 2009.

I donated a photograph to the promotional cause which became their banner image, hung all over town and was featured on the badges of the hundreds of participating pyros.

The Tlalchichilpaneco team even incorporated the image into their own banner which a couple later used as a roof to protect themselves from falling embers! (I think molten plastic is worse than smouldering cardboard.) Novel use for a stock image!

That the symposium organisers didn’t present me with my own pass didn’t stop me from getting in close to the action.

The 4 nights of fireworks also incorporated the water frontage to good effect, using barges and remotely detonated charges.

I made 2 sorties into the fiery fray and as with any carte blanche self-instigated photo/doco assignment it’s often the serendipitous sightings away from the main stage that yield the most interesting photographs.

For more photos of the symposium event, the fireworks and its fringe go here

But if it’s just fireworks you want,

ignite this
and see more castillos and cuetes than you can poke a match at.

Making my way between the firewoks shows at the stadio and the malecon, I saw a political slogan ominously predicting the fate of street foodstall patrons. I made the connection after scoffing a few volcanes con todo….

“the movement follows”
Stay tuned for more bowel humour.

Australia Australia Land of the Waratah and Dahlia


My Mum’s 80th in late Feb 2009 was all the excuse I needed for a visit home.
It also prompted the long threatened acquisition of a mariachi suit….manifestation of a pretend mexican.

The other clincher to make the trip was the practical reunion of my builder brother Michael and me to reconstruct the elevated verandah at Mum’s house. It had been poorly made and even more poorly repaired over the years; we had the job of making it like new again. (MCsquared/Safety Third Productions.)


The verandah took 2 weeks and included the adaptive improvement to an existing pergola frame on the back of the house using the old deck boards.

The week after the party was work by day and socialise by night at a string of Sydney artworld events. The first being the archibald wynne and sulman prizes for 2009 at the AGNSW.

Socially a great event. Some great art too but difficult to concentrate on when the gallery is full of more beautiful people than beautiful art.

Visually inspired and sufficiently Iubricated, I wandered back to Circular Quay with all eyes on the citynightscape that I hadn’t savoured for too long. The roadworks scene outside the Mitchell Library reminded me of the cartoonish industrial works of Jeffrey Smart.

Another event in a week of exhibitions and openings was the Moran prize in early March. It was judged solely by my nephew Andrew Quilty which was a great honour but also meant he couldn´t enter the $A80,000 comp….Dean Sewell won. You can see the their work and other examples of the best of contemporary australian photography at Oculi.


Staying in Neutral Bay meant easy access to the ferry service – a glorious 15 minutes to the city, day or night, via the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House, neither of which ever fail to impress.

Sydney coastal weather often highlighted the already spectacular beachscenes. This one squall passed over the Central coast and metamorphosed its way south down the line of the northern peninsular beaches. (Shot from South Palm Beach.)

Then it was a hop, skip and a jump (plane, train and a car) to western Victoria for 5 days at Tyrendarra, to visit a mate, his missus and friends. Days were spent doing what you do in a happy home surrounded by the Australian bush.

Nights were spent carousing and making music.

Pete’s professional life is devoted to the study of the largest animal ever known on Earth, the blue whale which congregates annually along the Bonney Upwelling near Portland.

Dr. Peter Gill, also known as the biggest bloody clown on the planet also performs for us in a 4 frame movie.

And thence it was back to Sydney for a final wander and wonder.


hasta pronto



The 5th of July


Point Arena has it’s 4th of July parade and fireworks on almost any day in early July other than the 4th.  2008 was no exception. Because of the obvious demand for pyrotechnic performances on the Day of Independence, wily companies will offer serious discounts to towns willing to fudge dates. This was a tradition set by Raven Earlygrow, Point Arena’s mayor in the 80’s and the tradition lives on tho sadly he doesn´t. The temporal shift of America’s most sacred holiday is wholly in keeping with PA’s inherent irreverance for the Establishment. Too many old hippies and creative spirits for the town to be anything else, really. But that doesn’t stop ’em from flying flags and dancin’ in the street.
Any excuse for a party.
The Extra Action Dance Troupe from SF led the parade on a merry jaunt around and about downtown with a performance on a makeshift stage in the park behind the feed store.
The parade runs down highway 1 through the length of downtown (one long block) much to the mixed amusement and disgruntlement of tourist traffic.
With such a small population the number of people you know in the crowd and the parade makes it a true community gathering.










The Essential Vallarta – VIDEO

My friend Adam, working his way into the video production business, was hired by the Marriott Hotel here in Puerto Vallarta to produce a new 30 minute in-house video. It needed to contain all the usual hotel services and facilities as well as some local tour options.
Adam wanted to start the program with an animated ‘welcome’ introduction and asked me to do so using my persona of local photographer as the thread for the 4 minute skit. We laced the video footage with images from my archive.

It was shot with a Canon XL2 camcorder and we did it all in one summer’s day, which at least partly explains my increasingly bedraggled appearance through the show!

So now, if you’re staying at the Marriott at Marina Vallarta and happen to turn on the telly , this is what you’ll see every 30 minutes!

Essential Vallarta

(It’s a 10MB .mov file that will take a wee while to download)

GRCC v The World

“I could never live in the USA again, but I could always live in Point Arena.”

Eh? Howzat?

Part of my rationale for that conundrum is cricket.


Just inland and over the ridgeline from the foggy northern californian coast there’s a magic place anonymously and unanimously referred to as The Land. It’s a tract of floodplain defined by the Garcia River and hemmed in by steep hills swathed in redwoods, myrtle, fir and madrone. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garcia_River

The Land is one of the country’s oldest extant communes and home to an ageing but stalwart group of hippies who have carved out a blissfull existence there for themselves and their descendants. (For the uninformed, as a basic primer, Mendocino County wherein the city of Point Arena and The Land lie has an inordinate per capita registered artist population. Medical marijuana prescriptions are similarly abundant. Local surfers brave frigid waters, bull kelp and great white sharks to get their kicks. The 4th of July Parade happens on the 5th. Point Arena’s mayor when I lived there was Raven Earlygrow. It’s population hovers around 450. It’s a hideaway, a fresh start, an outpost of reality in a land of false dreams. It’s a gem, a real pearl amongst fool’s gold. )

Smack in the middle of The Land is where Billy Rio lives. American passport holder but one who spent time in South Australia as a young teacher, his many passions include a love of cricket gleaned from sunny afternoons in the shady seats of the Don Bradman Stand at Adelaide Oval. By the fruit of his labours, his levelled backyard has, over the last decade and a half, become hallowed home to the Garcia River Cricket Club, and, like any institution it started humbly enough.

The US was virtually cricket-free in the late 80s and before internet purchases become commonplace, in order to play the game we expats longed for, we had to make our own equipment. Being a rural community of self-sufficient sorts this wasn’t so extraordinary. Everyone had workshops, access to raw materials, and Time. So we all made bats of various constructions, from memory or copied from reference books at the library. Some were woodworks of art, others just 2x4s run through a bandsaw and finished with a coarse rasp. Some had a heft that would’ve challenged Paul Bunyan let alone Billy Rio’s tennis elbow.

I had my schoolboy bat mailed over from Australia and shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was disappointed that I had long since outgrown the well-oiled willow wacker that still sported my Dymo-label name tag from 1971. Still, useless as it was to adults as a tool, it looked good behind Lonnie’s bar where it became an item of curiosity and conjecture amongst the locals who’d never seen one before. (The collection of homemade bats eventually made it into a local art exhibit as a mobile installation.)

Ants the canny Welshman was the master of the six-stitcher. He fancied himself a spinner and hand-crafted leather balls in better than fair likeness and action to the real thing. The new millenium provided us with access to the sports stores of the world and so our gear evolved into a more authentic collection of bats, balls, wickets, pads and even boxes and helmuts for those with breakable items deemed worthy of protection.

(There’s an ongoing battle over the wisdom of using rubberised, practice balls versus the real hard balls but the unmistakable sound and feel of leather on willow really left no doubt in the minds of the true believers!)

The ground is a groomed, flat clearing in a forest of tall trees and cottage-sized stumps of giants past; An enormous and beautiful bay tree is the centrepiece of a large grassy area borderd by the river and a Billy’s rickety home, inhabited by deer and goafers except on sundays in summer when it gets overtaken by a mob of various men and women united in their pursuit of a good time and a leather-bound ball.

It is the colonial tradition in its best bastardised form, fuelled by buckets of beer and a drinks trolley laden with little else than family-sized bottles of gin and tonic. Food in the form of barbequable meats, garnished with organically grown salads repletes the package. Just add a scent of bay tree oil, dose liberally with sunshine, true friends and a melangerie of pets and you have the ingredients for the perfect Sunday.

Players emerge from the redwoods on summer Sundays like morels after spring rains. They are transplants from colonial outposts as far away as the West Indies, Australia and of course the Poms and their relatives from all over the British Isles. Some have it in the blood by birthright, others have absorbed cricket osmotically during stints abroad. Locals, seeing how much fun we have, just wanna give it a try. (Un-educating Americans from the ingrained habits of baseball is a constant challenge and a lesson in tolerance, but sorry, holding the bat over your shoulder and throwing it away after you connect just isn’t cricket. Nor do we pitch, strike or spit tobacco juice, though we do share with baseballers a common awe of grass stains and bloodied elbows as measures of sporting effort.)

Ageing as we all are and in various stages of decrepitude and vital signs, the day’s proceedings are a compromise b/w youthful enthusiasm and the wisdon of middle age and usually follow a routine of pre-lubrication, warm-up practice, a drinks break and a session of play wherein a sequence of chalkboard batter’s names are run through against whomever feels like having a bowl. No teams as such, no real innings; the timing of play v break depends on hunger, thirst, collective stamina and if the cook is on task and whether or not the dogs have scarfed the BBQ meat. A post-prandial session, afternoon drinks-break and maybe a final bat n bowl session before the lengthening shadows and creeping cool from the river drive us either indoors or to stoking the fires. The one day of the week when too much sport is barely enough often culminates in a game of bocce which is one of the few ballsports which permits drinking during play.

And if you’re lucky and I’ve had enough to drink you might even get a rendition of Thomas E Spencer’s Australian bush ballad called “How McDougal Topped the Score”, a family favourite. http://www.bushverse.com/spencer/mcdougal.htm

Now don’t get me wrong, and don’t confuse our casual, apparently lackadaisical approach to cricket for lack of keeness. We all love the game and we all play to the best of our respective abilities; catches are dived for, runs made at the stretch and appeals always lustfully proclaimed. We just like the off-time too. It’s all about having some fun. Beer, skittles, poetry, whatever it takes.

The 2006 season finale was punctuated with a visit by a team from the Big Smoke, San Francisco. This important-sounding event was much anticipated and talked about and even trained-for. More grog was procured and extra sausos ordered. The grounds were given a little more attention than usual; the boundary cleared of scrub and nettles and roped off; the baytree’s lower limbs trimmed to above-head height and the ankle-breaking goafer holes on and off the pitch filled with alluvial topsoil, tamped, rolled, mowed and watered enough to keep the pesky rodents confused, damp and less eager to burrow for a spell. (An air rifle or a terrier are other powerful disuaders.)

Little did we know that the city-slickers were even more hopeless than ourselves! We trounced ’em at cricket but they saved socialn face by bringing along their own jug band and entertained us musically into and half-through the night.

The gathering cold and darkness prompted one final, fanciful fling…..

Roused to action by Billy Rio, the remaining revellers removed themselves from the firesides and bandstands for the commerative Napoleonic Squat. As narrated in Billy’s well rehearsed preface to the event, Napoleon’s troops, the devastated French soldiers, retreating from their anti-climactic occupation of Moscow in the particularly harsh winter of 1812, invented an ingenious and necessary method of avoiding undue contact with the frozen ground during the long nights……

Go on – get a bunch of people together, 20 or more, and try this: form a tight circle, front to back, almost touching the person in front of you and then, all at once, just sit down. Your knees become the seat for the person in front of you and you sit in the lap of the person behind you. The articulated human ring supports itself completely, generating and containing its own warmth. Every hour or so you wake up, stand up, about-face and sit down again. Beats sleeping on frozen tundra! This is Bily’s little tribute to cooperative behaviour, a fitting statement for a commune of cricketers. Of course our non life-threatening exercises of The Squat usually end in collapse not from structural failure but from the group guffaws!

The stumps were pulled for another day, another season. The pavilion enjoyed a final morning-after cleanup and then abandoned to the coming winter, the flooding river and the wandering deer. The redwoods creep upward, the drinks trolley parked, the bats given a winterising treatment of linseed oil, the goafers left to do whatever goafers do without the threat of being shot at or mown and the ladies and gentlemen of the GRCC go back to their netsuke-carving, their book writing, their accounting, their farms, their mathematics, their schoolteaching, their art, their ambulances, their construction sites, wharves and theatres, their photography and their philosophy, their partners, their gardens, their rescue teams, their barstools and their dogs and dream of cricket next year.

Fun with Portraiture Part One

If architectural studies of homes and hotels http://www.callananphoto.com/mexicohotels/are my bread n butter then people are my sandwich filler of choice. The options are wildly more interesting, and especially so if i’m working for creative art departments with a vision beyond the norm.

Thierry Blouet was a recent subject. Vallarta’s most celebrated gourmand and foody entrepreneur is always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd and attract customers to his downtown establishment Cafe des Artistes http://www.cafedesartistes.com/ . Over years of successful patronage, that restaurant has evolved into much more than a sophistocated eatery and now involves several styles (and prices) of gastronomic experiences under the same roof as well as a piano bar, a cellar and even a modest range of fashion accessories for those women whose appetites extend beyond the culinary.

In keeping with the chef’s flambouyant style his advertising agency http://colofon.com.mx/ were looking for something striking for some billboards. The first involved flambé a la playa. The shot was not without complications and apart from the need for dramatic backlighting and flaming skillet, also required that I risk a new Nikon D2X with salty splashes, a chef who was prepared to stand in full regalia waist deep in the beachbreak and an assistant brave enough to shoulder the high-voltage ballast box and strobes to the water’s edge.

These combined efforts plus some dedicated post-production PhotoShop work yielded this result:

As with many photosessions the serendipitous shots are often just as rewarding. Our evening at the beach also produced a great moment between Thierry and his son, Sebastian.

The other session was far less complicated but again called for the use of strobes though without the obvious risks of electrocution.

We started modestly with large fruit and vegies

and worked our way into more frivolous activities

which the PhotoShopping billboarders eventually construed to produce:

et voila!

BELIZE – Go Slow

field report #4

Wikipedia tells the Belize story more thoroughly http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belize but I have better pictures! http://www.callananphoto.com/belize/

To someone used to living in Mexico, Belize is a bit of an anomaly. The two countries are joined at the hip of the Yucatan peninsula but differ greatly in demographics and history. Mexico is Spanish from its Mayan head to its Toltec toes. But Belize, known as the British Honduras until 1973 still carries the Queen of England’s smiling face on their currency, so the heritage is british colonial laced with piracy and its inhabitants are black and speak english, though the overall ethnicity of the islands and the country are more complex than black and white, english or spanish speaking.

The country is organically rich, meaning it has ecosystems that have a high turnover of biomass and are reproductively fecund like her inland jungles, mangroves and wetlands coastally and the world’s second largest barrier reef lying just off her shore. these features and their ancillary activities are her main tourist attractions. Inland theer are forests and mayan ruins and bad roads but they will all have to wait for another trip.

This visit was restricted to the coastal fringe and most specifically to Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye (and a cricket ground outside Belize City covered in a blog below http://callananphoto.blogspot.com/2006/03/flying-visit-to-baja.html).

The Cayes are tiny coralline islands fringed by reef. Most are about as wide as an airstrip is long and you can ride a bike from one end to the the other in about ummm 20 mins without shifting gears.

The island’s motto is, afterall, “go slow”. And so while I slowly criss-crossed and circumperambulated the islands my eye was always caught by hand-painted signs and simple advertising artworks, examples of which were in great abundance and style.

I seem to also be attracted to sequential shots which makes me think I should be looking to a video camera….

Being so narrow, the cayes make it easy to catch the sundown and sunup lighting effects westwards and eastwards almost simultaneously and with clear views to the horizon, though sunsets were almost always more colourful and spectacular.

I also enjoyed experimenting with long exposures in low light, letting the tripod and the processor do the work. It always amazes me how much available light and colour there is that can be gathered over time compared to what we see instantly as ‘dark’. Night-vision glasses with a 30 second delay.

Boats, and sailboats in particular, have been a big part of my life and I am always attracted by their myriad shapes and sizes and purposes, whether they carry idle wunderlusters around the world or loads of sand or tourists between islands.



For more photos and less words about photography and Belize visit: http://www.callananphoto.com/belize/