Dublin is in Black and White


I have been busy, for want of a better word, over the past few months trying to give my Instagram account a bit of content and identity. I suppose it’s more for the likes and followers than for any greater good to society, so don’t expect me to reveal something worldly there.

Some time back when I was still in Korea I thought it would be a neat gimmick to just post photos in black and white, or monochrome. It was a thing, and I’ve kept at it. Of late I’ve been focusing a lot on Dublin’s streets, and have been trying to get some shots which could be recognised as street photography, but with my phone and not my Nikon. It is not as easy as you’d think, because regardless of the quality of the image your phone takes it will never replace the speed and accuracy of a SLR.

But it is doable. All you need to do is:

  1. Be patient – find the shot, frame and wait a moment or two until you have the right level of human activity. Don’t stand around being creepy holding your phone up waiting for people to arrive or react to something. If the shot you want doesn’t come, move on and try and find another elsewhere.
  2. Be different – look for a way that you can make your shots stand out from others. Tilt your lens, shoot from the ground up, find a perspective which most people are unfamiliar with, or just find your own way of standing apart from other instagrammers – which is harder than it sounds.
  3. Be curious – I walk around just taking random shots with my phone around the city, and every so often a shot comes good. You can’t win them all, and there’s a chance you’ll take some pretty awful shots but as you take more shots and take more chances you will be surprised at what comes out.
  4. Crop Cleverly – When you take your shot use your regular phone camera and don’t shoot inside the Instagram app, as this automatically takes you to the edit and post menu. Shoot away with your normal camera, then when it comes to editing you can use the 1:1 frame to both crop your image in the desired area, and also to move around, zoom in, and even rotate the frame until you are happy with the shot you’re about to post. This might seem like a no-brainer but I personally feel this step is vital to the image and could be overlooked (or maybe most people just take it as a given).
  5. Ignore advice – whatever anyone tells you about doing street photography, just ignore them and do your thing. You shouldn’t really be listening to advice anyway, you should be walking around taking photographs, or at the very least looking at other people’s photos.

Of course these tips are purely my own opinion, and what do I know – I’ve only got 298 followers on Instagram.

Anyway, here are some of my favourites from the past few months, all tagged with the very cool #dublinisinblackandwhite hashtag.

View this post on Instagram

Find your own moment #vscocam #dublinisblackandwhite

A post shared by Conor O'Reilly (@conzieshoots) on

View this post on Instagram

Procession #vscocam #dublinisblackandwhite #inthecity

A post shared by Conor O'Reilly (@conzieshoots) on

View this post on Instagram

Typical

A post shared by Conor O'Reilly (@conzieshoots) on

View this post on Instagram

The specials

A post shared by Conor O'Reilly (@conzieshoots) on

View this post on Instagram

Take a good taste there now

A post shared by Conor O'Reilly (@conzieshoots) on

If you do find it within your heart, you can follow me here. Or not.

Advertisements

Advice I’d Give to Me


The likes of everyone is an expert at handing out wonderful advice they don’t abide by themselves. I’d be in that category. I am even adept at advising myself on things I should and shouldn’t do, and to my detriment I continue to fail to acknowledge and follow such sterling quality advice.

Another human ailment I suffer from is an over abudance of regrets on times and actions long gone by. I’m particularly prone to it now, as I have lamented somewhat in the past few posts. Even when we are at our best it’s mistakes and poor judgement from some action fifteen years before that we look to when we’re looking for something to find fault with ourselves.

So what’s better than both of these on their own? Well it’s the two combined of course.

On my twitter feed the other day and image emerged from Vanity Fair.

And it got me thinking. Because, first and foremost, I’m not that old. Secondly, I don’t really believe that advice would have changed much of how I acted. I don’t think I ever went about looking for advice, at least not from people who would have been in a good position to offer it. I think that I must have been always bullheaded in my own determination to become what I wanted to be. I can’t say whether any of my so-called determination ever came to fruition, because as independent as I like to think of myself, I’m also pretty feckless and absent minded.

And it got me thinking. Because there is plenty of good advice been shared by people in a good position to offer good advice. The fantastic Brain Pickings is an endless source of this advice, and if you’ve never visited that website you really should. You can read all the advice the written word has to offer, but how much do you take to heart? Is a lot of it not just idea juice that will inspire you somehow to focus in a particular way? Our conscious actions are influenced by our past experiences or by the experiences of people we know. What I mean is that if you want to make the most of advice it’s imperative that you seek from someone who you love or respect, or indeed both if you’re lucky enough to have a person that fits both of these categories.

I know that when I write something I’m particularly proud of there first opinion I seek is Herself’s. I can’t say that it’s because she’s an expert on anything that I write, but because it’s her view on life I look to first. I see her as a very balanced and logical thinker and a person with a particularly insightful view on the rest of the world. I look for the opinions of others too, of course, for different reasons and when seeking different results.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s advice to his daughter Frances in a 1933 letter is something worth reading now. The infamous writer, fond of a drink, a psychologically troubled spouse, and for penning some of the finest novels of the twentieth century was, in several respects, aptly positioned to offer advice to his daughter. There’s the love angle covered, and because of the work he produced the respect angle is arguably covered too. Enough of my waffle. Here’s the letter:

DEAR PIE:

I feel very strongly about you doing duty. Would you give me a little more documentation about your reading in French? I am glad you are happy– but I never believe much in happiness. I never believe in misery either. Those are things you see on the stage or the screen or the printed page, they never really happen to you in life.

All I believe in in life is the rewards for virtue (according to your talents) and the punishments for not fulfilling your duties, which are doubly costly. If there is such a volume in the camp library, will you ask Mrs. Tyson to let you look up a sonnet of Shakespeare’s in which the line occurs Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds…

I think of you, and always pleasantly, but I am going to take the White Cat out and beat his bottom hard, six times for every time you are impertinent. Do you react to that?…

Half-wit, I will conclude. Things to worry about:

Worry about courage

Worry about cleanliness

Worry about efficiency

Worry about horsemanship…

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about popular opinion

Don’t worry about dolls

Don’t worry about the past

Don’t worry about the future

Don’t worry about growing up

Don’t worry about anybody getting ahead of you

Don’t worry about triumph

Don’t worry about failure unless it comes through your own fault

Don’t worry about mosquitoes

Don’t worry about flies

Don’t worry about insects in general

Don’t worry about parents

Don’t worry about boys

Don’t worry about disappointments

Don’t worry about pleasures

Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?

How good am I really in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) Scholarship

(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them?

(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful intrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Courtesy of openculture.com (another website worth checking regularly)

*

I like to think that I am not someone who dwells seriously on regrets. I take some into account, like when I was in UCD I should have volunteered for one of the University newspapers, and perhaps I should not have chickened out of taking English as a degree subject – all that confounded olde English… Sometimes I regret not trying harder, or for not standing up and asking for something. Nowadays I have a silly regret that I didn’t prepare myself more for being more employable (at least on paper). And other crap which will struggle to bear much significance in the future.

When I think about it seriously, there is nothing here that I actually regret. If I could stop regretting one thing it would be to stop regretting things. But If I could go back in time and give myself some advice I would. If I could offer advice I would probably say things like don’t worry, everything works out in the end, and those things you wanted to do don’t matter in the long run, and that yes, life is not fair, and live it up. Similar to the majority of respondents, wherever they came from, on that Vanity Fair tweet, I am a normal, worried person.

But. But. But this got me thinking. Because the way we give advice depends as much on how we receive it, as I discussed above, as it does to how we share it. If we throw advice about carelessly it has no value. If we share it sparingly then each piece of advice is worth something more than simple words that pass from mouth to ear.

I will offer my advice to a younger me, advice that I still need to follow and advice I think I will need to adhere to until I die. It’s pretty simple advice but it’s something that I think would save me as it could have saved me in the past had I known the necessity for it.

I could say question everything.

I could say love yourself.

I could say don’t let negativity spoil you.

I could say there is beauty in everything.

I could say that everything takes time to grow.

But what I will say is this. Always, always, look for advice. Seek it out. Listen to it. Judge it. Question it. Consume it. Love it. Manipulate it and use it as your own. Without it you will be on your own. With it you will have someone else’s world and someone else’s to make the most of. Bring all this advice together and ball it up and hold it tight to you because one day it will be useful even if it seems like a waste of time right now. Advice from loved ones, family, friends, peers, everyone has something to share. The more advice you get, the better suited you are to make the right decisions in life and less alone you will feel when these decisions are part of your future.

I just hope that it’s good advice.

*

The whole way through writing this post all I could think of was this song.

 

An Old Fisherman’s Advice


We were walking around Jumunjin Harbour on an early April morning. The sun was warm and the docks were busy with tourists and workers. Underneath the carpark the wharf was busier than usual. Long gone were the fish sellers, moved to another less in the way location of the port, so to see so much coming and going was unusual. While not regulars in Jumunjin port, we would be more regular that most and seeing a flurry activity as such was something reserved for the height of the squid season, and it was not that time of year yet.

We edged closer, hopping over river sized puddles and landing on tiny atolls of uneven concrete, until we came to what was of so much anxiety and interest to the workers and curious visitors. On the concrete were nets and nets full of fish. They were litterally exploding with them. To see nets this full in a small port like Jumunjin, where even in their tourist markets they mostly sell farmed fish, was a delight. There were wheelbarrows full to bursting being shoved past, and nets being stretched long for cleaning and recasting. Of greatest interest though was the a stocky greying man, sitting on a plastic chair pulling the fish from the nets.

Herself began to talk to him, as I tried to take a few photographs of the action. He was very garrulous and you could tell that the catch had enlivened him. He cracked jokes and offered advice. We put in an order for some fish and a much used plastic shopping bag returned full to near bursting with oily, unscaled and still to be gutted fish. I think they said there was twenty in it, but later we found that there had to be even more. They charged us a mere 10,000 won.

20140405-_DSC0511

As we stood around chatting with and I continued to take photographs, he made a suggestion.

“Why don’t you sit down here and pull the fish out, and I’ll take a photograph of you while you do it? You can even wear my oilskins and hat”. He laughed out loud at the idea and gave my wife one of those looks, while nodding in my direction. Needless to say, me being no fun and afraid of actual work I declined the offer, shirking away in the process. The man didn’t seemed bothered and continued to laugh and crack jokes with Herself.

Later that day as I was looking back over my photos I could not help but think about this suggestion. He didn’t seemed bothered by any stretch of the imagination, and was certainly only having a good laugh at my expense, and probably rightly so. What I could not stop thinking of was that this was worthwhile advice for anyone who is a  tourist, or a photographer, or just whoever is nosey and wants to inspect as you go about your work. If you think that something is so fantastic you feel enticed to point and stare, or photograph, or watch with intense critical interest, perhaps you should don those oilskins yourself and really see how interesting an experience it is.

Whenever we travel we take so much time to find authentic experiences, but rarely do we take into account that what is an authentic experience to someone is a life and way of living to another. Yes it’s interesting, but isn’t it more important to have a little personal respect for people who are going about their lives? It’s not as if they would choose to be so interesting to the point of fascinating.

A Letter to My Seven Month Old Daughter


20130619-174855.jpg

Dear +1,

Look at you with your smiles and shitty nappies, you are the world too me. You may not realise it as you are undoubtedly focusing on something you just saw and must now touch, but it’s true, you mean so much to me.

I am writing to you today as I wish to part with some advice. As you are young it is hard for you to understand much, and as you are young it is your natural inclination to believe that you are 100% correct about everything. If the truth be told you will not learn the fallacy of this until you are, well probably close to your own deathbed many years from now.

You see little +1, as your father it is important that you realise that while you could reasonably argue that I know sweet fuck all about anything, other than knowing when I’m hungry, tired, or need to go to the toilet, I do indeed know a lot more than you. One day you may indeed know more than I, but first of all I beseech you to learn to speak.

Myself and your mother do our best in this world to not educate you the wrong way and I hope you will trust us when we direct you towards so-called child friendly paraphernalia. But I realise knowing the difference for you is difficult, so please allow my lifetime’s experience to know that not chewing those shiny scissors is the best option. And the hot teapot is best left on the table, because it is both heavy and hot.

It is unfortunate that in life you will have to learn to understand what is hot and what is cold yourself, as we all have our own levels. But let me give you a pointer: when your skin hurts from touching something, hot or cold, generally that means it’s bad. There are other signs which you can look out for in advance, such as is their ice on it, or in fact flames coming from it, is stuff melting nearby, is there steam emanating from some orifice etc. In fact anytime you feel pain it doesn’t promise to be beneficial – except for massages, and possibly tattoos, if that’s your thing.

There are other things which you don’t really need to touch, such as the dark coloured damp residue inside the nappy I just removed, my armpits in summer, the floor underneath the couch, and everything about ten centimetres outside your immediate reach. What you need in life will come to you with the right application, and while I appreciate the need to seek much out, searching in ever corner of your immediate world will reveal little for now.

Your youth, and I really sound like an old man now, is your greatest obstacle. Please give it time, as you have so much to experience and so much seems so new, which means it’s strange, which means that is the reason that you are probably complaining about it. Again, take our word for it, it’s for the best.

For example, when we strap you down in a cushioned seat with a nice soft head rest and sides inside a large self propelled two tonne piece of steel and plastic full of highly flammable fossil fuels, which then competitively attempts to travel at high speed with a plethora of other such devices, often around bends and over bumps, and even in poor weather with sight seriously reduced, it is, believe it or not, considered safest for you to be harnessed in, and not free to wriggle and squirm as your young body sees fit.

While I’m discussing this I should also advise you that I’ve also found that it is easier to fall asleep at night when you sit back, relax, and just wait for your sleep to find you. Incredibly, worming, squirming, and shouting in my arms does not work. I worked this out a few years ago when I was a bit of a night owl, and the more I socialised with others late in the early hours I found it more difficult to fall asleep, but if I sat on a plastic chair outside a convenience store or the likes, sleep soon came to me quite easily. It’s a strange phenomenon I know, but like much of my advice in this letter, time will help you realise so much more.

I trust that you will take this advice to heart and do your best to apply it to your forthcoming years. Soon it will seem like second nature not to try to eat your faeces or the nearest scissors, among other revelations of age, but remember that until that time I will be standing over you applying my care in a way that may seem intrusive, and equally like I am trying to ruin your appreciation of life. This is not the case, I am merely attempting to guide you through your early days with as few physical threats to your self as is possible.

For now, please trust me that I am right, because one of these days you will be just like your mother and I will never have this opportunity again. Until then allow me the glory of being somewhat correct.

With best wishes for your future,

Your loving father/Dad/앞파/ould fella/

Demons, Distractions, and Demands


I am my own worst enemy, and when it comes to giving advice I don’t think I stand a chance when put in front of the judges. Why would anyone care to listen to anyone who cannot claim to have achieved as much as they’d like to? I’ve an answer, and it is because I know what I’m doing wrong and I know that if you’re looking for a way to get over something perhaps, and I really mean perhaps, what I’m about to say might help.

I was born as a procrastinator. I’m lazy. I’m easily distracted. I tend to blinker myself from the reality of life’s requirements. Much of this doesn’t really effect me until that awful last minute arrives and I suddenly have to get everything done in a fluster. I don’t know if I was born like this. I don’t think I’ve inherited this gene from my parents. I do wish that I could be just a little bit committed to one of the many causes I assign myself to.

Take today for example. Up until about fifteen minutes ago, my plan for the day was going perfectly. I had woken up, had a light breakfast, read a little, then walked to the shops and bought some mushrooms and bread, then I cooked lunch for myself and Herself. I have since returned to the bedroom where I’m sitting under the fan writing a blog post, when I had initially set out to do more reading. I think I read about five hundred words (incidentally it was a book review for a book about helping writers to focus on their writing), and then I thought it would be a great idea to write a blog post. About what? Being distracted. I am not sure whether you could say I was inspired.

To add insult to injury, I’ve been out to the kitchen twice to boil the kettle for coffee and to find a particular blue pen, checked my email, twitter, instagram, the weather, and started reading an article about Ireland’s hopes for a second gold medal in the boxing at the Olympics.

It’s a curse, and I know it’s not something I suffer from alone. Fortunately, my income does not rely on me to be an overly productive writer, but one day I would like it to be so. I worry though that because of my reliance on being incessantly distracted, no one will give me a job because I’ll never get any work done, or I’ll be driven mad by stress because it took me until the last minute (again) to get something handed in on time.

Allow me to bore you for a moment with the things I’ve seriously (kind of) committed myself to (psychologically at least) over the past year or so, but which have made little to no progress.

– A distance feature writing journalism course (only one of ten assignments done)
– An application to do a Phd in contemporary poetry.
– A first collection of poems (many started, many submitted to magazines, many unfinished, and many rejected).
– A chap book of poems on things which people do all the time but which they never talk about.
– A collection of essays and short comments based around the posts in this blog and sold as an ebook.
– A memoir of my life in Korea to date.
– Various articles for magazines in Korea and Ireland, but most of which have no research carried out.
– Even more literary magazines with with submission deadlines and guidelines duly noted, but that’s about all the work I’ve done on them.

There could be more…

Oh yes, don’t forget all the magazines, novels, books, and links to articles online which I have stockpiled but never seem to get around to reading.

Did I mention I also have to work and that Herself is six months pregnant?

So, you see, by expecting myself to unrealistically see these goals through I think I’m causing myself undue stress. I know from my co-workers that none of them are stressed about that much, but by building up my own demands I have created this little red demon who sits on my shoulder and whispers into my ear, “why aren’t you doing this?”, constantly. Nagging, like my mother who used to ask me to paint the fences in the summer, and still I kind of metaphorically roll over in the bed and check whatever poxy internet site my finger is nearest to again.

The thing is, it is not as if all this comes down on top of me unexpectedly. What bothers me the most about this is that these are all things that I want to do. If you look at the the to-do list above, there is not one thing which I have been made to do. I have asked for all of this, and I want to do it all too. Perhaps it’s just a case of my eyes being bigger than my belly.

Right now you’re probably right in thinking that I’m an idiot, and I could have at least warned you before you started reading that this post would be mostly me complaining about my inability to start, let alone finish, things. I apologise for that, but if I had warned you I would never have kept your attention, and that would have meant that this piece of writing would have been a complete waste of my time and your time. However, allow me to remedy that.

The solution to all of this is very simple. It has to do with attitude, of course, and trust. This can be applied across the board to anything. While I consider myself a writer, I don’t doubt that this post can be applied to all areas of life, work, family, and personal development.

Firstly, you have to look at yourself, whatever it is you are doing, and know what it is that is stopping you from doing it. In my case, what is stopping me from getting things done is my laziness. If it’s something else, then what can you do to change it? Can you afford to take the steps to make a difference to allow you to do what it is you want to do, and if you can, then is there any other reason that would stop you from doing it?

I won’t suggest that you should stop doing everything you have been doing and start trying to achieve what it is you have always wanted. The world does not work like that, and no person, regardless of their ability, can be expected to start something new and instantly be a success. Yes, there are success stories of people who have done things like this, but this is why we call them stories and not realities. You need to work hard to realise your goals step by step. Slowly and assuredly is the best way to realise what it is you have always wanted to do. But remember, you have to start.

More importantly, trust has more significance than attitude. Trust is something which has varying levels of applicability and needs to be applied differently to different situations, and of course people. Trust should always be applied relatively to whatever it is you are trusting. That being said, you need to trust yourself that you can do whatever it is you are doing, to the point that you know the limits of your own ability. Set yourself small goals and gradually as you overcome each one, the next one will appear less of an obstacle, because you can gradually trust yourself to reach them.

Let me give you an example from my own experience. About two years ago I set myself the writing goals of getting a poem published and also getting some magazine work published. I overcame both of these goals after a fair amount of effort, but I did it. With the magazine writing, I have moved on to larger and more ambitious projects but which I believe to be realisable because I can trust myself to work within my limits. With my poetry, for some reason I decided to rest and think about my options. I didn’t write much or submit much for quite a while, and now I’m right back to where I started again, trying to find somewhere that will accept some of my poetry submissions. I wouldn’t be far from the truth if I told you I had zero confidence in my work at the moment, but am I going to let that stop me?

Trust also applies to the system you work with. To trust something, much like people, you have to know it and how it works. Whatever it is you do, learn what it is you are dealing with and understand it so that when you recognise openings or situations that you might be able to take advantage of, you will be prepared to do so.

For example, think of the amount of times you’ve gone hunting for a job only to turn up with nothing because you didn’t really understand what it was you were letting yourself into, leaving you all washed up with negative results. Even if something is apparently corrupt, if you know how it works then you can trust it to operate in a particular way so that there are no major surprises whenever you approach it to deal with whatever it is you’re trying to do.

Attitude and trust are, in my mind, two of the most important aspects of helping you to realise beyond your current situation. Both of these boil down to knowing about yourself and your broader situation. The more you know about yourself, the more you can get on with achieving your goals and crossing off items on your ever expanding to-do list.