I had a rather fun and interesting weekend in terms of photography. As part of my whole pursuing my passions business I’ve set about trying to better myself as a photographer and part of that is challenging myself each week (or as close to that as I can) to take on a photographic challenge. The first one was something I was already comfortable with, landscapes, and flush with victory for that I decided to take on something that I haven’t really seriously tackled before: architecture. I had a few locations here in Canberra scouted out and so after swinging by the computer fair to pick up a new router I jumped straight in, looking to find that unique view of some Canberran architecture that’d catch my eye.
To put it simply the day didn’t go quite as I had expected. I figured buildings would be much like landscapes, big things that don’t move or complain so they’d make for easy photographic pickings. It’s completely the opposite of course as for landscapes you’re usually taking things from a great distance away and for buildings and architecture you usually don’t have the luxury of distance, especially if you’re in the middle of a city like I was. I haven’t had the chance to fully review all the pictures I took but suffice to say none of them really impressed me after I took them, so I definitely know there’s room for improvement there.
However during my journey I made a quick sojourn up to the iconic Parliament House as no photographic trip focused on architecture would be complete without a picture or two of it in there. As I approached it however I noticed a group of people out the front with many holding signs and a loud speaker amplifying the words of a lone spokesman. Intrigued I approached them and from what I could tell (many of the signs and speeches were in Arabic, I believe) were protesting the current asylum seeker legislation. Figuring this would be a good time to hone my photojournalisitc skills, which didn’t exist prior to this, I started snapping pictures. No one complained about having their pictures taken but it did bring back some horrible memories of stories of fellow photographers who had had some bad experiences doing the same thing.
Generally speaking if you’re on public property you have every right to take a picture of what you see, especially if what you’re taking a picture of is on public property as well. There have been numerous cases of people being harassed by police when taking photos of them (there were police at this protest too, but I didn’t want to invite trouble by photographing them) but you’re well within your rights to do that as well. There are of course exceptions to these rules as the link describes but for the most part as long as you’re sensible about what kinds of pictures you’re taking you won’t be any legal trouble.
Still it’s always something that niggles at the back of my head and I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve shied away from any kind of photography in a public place.I know I’m in the right legally I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll get accosted by people when taking photos near them, even if I’m not pointing the camera directly at them. I did get a couple looks (the Canon 60D with a 24-105mm F/4L lens and a 480 EX II SpeedLite can be a rather imposing beast to look at) but no one really seemed to care that much that I was taking pictures so that feeling is probably just more of my introverted side coming out more than anything else. Maybe my next challenge should be street photography to work that part out.
I don’t have anything to show you just yet as I don’t like to shoot in JPG + RAW because it seems redundant and the codec pack I’ve got for viewing RAWs doesn’t work on the x64 version of Windows 7. I’ve bought myself a copy of Lightroom though so once I get that installed and get comfortable with the interface you’ll then be relentlessly spammed with all the photographs from the weekend and I might update this post with a few choice shots from my little jaunt. Whilst it might not have been the most pleasurable experience (it was rather cold) it was definitely a learning one and it’s something that I’ll be looking to repeat in the not too distant future.
You know why I typically avoid posting about the political issue du jour? Mostly because it angries up my blood but also because it seems that the Australian public’s opinion on most matters is so woefully uninformed that I feel like an angry rant about it on my blog really won’t do anything to help the cause. Of course some issues get enough attention that I feel warranted in straying from my usual cool educative demeanor and instead zip up my flame suit and get ready to unload some napalm on my unsuspecting readers. I know that I’m preaching to the choir for the most part but there are some things that I feel just need to be said.
So as any Australian can tell you the hot button issue right now is the current debate raging over asylum seeker reform triggered by the deaths of 100 people aboard a boat off the coast of Christmas Island. “The Boats”, as the Australian media loves to refer them as, are always something of a topic of contention in Australia with one side furious about the way these people are arriving and the other side equally as angry about the way we treat said arrivals. Whilst I hesitate from making general accusations about how Australians tend to be xenophobic (I certainly have tons of anecdotal evidence to support that, but I digress) it does seem the idea of people coming to Australia via boat is found offensive by no small part of the Australian public and therein is where all the drama originates.
Now before I get into the slightly less ranty section of this post let me give you my opinion as it stood prior to me doing the research for this. I personally don’t have any good answers for what a perfect solution would be as an open door policy isn’t a great idea but neither is the strict mandatory detention and offshore processing arrangement we have right now. I feel that this should be a minor issue, something that’s completely under the purview of the government and should not be receiving so much attention. Whilst I don’t know the exact percentage of refugees and migrants coming to Australia via boats I know it vastly dwarfs that of other migrants who come here on real visas and that’s the reason why I can never understand why people go so ballistic when we find another boat coming to Australia.
I think people would do well to read the Lowy Institute’s report on Responding to Boat Arrivals as there’s a lot of information in there that will make people think twice about their stance on the boats. It’s quite lengthy though so I’ll summarize the more important points.
Firstly the acceptance rate for people arriving by boats when compared to that arriving through official channels is much, much higher. What this means is that the vast majority of people arriving by boat are in fact refugees seeking asylum and the others, the ones who most Australian’s coming in “legitimately”, are more than likely not refugees. This supports my view that we’re far too focused on the wrong kind of immigration, if we should be focused on it at all (hint: we shouldn’t be, at least not in a negative sense).
Probably the major point though is that of the two types of factors that see asylum seekers come to our shores, pull (ones that draw them here) and push (ones that force them out of their country of residence), the push factors are far more influential in someone making the decision to come here. This also explains why Australia saw an increase in refugees when the rest of the world didn’t as the vast majority of our refugees come from 2 countries and the push factors in those areas escalated substantially at the same time (the ongoing war and dire human rights situation in Afghanistan are primarily responsible for this.).
In fact the most profound part of the Lowy Institute’s report are the reasons why Australia is attractive to asylum seekers. It’s not because of our “soft” asylum policies or anything like that, no it’s more to do with the fact that we’re a prosperous, democratic and fair place to live. Indeed should we want to make Australia unattractive to refugees the real way of doing it would be to abandon those qualities rather than “getting tougher on boat people”. Of course no one in Australia would support that idea which demonstrates why there really doesn’t need to be this much hype about asylum seekers in the first place.
I know that this isn’t likely to change anyone’s mind nor make the impact I would hope it to but I really couldn’t let my views go without a voice any longer. If you’ve been reading this and nodding along I’d urge you to educate people on the realities of the situation so that hopefully they won’t react in an irrational way because they don’t know the full story on asylum seekers arriving by boats. I don’t pretend to have an ultimate solution for all this but I’ll be damned if a better one couldn’t be found if this issue wasn’t used as a political punching bag for both sides to score points for the up coming election.