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Not only has Di changed my perception of the city I have called home for the past six years, she has also taken me beyond my own limits as a photographer. She has inspired me to stop living my entire life on the default settings I have grown so comfortable with. By pushing a camera to its limits and learning how to manipulate the manual settings, I, for the first time in my life, realized how much potential I was wasting by always deferring to my default auto setting.

Leah Armstrong, from Help! I live with my Italian mother-in-law, and her article about the workshop over at Holiday Mag.

Come join me on a journey of discovery in an exquisitely ancient Italian city.


'Visit' Genova via Stefano's RIGHICAM.

Next workshop

the quick brown fox

Come travel with me to...

Rome from xx to xx December 2099


Rob, the Scottish Guy Living in Ireland

A long long time ago, I met a lovely bloke online ... in a chatroom called Travel and we became friends.

He was one of many really good friends I made there.  There was Mary Lou and Marco, Diede and Eltje, Maddalena and so many others.  We're all still friends today but it was Rob, the Scottish guy who used to live in Australia that I wanted to write about here.

He and his wife moved back to this side of the world a few years ago, to Ireland of course, that lovely Scottish couple.  And we were once again on the same side of the world.

We wandered over to stay with them there in Oughterard back in 2011, it my first time driving in years.  Oh how I loved that!

And days unfolded with visits to stations of the cross up in the hills, tree-creatures, and we met highway robbers there too.

It was lovely. 

Today I remembered it all when I found the red rowboat photograph from Oughterard.


Colin Monteath, and the Poppies

Over years I have filled my journals with notes, quotes, and photographs too.  Some of those journals traveled from New Zealand with me, and many many new ones have been filled since I flew.

I love quotes and extracts.  They seem like small pieces of intense wisdom or pure beauty but I keep them all locked up in my journals.  So ... I've decided to go through my extensive, sometimes unexplored, photographic archives and merged some of these collected wisdoms, from others, with my images.

I met with Colin Monteath, author of today's quote, a couple of times during those years before leaving New Zealand.  And even then, I still didn't know quite how to describe him here.  Photographer, mountaineer, adventurer, Antartic expert, writer ... and probably so much more that I don't know about.

Anyway I found one of his books here in Antwerp, wrote to him full of laughter because it cost a lot more than he was selling them new but still, I was working at the time.  How could I resist.

I've never regretted buying that book.  I found the quote, the one on the photograph below, and feel it gives a good sense of the man himself.

As for the poppies.  That was me, crawling around on the edge of the church garden in Mesen, out on Flanders Fields, here in Belgium.  I had some time and really wanted a good poppy shot.


Katherine Mansfield, on Risk


You have Been Invited to Italy!

I recently had the pleasure of spending a weekend in the company of Renovating Italy's creator, Lisa Chiodo and she wrote, I am sure Di Mackey and I were sisters in another life, we just clicked, it felt like I’d known her forever. She gave me the gift of deep belly laughs, understanding, and freedom to be myself, each one I will treasure forever.

I would have written these words about her had she not beaten me to it in her generous post about attending the A New Way Of Seeing workshop.  It's been rare that anyone could make me laugh so hard that I almost collapsed in the street.  She has a gift for laughter that works with her beautiful attitude to life, and there's a deep wisdom too.

Meeting her, after having only read of her life via her beautiful website, Renovating Italy, was more than I could have imagined in so many ways.  She is the loveliest person and I'm sure, based on her website, that her family are just as she paints them.

Lisa and her family have put an invitation out into the world and I can't recommend it highly enough.  They are opening their Italian home to all of us and they have bookings available for 2015

Who knows, maybe I'll see you there.


Lately ...

Lately, so much has happened that I seem to have lost my ability to process it all ... and to write the stories.  I so very much want to write the stories.  From Genova, Lake Como, and Norway.

Italy was intense, followed by a stint at home where I played 'catch-up' ... which was intense.  Before flying out to Norway, to give a photography workshop that was all about more intensity and more beauty.  Day after day after day when the electricity of a life lived intensely hummed inside of me.

Home again to an impressive 'to-do' list that has me dreaming of two weeks of doing absolutely nothing.  But I think the problem is mine, no one else's.  I suspect, even if I were set down on a deserted island, a castaway or two would wash up and we'd talk for days and nights until rescued. 

I'm like that.  Intensely curious, intensely interested, in almost everything.  I'm beginning to understand this thing about me.  I don't rest but it's my fault.

Kim and AP came over from England last week and that was so good.  Then I caught up with Marcia, my lovely Irish colour therapist friend, from Brussels.  We had another kind of day filled with a different intensity ...  one that involved everything from walking and singing to her 8 week old baby, to talking of e-courses and all kinds of other things too.

In-between times I photographed two lovely Belgian families, laughing but intense as we worked with the bright light and 5 beautiful children under 8 years of age.  I rode home on the tram, jeans splattered with mud, exhausted but happy.

Then today ... an unplanned visit to the city, because I was almost out of coffee beans, netted an unexpected bonus.  5 fabulous books! 

A  Mountain in Tibet by Colin Thubron.

Tim Parks, Dreams of Rivers and Seas.  A novel.  I already loved his book, A Season With Verona.

Then, Jon Snow, one of my favourite journalists wrote a book i didn't know about.  Lately I've been finding so many good books by and about war journalists and photographers.   His book, Shooting History, was published in 2004.  Jon had already spent 25 years reporting and is  'one of the most highly regarded newsmen of our time, renowned for his independence of mind and his unerring ability to get to the heart of the matter.'

I particularly love this, 'he presents his uncensored views on the new world order: how the West's constant search for an enemy has helped unhinge the world, and why the media have been less than helpful in drawing attention to key political and global developments'.

And then there was a book I had forgotten I was waiting for.  Daniel Pearl's wife wrote about her husband's life and death in A Mighty Heart.   ' A journalist in her own right, Mariane is, as was her husband, profoundly committed to the idea that a more informed public makes for a better world, and to the idea that risks have to be taken to uncover a story.'

And the final book, before I stepped away from that dangerous 50% off shelf is one by New Zealander, William Brandt.   Titled The Book of the Film of the Story of my Life, I couldn't resist.

It's been a good day here in the flatlands of Belgium.  I'm also working on the very first A New Way of Seeing Newsletter.  And processing the family photography session, and trying to decide which book I should begin reading while knowing that, at this very moment in time, I should step away from the computer and go organise dinner.


Whole Worlds Watching ... written by Moana Maniapoto & Paddy Free

"In the landscape of New Zealand music, one genre stands out: music by Maori artists, which is a solid cornerstone, and within itself powerfully diverse. One of the most distinctive, articulate and significant Maori voices is Moana Maniapoto who - first with Moana and the Moahunters and latterly as Moana & the Tribe - has taken her often politically conscious music to festivals across the world." (Graham Reid)

She has consistently pushed the boundaries of Maori music in both her recordings and live performances, fusing taonga puoro, haka, chants with soul, reggae and classical "to produce her own blend of traditional and contemporary styles without compromising either." (NZ Herald, 2003).

A tribute to people power written by Moana Maniapoto & Paddy Free. 

You can read more over on the website


The Path ...

28 years ago, today, I was lying in a hospital bed back in Dunedin, New Zealand.  I had just become mum to Jessica, had fallen in love with her ... at first sight, after a long and arduous labour where love at first sight wasn't going to be a given.  That would be an Arduous and difficult labour.  I always say that she was born at the end of that period where New Zealand women were treated like livestock while giving birth. 

Birthing looks like luxury today but I laugh as I write that.  I'm not testing this opinion, thank you.  To fill out the story a little, one of my doctor's had the same last name as a commonly used recreational drug and honestly, he was in a hurry because he was off to a party.  The other ... well, he recognised me from high school.  Oh yes ... nothing quite like that moment when he says, 'Hey!'  He was the student doctor.

But after a week in labour nothing too much phased me ... I was exhausted.  The birth didn't go well.  I didn't go back.

But fast-forward 28 years and I couldn't have imagined the life I lead now.  Nothing about this was predictable but then again, I have never really applied myself to predictable.  'Routine' causes problems as well.  I seem to be a creature of chaos and adventure ... although without being unreliable.

So that was me this morning, cycling back from Dieter's, carrying one of his beautiful flower bouquets for that daughter of mine.  And there was her daughter, squeezing oranges and setting a tray for the poached eggs on toast.  A breakfast she had planned quite some weeks ago.  She was more excited than anyone else about this 28th birthday.  It was purely delightful watching as her plans for 'mum's birthday' unfolded.

She even had a countdown on her new phone.  When Miss 9 became 10, her Belgian great-grandparents, and their very good friends, Rosa and Jan, gifted her money.  She has wanted a phone for quite some time now and none of us here thought it a plan however ... who can resist, a very sensible girl, deciding she would buy one, just for smsing and music.

And for birthday countdowns too.

So it has been a sweet day here in the quirky old Belgian house ... preceded by another sweet day spent with good friends who came over from England.  But more on that another time.

Today it's all about that beautiful daughter of mine.  Happy birthday, Jessica.  Wishing you the most successful year yet, beginning today.

Love, Mum  xx


On Expecting Better of Myself ...

One of the things I'm struggling to come to terms with at the moment is that if I can't 'lose' myself in my photography, my photography suffers.

I already knew I couldn't interview someone and capture their portrait at the same time.  I knew couldn't tell the story in both ways, simultaneously, but oh how I've fought 'knowing' this.

The Belgian bloke asked me last night, 'Does a painter teach painting and paint at the same time?'

Well of course not but ...

I always expect better of myself.  But always.

I read something yesterday where a woman is complaining about her boss: she doesn't give me enough praise, barely lets me take a day off,  will not give me a pay raise. She goes on and on about how we must invest profits back in the company.

Then she talked of her employee: often doesn’t show up to work, comes and goes and she pleases, treats her job as a hobby.

Artist & CEO of Ann Rea, Inc.  Founder of Artists Who Thrive.

Of course, the woman was self-employed and talking of herself.  It's an interesting article and well worth a read if you're trying to create your own business.

And it's true.  I rarely take time off and yet I fit a million other things in around the work that must be done. 

Justine Musk wrote something I love on this particular subject: 

I have come to believe that perfectionism is a kind of evil, that it’s poisoning my gender and holding us back, as individuals and as a group. I wish more women knew in their core that they have a right to be who they are without trying to please or worrying about what other people think.

Perfectionism is the endless chasing of external validation, and it steers you away from your inner guidance system, your soul-voice. It makes you think that the small things are just as important as the big things, or that everything is a big thing, and this just isn’t true.

You can choose your priorities according to what truly gives you meaning, and you can let the other things slide. You don’t have to do everything.

Men know this. Men go for the touchdown. Women head in that direction, but then start obsessing over the state of the grass – and blaming themselves for every little weed, every little bald patch.

I wish more women knew to trust themselves more – to be themselves on purpose – to allow themselves to express their own power, creativity and greatness instead of trying to keep everything so controlled. Life will not be controlled.

Justine Musk, from The Self-Love Series.

And so you see how it is today.  I'm pulling out everything I know on the subject while trying to put together a life where I concentrate on the things that are important.  I understand that it's quite possibly okay that I'm willing to work all the time but some praise to myself wouldn't go astray.  Prioritising 'distractions' might be a plan too.

Let's see how it unfolds.


One Of Those Days ...

On how one orients himself to the moment, depends the failure or fruitfulness of it.

Henry Miller, reflecting on the art of living, extract from a superb article at Dangerous Minds.

Today is the day where I step back into the 'fray'.  While I get to travel and have some truly marvelous adventures, there's a price to it all.  I live in a house full of people and I'm what might be called the chief cook and bottlewasher.  Mediator, babysitter, housewife, wife, mother, cleaner ... all those roles that so many women fulfil on top of everything else that they do.  So it's nothing extraordinary and yet it is challenging sometimes.

And it's not so much that our partners force us into that space... For me it's simply the fact that I was shaped by those expectations of womanhood from the time I was small and so yes, I clean the house as thoroughly as I can before I go traveling.  I clean it up when I return.  I speak for those who don't speak here and generally organise life when I'm in town.

I was the eldest child and somehow I carry that with me too, that feeling of being responsible.

And so I have returned to process a portrait shoot I did for friends before leaving, an interior shoot too, and I'll be photographing another family during the week.  There is ongoing work with A New Way of Seeing, the advertising and still the web content needs enlarged.  My book-writing course (which has fallen down into a hole that looks more like a crevasse than a crack but I have until December to finish up on that), my book about Genova, and so much more.

I dream about being one of those people who simply lines up one thing at a time, or of being at ease with the beautiful chaos of my life.  I dream of having a personal assistant, someone who does all the work I can hand over, that doesn't need me, leaving me free for the intense stuff only.  I dream of having a cleaner ... oh how I dream of that in this quirky old Belgian house.

So I write, with so much joy, of my adventures woven into a work day but there's the other stuff too.  It's life.  It's normal but I decided to write of the other side of my life ... the things I don't write on because they're less about joy and more about that grittiness that is everyday and real too.

Now ... to make a list and get things lined up and in some kind of order.  That list will be long.


Denise Leith, 'What Remains' ...

I flew today, waking at 4am for a 6am flight from Stavanger to Copenhagen, Denmark.  And I have to confess, I love this feeling of the world making itself real as I travel.  Norway and Denmark were places that confused me back in New Zealand during those long-ago geography classes but today I learned where they were, having bravely taken a window seat, no longer fearing there may be dragons at the edge of my known world.

Copenhagen ... on an island so flat, or so it seemed from the air, that it looked like one big wave might roll over the city and cover it. 

But as I flew, I was reading.  Devouring one of the best fictions I've read.  'Best' because it was well-written ... best because it was written by a war journalist too, and their stories are the non-fiction genre I read most.

Denise Leith has a Ph.D. in International Relations, which she teaches part time at Macquarie University in Sydney. Her special interests are the politics of war, human rights and humanitarian action, peace keeping and peace enforcing, Middle East Politics, the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations and US foreign policy.

Denise has two published non fiction books, The Politics of Power: Freeport in Suharto's Indonesia (University of Hawaii Press 2002) and Bearing Witness: The Lives of War Correspondents and Photojournalists (Random House 2004) and the novel What Remains (Allen & Unwin 2012). She is also a contributor to the anthology Fear Factor: Terror Incognito (Pan Macmillan and Picador 2010) and 'A Country Too Far (Penguin 2013).

I was reading her book, What Remains, and I read as the plane climbed up out of Stavanger.  I read, glancing just briefly out as we passed over fiords in Norway.  I read as the pilot flew low over the North Sea, landing at the airport in Copenhagen.  And I read as I snacked there, breakfast, and continued to read after boarding that second plane returning me home.

And while I was curious about the view from those plane windows the book held me fast.  I dove into the story of Kate Price and war zones, of Pete McDermott, and a big love. 

I read the closing chapters on the 45-minute bus ride from Brussels Airport to Antwerp, wiping away the threat of tears while reading it right through to the end.  Then, still not quite home, I spun back to the start, just to be sure of what I had read there ...

I fell into bed here in Belgium, slept for 2 hours and was woken so that I would sleep tonight, only to realise I was missing the story that had carried me across a small part of Europe.

Denise Leith also knew the journalist, Marie Colvin, who was killed while reporting in Syria.  She has included an interview she made with Marie.  It appears in her book Bearing Witness but that particular interview is there on her website.

If things are never spoken of, if people accept all without informing themselves, then incredibly horrific things can happen.  I so very much admire those who go out and bear witness for as long as they can.  The price is huge.  I'm recommending Denise's book ... so very highly.

Meanwhile, I'm still playing with my new photo-editing tool.  I was out on the Stavanger fiord yesterday and took the shot below.  It was stunning out there.  Just stunning.