The quiet life.
In what for me was a big year for death, I said goodbye to my little dog Trixie, she was 15 years old. Trixe, a Bichon Frise cross Maltese, had been my daughters dog and a beloved family pet. When my daughter moved away to attend university I inherited the little cutie who came to live with me on Karta (Kangaroo Island). A dozy city dog for most of her life, Trixe, in her elderly years, found an new lease on life living in the country. With no fences, and a beach in our back garden, she relished the freedom and independence, along with the challenges of living with our enthusiastic young Kelpie, Joy. It surprised me how emotional I got losing Trixe, I had some great cries, she was a funny little character, a dear friend and I miss her.
I joined my family in Sydney for two important events relating to my father Garth Nettheim, who had passed away earlier in the year. Garth had been a professor and twice dean at the University of New South Wales Law faculty as well as one of the founding academics. After nearly 40 years of dedicated work, he “retired” but continued his work there as an Emeritus professor for a few more years, teaching a couple of classes a week. Up to the point where he was no longer able to get to the university independently, Garth was still welcome to go in and check for mail and connect with his former colleagues, which he did a couple of times a week. It seemed fitting to have some sort of memorial at the place where he had spent so much of his life, and the UNSW allocated a beautiful place beside the new modern law school beneath a beautiful established fig tree for this. We scattered some of his ashes around the tree ahead of a moving plaque unveiling ceremony attended by many old friends, family and colleagues, a groovy jazz band playing in the background. As well as an opportunity to remember and pay respects to Garth, it was also another opportunity for many, many people to remind me of how much I looked like my lovely dad.
The following day our immediate family got together for the final farewell, the scattering of Garth’s ashes in the waters off Balmoral Beach in Sydney. Garth had grown up near Balmoral and also raised us kids there. He loved a swim and we all had fond memories of hot Sydney summers spent on these beaches. My wonderful Balanise brother in Law, Inyoman Mudana Putrayasa, took what could have been a simple scattering of ashes and brought some wonderful Balanese traditions to the sending off making it a very emotional, spiritual and highly memorable event.
As part of the Adelaide Film Festival, the exhibition Starstruck, curated by The National Portrait Gallery, opened in Adelaide. The exhibition was at the start of its Australian tour after a long season in Canberra. Showcasing portrait photography in Australian film, my work was very well represented in the show, with 12 images and the program cover, so I was invited along to give a Q & A tour of the show. It was my first time to see the fascinating exhibition, and I did my best with what for me was a rare public speaking engagement.
I am not doing a great deal of film stills work at the moment as I focus on other areas of interest. However Upright, a Foxtel series starring Tim Minchin came to Adelaide and ticked many of my boxes. Shooting locally, mainly outdoors with a lovely script, and an upright piano in a central role, the project also co-starred a wonderful young actress Milly Alcock, who happened to be the daughter of my childhood neighbour, and possibly my first official girlfriend, Emma Stevens. It was a fun project to work on, with lots of live music, and it was inspiring to work with Tim, and witness his sensational piano playing up close.
My neighbour and dear friend Angie Watkins died after a long cancer journey. We met Angie on our shared backyard beach soon after we moved to Baudin Beach, and I distinctly remember a laughing, colourfully dress woman with two Labradors seemingly dancing along the shore. We connected and became great friends at an interesting time in her life when she had given up on traditional medicine and had started Gerson Therapy, a intense and highly regimented program of juices and supplements with a very restricted diet. It was a pleasure to be part of her support team, making lunches and walking the dogs, she was always full of life and fun to be around. Over what would be her final few months we undertook a basket weaving project together. Weekly we would get together and she would tell me stories from the different stages of her life as I weaved away. The finished 5 and a half foot basket, whose irregular forms and various imperfections, did seem to capture something about Angie’s character and life story, was my third weaving project around the theme of life and death. Angie’s cancer journey marked an amazing spiritual awakening for both her and her partner Greg, and her bravery in accepting her upcoming death and taking charge was inspiring. She was a beautiful spirit and she is missed by many.
As my elders start to pass away, as the photographer in the family, I have been taking on the job of dealing with their photo archives. Getting into someones lifetime of photography is a daunting task, even if they are family, but I feel it is important that these records get looked at and preserved where necessary. I returned from a trip to Sydney with 3 suitcases of my fathers images; slides, prints and negatives from his 85 years of living. It was a surprise to discover that over half the archive was actually Dad’s brother David Nettheim, who had died a decade earlier. Amongst my fathers archive there were many classic images of us kids growing up that we had never seen before, and many more that gave insight into his life and loves before we were around. It was an exhausting task to view all of these images and scan many, but the images have given my family a lot of pleasure and rekindled some fun memories.
My Uncle David had been a highly acclaimed actor in his day and had had a huge career in London in the 50’s and 60’s. David seemed to have travelled everywhere in the world and lived a large and flamboyant life. It was amazing to intimately discover his life through his enormous photo records. By the time I was around David had discarded his stills camera for a video camera, that seemed glued to his eye at every family event, but apparently before this he was always taking photos. He had a great photographers eye and good camera technique and having sifted through tens of thousands of his images I have decided to put a book together of some of the classics. Its been a fascinating project.
In summer my quiet island home, with a permanent population of 4200 people, becomes a tourist mecca with over 140,000 visitors passing through. For many locals it is an opportunity to work and make some money before things return to normal, the way we like it. Over recent years an increasing number cruise ships have made Kangaroo Island a port of call, with around 30 ships coming by this season. Whilst the wealthier patrons jump on overpriced tours and see the famous sites, the majority get dropped on shore at Penneshaw, a tiny town with a pub and a handful of restaurants. Seeing hundreds of visitors wandering around with not much to do, a decision was made to have a cruise ship market. With a local musician, food and local souvenir stalls , its definitely better than nothing. I set my Basketboy stall up at several of these markets, live weaving baby rattles using local rushes, and actually did pretty well sometimes selling up to 9 rattles!
It has been two years since I went to Tasmania to work on the feature film The Nightingale with director Jennifer Kent. It was an amazing project to be a part of and the film is doing very well on the festival circuit ahead of its upcoming cinematic release, including Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. The producers have done an amazing job in keeping any film stills from leaking on to the web up till this point, but I am excited to start seeing a some of my images starting to appear.
Teaching yoga is currently my main occupation and the work that I am enjoying the most. Every Friday I teach a men’s yoga class, a kids yoga class and a whole family come along for my final class of the day. Its been great, but finding myself with just a bit to much free time, and not many opportunities to practice Karma Yoga,, I made the decision to do some volunteer work at the islands only assisted living and aged care facility in Kingscote. Now, each Thursday I teach a chair yoga class to a lovely bunch of octogenarians before going to a near by higher care unit to play piano and lead a music and percussion session. I have always loved working with our elders and I leave these sessions feeling great, and I think my students are enjoying it as well.