The Stories They Tell: Oral Histories + Anatomia Universa + Sheltered Passage + Ten Tips – Shutterbug
Tas Geo is now at issue 34, and we’re delighted to have more content queued up for your reading pleasure. The web site is continuing to evolve: a new advertisement format and subscription form are now active on the site. Do click on the links to our gracious supporters, and let them know that you saw them on TG.
This issue marks one of our first forays into audio as a documentary tool, with an introduction to Oral History and some tips to get you started with interviewing the people around you. Since reading this article by Ben Ross, I’ve had the good fortune of meeting my 91 year old neighbour, originally from Poland, and hearing her stories of Stalin’s prison camps and solo travels across Central Asia as a teenage girl. Go find that audio recording app from your smartphone, and talk to your elders before its too late!
Back into the realm of colours and pixels, we continue the Ten Tips -Ten Pics series of photography tutorials with Roy from Shutterbug Walkabouts, and we get right into some technical pointers that you can use when processing image from your own adventures.
A new documentary project from the southeast is up and running: Sheltered Passage. They’ve shared the first of their films with us, and you’ll enjoy hearing about fishing in the Huon and Bruny waters many years back.
And we wrap up with the most intimate and nearby of all frontiers – our own bodies. Have a close look at the Italian anatomist Paolo Mascagni’s stunning drawings of the human body, published in the 1820s well before the invention of photography.
Remember those stories your grandmother or great grandfather used to tell you? Or the yarns the old bloke who worked at the factory used to spin? That’s oral history.Oral history records our stories, our knowledge, experiences, anecdotes, observations and achievements. Oral history collects the stories of ordinary people in their own words – the workers, the community, the clients, the onlookers — The people who were there when it happened.
Oral history brings out the richness, the humour, and the emotion of times past, and results in a wealth of recorded knowledge that otherwise may be forgotten. The spoken word gives different information in a different style to the historical accounts that are based on written documents and academic research.
When I was a kid, I spent every day after school with my great grandmother. She was an elegant, intelligent woman, a heavy smoker of Capstan cigarettes, an acclaimed pianist, and the Catholic matriarch of the family. She was known as having shunned non-Catholics marrying into the family, though somewhat inconsistently accepting those she liked – those with some ‘character’. She loved people with ‘a bit of fun in them’ and didn’t suffer fools gladly.
Mem Mem, as she was known, grew up on a remote farm at Porters Retreat, in the high country south east of Oberon, NSW. She was in her eighties and early nineties when I knew her. Her memories stretched back to the last decade of the 19th century.
We’d sit together in her lounge room, the afternoon sunlight beaming in through shafts of her cigarette smoke, and Mem Mem would tell me stories of her youth on the farm, of passing swagmen sleeping in the hay shed, stock horses, the twice annual trip on a horse drawn cart to Bathurst to pick up bags of sugar and tea, and other supplies. She would re-tell stories her parents told her of the earlier years – in the 1850s – when the first European settlers arrived in the area, after their crossing of the Great Dividing Range. Mem Mem’s family, the Mahoneys, were amongst them, with their large carts laden with their chattels from Ireland: furniture, linen, silverware and crockery, and even, their piano.
As happy and enthralled as I was in Mem Mem’s company, it never occurred to me how valuable these stories were. Inevitably over the years I’ve forgotten many of them. ‘If only you’d recorded her!’ my family used to say. The stories were an insight into the lives of these people, not only what they did, but also their values, their humour, music, loves, and fears.
`When I was twenty two, Mem Mem died. She’d been a window through which I could see into another time. Of the few stories of hers I remember, the nuances and the details have been lost. I resolved to interview and record my remaining elders, and went around to them all with my cassette recorder spending hours listening, asking questions, laughing and crying.
Years after my mother died I listened back to the interview I had done with her in the nineteen nineties. It was like she was suddenly back with me, and it rocked me. As sad as it was, it was also a joyful experience to hear her voice. There’s something about a recorded voice. It seems more potent, more full, and can carry more meaning, more intimacy than a video. Perhaps it’s the isolation of the aural sense: You’re just listening to a voice, and it’s like it’s a keyhole into a person’s soul
As well as capturing family histories, oral history has an important place in recording the histories of communities and organisations, of society, politics and religion: those that aren’t found official or academic history documents. In 2012, I attended the International Oral History Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina and heard of oral history’s role in documenting, interpreting and presenting the stories of political organisations, communities and the oppressed. I heard stories of the struggles of unionists against factory owners, civil rights campaigners against oppressive military regimes, and indigenous people against timber companies.
Oral storytelling also has a place in the healing, therapeutic journeys of those suffering the trauma of witnessing violence and murder, such as happened to the survivors of the 2006 shootings at Virginia Tech in the US:
“ These trauma oral histories help make meaning of what happened on that day and in the aftermath. By contributing their narratives to the collective memory, survivors become agents of history rather than victims of catastrophe”. – Tamara Kennelly, conference paper, International Oral History Association Conference, Buenos Aires, 2012.
At the conference, Stephen Sloan’s Colliding with History: Narratives from Holocaust Liberators presented gripping accounts of the experiences of American serviceman as they entered Holocaust camps in 1945. They were interviewed sixty five years later for the project, and the accounts, and the emotion still held by the interviewees were compelling.
I love hearing people’s stories – it’s a pleasure and privilege. Oral story telling is as old our species. In an age when communications technology regularly changes how we communicate, the passing of stories through the spoken word has endured.
If you’re interested to do oral history interviews, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Think about why you’re doing the interview. Who will be interested in it in the short term, and in the more distant future? What sort of things will they want to know? How can your interview best draw out that material form the interviewee?
2. Make sure you have reasonable quality recording equipment. A pair of microphones and table stands is a worthwhile investment. Get used to using the gear before you do your first interview. Think about audio file formats. How big will the files be? How/where will you store them?
3. Interviewing is a skill and it’s worth reading up on it before you start. Prepare for your interview with some set questions, but allow for the conversation going in unexpected directions. Make sure the interviewee is comfortable. Take breaks if necessary. Listening attentively and being genuinely interested in the conversation is very important.
4. Make sure the interviewee is informed about why your doing the interview, who will get to hear it, where it is stored etc. Depending on the situation you may want to have a release form prepared for the interviewee to sign.
5. Sometimes the interviewee may reveal personal information that they hadn’t anticipated would be part of the interview. Check in with them to make sure it’s OK to include that in the recording. It can be quite delicate work and as an interviewer there are responsibilities within an ethical framework.
6. For more information and resources, check out the Tasmania Oral History Association, or the equivalent association in your state/territory. The Oral History Company can assist you to prepare for oral history interviews.
Sheltered Passage is a series of high-quality, short documentary films that celebrate the people and landscapes shaped by the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in Tasmania’s far south. Each of these short films offers a privileged glimpse into the lives of just some of the individuals who contribute to the making of the unique and beautiful environment that is the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.
Drawing together traditional knowledge and current practice, the films point the way forward to future opportunities that will sustain this precious waterway and those who live with and care for it.
This video, focusing on fisherman Des Whayman, introduces and embodies the subtle eddies and currents that flow throughout this project.
We Need Your Help: Show your support by sponsoring a short film
Our partners are providing important support including access to their collections and distribution networks. Production of the six films will be funded entirely by community donations. With your support we can complete six short films to a high creative and technical standard.
Together, we can make beautiful and inspiring films that capture and promote the enduring values that enrich the lives of all who live on, from and along the Channel.
We would like you to be involved with our bespoke crowdfunding initiative, contributions of any size are vitally important as they help towards our goal and as an affirmation of community interest.
The following image tips show different simple post-processing image adjustments that can be done with Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop. For all these images, my camera is set to take images in a “Raw” format so that it had the best possibility to be adjusted more successfully with post-processing software on a computer. This doesn’t mean that .JPG images can’t be processed in a similar manner to shown in these tips; it just means that “Raw” images have more adjustability in this format.
Tip-1 – Adjusting image contrast
This image was taken from a light aircraft through its window of Southport Lagoon. The image on the left is the original Raw image and as it can be seen there was quite a bit of atmospheric haze giving this image quite a low contrast. What can be immediately noticed is that the image on the right has a lot more “punch” and most of this purely by simply adjusting the image contrast.
Tip-2 – Converting the image to black and white
This image was also taken from another light aircraft of the mountain ranges in south-western Tasmania. The image on the left is the original Raw image. The internal reflections from the curved Perspex window were unavoidable here. For me having the image converted to black and white produces a much more pleasing image.
Tip-3 – Cropping the image
This image was taken from a slow moving boat in the Takine area of Tasmania. The image on the left is the original Raw image. The sky here is significantly brighter than the forest and therefore is not very pleasing. The image on the right has a simple crop which produces a much more pleasing image allowing you to concentrate on the fog and beautiful clear reflection.
Tip-4 – Major white balance correction
This image was taken with a red light so as to not disturb the Little Penguins at Bruny Island. The image on the left is the Raw image which as you can see has a very pronounced red colour cast. The image on the right had its white balanced corrected to allow the image to look much more natural. Note this is a one-click correction with the post-process software.
Tip-5 – Straighten horizon and highlight recovery
This image was taken from a moving boat off the coast of Bruny Island. As can be seen by the Raw image on the left the camera was level in relation to the boat in moving seas but not level to the horizon. The image on the right has the horizon corrected and also recovered some detail found within the very bright highlights from the reflective surface of the water.
Tip-6 – Correct white balance
This image was taken south of Hounville of some Aurora Australis activity. The Raw image on the left shows my first attempt at Aurora photography and noted that the white balance was not to my liking. The image on the right shows my manually adjusted white balance which shows a better representation of the greens and purples seem from an Aurora.
Tip-7 – Black and white conversion
This image is of native Tasmanian Pepper Berries. The image on the left is the original Raw image. The image on the right I believe looks much more interesting as a black and white.
Tip-8 – Image crop
This image is of an Eastern Quoll. The image on the left was taken of this erratic and skittish creature with the most sensitive auto-focus point on my camera – the central point, hence the central framing of the subject. The image on the right looks much more balanced when it is cropped.
Tip-9 – Highlight and shadow detail recovery
This image was taken from a boat of the entrance to Macquarie Harbour. Because this image was taken towards the sun, the Raw image on the left doesn’t show much detail in the bright sky nor detail in the shadows of the small island. The image on the right has recovered some detail in the sky and from the island.
Tip-10 – Footprints removed
This image was taken at Freycinet Peninsula. Footprints in the sand spoilt the image on the left. The image on the right has had the footprints “cloned” out to remove evidence of their presence. Although this may look difficult it is quite simple to do with the above-mentioned software.
If you would like be taken to some wonderful places to photograph in Tasmania, shown how to get more out of your camera without any classroom sessions, or to learn the techniques on post-processing your own photos please contact Shutterbug Walkabouts. You don’t need a fancy DSLR camera to get more out of your photography – most compact cameras have good functionality and just requires some simple techniques to improve your photography.
Explore your own self: Paolo Mascagni’s fabulously detailed, hand-coloured engraving Viscera from his Anatomia Universa, a comprehensive work of anatomy with forty-four hand coloured plates. The book was published in Pisa between 1823 and 1831, after Mascagni’s death in 1815. Mascagni was the Prosector of Anatomy at the University of Siena, responsible for leading dissection for demonstration and research. He died in 1815 of Malaria which was common in Italy at the time.
L0019305 Anatomical Illustration Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images firstname.lastname@example.org http://wellcomeimages.org Illustration of human viscera. By Paulo Mascagni. ‘exploded thorax’ Paolo Mascagni was Prosector of Anatomy at the University of Siena, which meant he was responsible for leading dissection for demonstration and research.
His ‘Anatomia Universa’ was a comprehensive work of anatomy with forty-four hand coloured plates.
The main figure here is surrounded by smaller studies. At the top of the plate, the hearts have had the ‘epicardium’, the outer layer of heart tissue, removed to reveal the cardiac muscle. The heart at the bottom left is viewed from above to reveal the aortic valve. The smaller figures are foetal dissections revealing the umbilical artery and vein. Coloured engraving 1775 – 1813 By: Paolo MascagniAnatomia universa XLIV tabulis aeneis juxta archetypum hominis adulti … repraesentata / Paolo Mascagni Published: 1823[-1831]
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/