Category Archives: family

The making of a book cover

My clever step-daughter, Dr. Alix, has turned her doctoral thesis into a book, and it has been printed by Brill, a well-known publisher of scholarly books.

Her book, Problematic Identities in Women’s Fiction of the Sri Lankan Diaspora:
“…offers an insightful reading of nine novels by women writers of the Sri Lankan diaspora: Michelle de Kretser’s The Hamilton Case (2003); Yasmine Gooneratne’s A Change of Skies (1991), The Pleasures of Conquest (1996), and The Sweet and Simple Kind (2006); Chandani Lokugé’s If the Moon Smiled (2000) and Turtle Nest (2003); Karen Roberts’s July (2001); Roma Tearne’s Mosquito (2007); and V.V. Ganeshananthan’s Love Marriage (2008). These texts are set in Sri Lanka but also in contemporary Australia, England, Italy, Canada, and America. They depict British colonialism, the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict, neo-colonial touristic predation, and the double-consciousness of diaspora. Watkins examines the problematic identities in this fiction, revealing them as notably gendered and expressed through resonant images of mourning, melancholia, and other forms of psychic disturbance.”

I was very pleased and honoured to be asked to provide a cover shot for the book. Alix wanted the cover to suggest the themes of Sri-Lankan women and colonialism, which is how we wound up on a very windy St Kilda pier early on a Sunday morning. The pavilion at the end of the pier had the look of a colonial-style building and made a good background; early morning put the sun in the right place for me.

After dealing with wind, flowing hair, people wandering about on the pier, people fishing in inconvenient spots and the odd stray dog, we made a book cover. And as a bonus, I got to photograph the elegant and charming Chatu Gunaratne.

The cover image for my step-daughter's book.

The cover image for my step-daughter’s book.


Also posted in art, explanation, How I shot...

Family Fotos #4

This post is about another image from my grandfather’s collection of negatives. See Family Fotos #3 and Family Fotos #2.

This post also ties in with the approach of Remembrance Day, 11th November. It was an important day for my grandfather. To him it meant he could return home to his young wife, and a son he had never seen.

My memory tells me he wasn’t that fond of Anzac Day. It was a day for him and his mates to get together, remember their friends who never came home, and have a serious drink (about the only time he ever did). Outsiders, ones who hadn’t been through it, weren’t welcome.

I am sure he would hate the current generation’s obsession with deifying Anzac Day into a near-religious holiday.

My project of scanning all of his negatives has stalled recently. Life has been rather busy since we moved, with work, a wedding and some annoying but not serious illness. So, here is one I prepared earlier.

The photo shows my grandfather, Charles Cone, and one of his mates from 2nd Field Company at Mena Camp in Egypt, some time in early 1915. In the background are horses from his transport unit.

Front and centre is a kangaroo.

Also posted in collection, opinion

Family Fotos #3

Another scan from one of my grandfather’s negatives. Two Australian soldiers of 2nd Field Company in Egypt, 1915.

My grandfather, Gordon Cone, is on the right. My grandfather and his three mates from Traralgon (see Family Fotos #2), enlisted as drivers in 2nd Field Company AIF. This involved managing the horse teams used for carrying munitions and supplies.

Prior to signing up in 1914, my grandfather was a member of the Victorian Light Horse and was an experienced horseman. I have no proof, but family history has it that the men took their own horses with them when they travelled to Egypt. I have a photo of horses being loaded onto the troop ship by crane, but nothing to suggest that they took their own horses.

In this photo and several others, the horses are shown with a leather or cloth fringe protecting their eyes from flies and sand.

Family Fotos #2

In 1914 thousands of young Australians signed up to join the newly-formed Australian Imperial Force to fight for King and country. My grandfather, Charles Cone, was one of them.

Up until 1901 Australia was collection of British colonies. In 1901 the colonies became Australia. Although Australians fought in the Boer War, they went as Colonial Militia, not as Australians. World War One was the first conflict in which Australia participated as a nation.

My grandfather was 24 years old when he signed up on September 1st, 1914. He and three of his mates shipped out to Egypt where they went through training prior to the Gallipoli landings on April 25th, 1915.

Three soldiers from 2nd Field Company, AIF, Egypt, 1915

The photo shows three Australian soldiers from 2nd Field Company trying to re-create a popular cartoon of the time (it showed three soldiers trying to ride a camel).

My grandfather is at the left, the other two are Wally Milligan and Walter McCubbin, though I don’t know which one is which. Milligan and McCubbin were from Traralgon, a small town 160 kilometres east of Melbourne, Victoria. My grandfather was from Glengarry, an even smaller town near Traralgon. The fourth member of the gang was George Pentland, also from Traralgon.

This is a scan from one of approximately 150 negatives. The negatives are fading. They have been kept in a leather case in the dark for most of the past 90 years but are now showing the effects of time. I am trying to scan them all so that there is a digital record for the family.

Family Fotos #1

This post is the first of what I hope will be an ongoing and interesting series. It was prompted by a post over at Stuart Forsyth’s place. It featured an old family photograph of a woman on a rock.  It’s a lovely image from a time long passed.

In the post Stuart talks about having a collection of family photographs going back generations. Through my long-term interest in photography, I have gathered a large collection of family photos too, mostly from my mother’s side of the family.

I am not sure why there are so few from my father’s family. Maybe they have gone to someone else, maybe they just didn’t take a lot of photos. For some reason, a lot of people in my mother’s family had cameras and took a lot of photos of family gatherings and holidays.

I have a large box of old photo envelopes containing camera shop/pharmacy type prints. Some still have their negatives in the envelopes too.

Unfortunately, some are fading, worse still, over the years they have been looked at so many times that some of them have been mixed up and are no longer with the other images they were originally with. Worst of all, there are no notes on the prints, so I don’t know where they were all taken, or even who some of the people are. But they are a fascinating insight into the generations that came before me and my early childhood.

The first image I am posting in this series is one that is very important to me personally, it is the beginning of my story.

This is my mum and dad on the day they became engaged in 1949.