On Sunday I went to the triannual1 Sydney Camera Market, which was basically a room full of old cameras, lenses, filters, as well as some new stuff. As an amateur photographer trying my hand at film photography, I found it very interesting. I’d never seen a Hasselblad in the flesh, and there was a huge range of great film SLR cameras, TLRs, folding cameras and hundreds of lenses.

I managed to pick up for myself a new toy; an Agfa Isolette I folding camera, made in Germany between 1951 and 1954. So this even predates my Yashica-Mat twin-lens reflex camera from 1958 (of which I don’t seem to have a photo, off-hand [update: I now have a picture, below]).

Click images for larger versions.

Agfa Isolette I

My new Agfa Isolette I folding camera.

Coincidentally, when I bought the camera, I was wearing a t-shirt bought from an online store that had a sketch of a very similar camera on it. So similar in fact, the seller remarked on it and claimed that it too was an Agfa folding camera. It was only later that afternoon that I realised the camera on my shirt is indeed the very same model as I had just bought.

'I Can't Draw'

A T-shirt I bought 4 months ago.

There was also a wonderful restored Rolleiflex from 1935, just like the one in the image below, for $250.

1935 Rolleiflex

I had a look through the viewing lens and wanted to buy it immediately. But since I already have a 1958 Yashica-Mat, I can’t exactly justify buying another TLR before I’ve learned how to properly use it. I’ve only taken a single roll of film with the Yashica-Mat thus far, and as I didn’t have a light metre at the time it was more or less guesswork to get the right shot. You can see the images from the first roll here.

I now have a photo of the Yashica-Mat:


1958 Yashica-Mat


  1. Three times  year, I mean. []

I’m sneakily writing this during afternoon tea of the first day of Australex on the lectern’s computer, which has an unrestricted internet connection, because I just heard a great New Zealandism that I thought I’d share.

The talk was by Tony Deverson from the University of Canterbury, talking about creating a dictionary of New Zealandisms and one of those that yhe brought up was to turn to custard, which is basically equivalent to Australian English to go pear-shaped. That, however, is not the New Zealandism that I want to share. When he was trying to gauge from the audience the wider use of the term, specifically whether it was used in Australia, he refered to Australia as The West Island.

In other news, I present tomorrow, so I’ll post something afterwards about how it unfolds. This will be my first time presenting anything, ever! And now someone needs to set up for their presentation, so I’d better go!

Last night’s Foreign Correspndent featured a short report about the Amaraic language of the village of Malula, Syria.

The story goes that Aramaic was the language of Jesus and was spoken in a fairly large region of the Middle East, until the 7th and 8th centuries when Arabic spread with Islam. Aramaic speakers – both Christian and Muslim – were apparently persecuted by Arabic-speaking Muslims and anyone who dared speak Aramaic would have their tongue cut out.

As a result, Aramaic was soon restricted to Malula, and survives today with a community of about 5,000 people, split down the middle into Christian and Muslim, but who live in complete harmony with each other. Even the head of the local Coptic church reckons that the Muslims speak better, more traditional Aramaic than the Christians do.

Aramaic is of course the language made famous recently by Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, except that according to a Malula shepherd, a Muslim who has seen the film a dozen times, the Aramaic is ‘broken’ and they apparently speak too slow1.

The video of the report is up already, so if you have a spare ten minutes and are interested in this language, which sounds fantastic by the way, take a look.

  1. In keeping with the theme of accurate depictions of languages in films, I wonder if anyone knows whether the Mayan language in another of Gibson’s epics, that monstrosity Apocalypto, is at all accurate. I doubt it to be honest, as the film isn’t even consistent as to their location. At one point they’re in Guiana, at another they’re in Yucatec, and later on they’re in Brazil. []

…and I might just use them when teaching syntax in a few weeks’ time.

Via the Speculative Grammarian.

It’s a busy time for indigenous arts and culture, as long as you live in the South-East of the country, that is.

In Sydney, as part of the Sydney Festival, the Belvoir St Theatre in Surrey Hills is showing Ngapartji Ngapartji, a story about a Pitjantjatjara man’s life that doubles as a language and culture course. Indeed, the audience is invited to learn some Pitjantjatjara beforehand, to fully appreciate the performance.

More on the Ngapartji website, or also check out the Ninti Ngapartji online Pitjantjatjara language course.


If you’re in Canberra however, you would normally receive my condolences. But not today, since you can go down to the National Gallery of Australia to see the inaugural National Indigenous Art Triennial, titled Culture Warriors (which I wrote about back here). It’s a collection of indigenous art produced in the last three years from thirty artists, and comprises both traditional works and modern art from right across the country (only Tasmania is unrepresented, it seems).

One artist that features prominently in this exhibition is Lofty Bardayal Nadjamarrek,  a prolific artist from western Arnhem Land. The work below, Dulklorrkelorrkeng and Wakkewakken, which depicts two evil spirits associated with Bardayal’s dreaming, is featured on the NGA website with an audio recording of the story that inspires it.


Wakkewakken, the legless women, is associated with the ancestral honey in areas around where Nadjamerrek lives – his country Kabulwarnamyo. Dulklorrkelorrkeng has legs, arms, an ‘arse like a monkey’ and the pushed backed face of the ghost bat.

In conjunction with Culture Warriors, the NGA is holding an indigenous film festival, comprising some 20 short films produced in the last two-to-three years, all being shown for free. There’s also be a screening of Ten Canoes, one of my personal favourite films, at 6pm on the first of February, although this will cost you $20/$15, but if you haven’t seen it yet, this is a golden opportunity to see an amazingly shot film on the big screen.

Culture Warriors has been on already for three months, but will close on the tenth of February. I, for one, am going to take a weekend off sometime soon and drive down to Canberra, despite my instinctive aversion to the place, to see it.

The National Gallery of Australia are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year with an exhibition of aboriginal art, both traditional and modern, produced in the last three years. The collection is called Culture Warriors and, according to the NGA’s website, is ‘designed to break aboriginal art stereotypes’.

Here is one of the featured works, Treasure Island by Daniel Boyd, that hopefully, will break a few stereotypes of its own, those of indigenous homogeneity and monoculturalism.

I can’t remember just how many times I’ve been asked something like ‘so you speak aboriginal?’, but there have been many, by otherwise intelligent people. Curiously, they’re often the very same people who, as calmly as if they were describing the weather, speak of Kriol as ‘bastardised English’.

I guess I’m naively hoping that such people will look at a depiction such as the artwork above and realise that there was, and is, great cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity right around the country. Then again, they may see it as a bunch of coloured shapes on a map of the country.

In case you need to be told, these aren’t just a bunch of coloured shapes on a map of the country, they are the best guess at pre-colonial linguistic boundaries as surveyed and published by AIATSIS.