IN FO­CUS

Country Style - - A DAY IN THE COUNTRY - ANNABELLE HICK­SON ON WHY HER CAM­ERA IS THE UL­TI­MATE SIDE­KICK. Annabelle lives with her fam­ily on a pecan farm in the Du­maresq Val­ley, NSW. Fol­low @annabelle­hick­son on Instagram.

I once had a cello called Wanda. I was very fond of her. She in­tro­duced me to all sorts of peo­ple, in par­tic­u­lar boys from the nearby high school with whom my all-girls school had formed a co-ed orches­tra. I would haul her up the hill from the train sta­tion to the weekly prac­tice ses­sions, thank­ful for the lit­tle skate­board wheels mum had welded to her hard case. Be­cause of Wanda, I be­came friends with a younger boy, whom I sat next to in the cello line-up. I also be­came chummy with some tal­ented girls in my year whom I didn’t have much to do with at school be­cause they were busy rep­re­sent­ing the state in maths com­pe­ti­tions and the like. Our orches­tra even went on an over­seas tour, all 100 of us: teenage girls and boys and ar­guably not enough adults, play­ing John Wil­liams’s Star Wars theme and Ravel’s won­der­ful, crescendo-ing Bolero in cathe­drals and halls across Europe and the US. I have Wanda to thank for some of my most trea­sured high school ex­pe­ri­ences. Now Wanda has re­tired to her hand­some black hard case. Wanda, I will for­ever love you, but I have a new, smaller friend tak­ing me places th­ese days: my yet-to-be-named cam­era. She and I have be­come very close. My grow­ing col­lec­tion of lenses are the difff­fer­ent out­fi­fits she wears for difff­fer­ent oc­ca­sions. The 24–70mm all-rounder lens is like the jeans and T-shirt with a ca­sual blazer combo; the sort of out­fi­fit that can take you al­most any­where. The 50mm 1.4 is her lit­tle black dress. And to­gether we go out and ex­plore the world. “The cam­era is like a friend and you can go places and feel like you’re with some­one,” said An­nie Lei­bovitz in an in­ter­view in 1998. “It’s a li­cence and it makes you feel you have a right to walk around.” An­nie, I to­tally know what you mean. My cam­era is a ticket into worlds I have not been to. She is my per­mis­sion slip to ap­proach the un­ap­proach­able and even a com­fort­ing shield in what might usu­ally be un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tions for me, such as chat­ting with strangers at a party. She en­ables me to mo­men­tar­ily for­get about my­self, when my world be­comes only what I am see­ing through that lens and that non-stop com­men­tary in my head is quiet. All this and she doesn’t even have a name! I’ve al­ways liked watch­ing the world from the side­lines. Glean­ing snip­pets from the per­for­mances of oth­ers and squir­relling them home, where I can write about them, or edit the photos of them. In this sense, some fun­da­men­tal part of pho­tog­ra­phy is self­i­fish. I guess all watch­ers are a bit self­i­fish. We are steal­ing what is not ours and then mak­ing it our own. To bor­row He­len Gar­ner’s words from The Chil­dren’s Bach (which she didn’t write about pho­tog­ra­phy but are, in my opinion, per­fectly rel­e­vant), we watch­ers en­joy “the small prickle of power that comes to the one who rides in the back seat”. But, even with its ques­tion­able mo­tives, I’ve found that pho­tog­ra­phy can bring about mo­ments of great con­nec­tion. There aren’t many pho­tog­ra­phers where I live, so when some­one needs an im­age, they are start­ing to call me. I took the head­shots for the lo­cal ac­coun­tancy fi­firm’s web­site, set­ting up a makeshift stu­dio at home, where I had the chance to meet each of the team, one by one. It was a sur­pris­ingly in­ti­mate ex­change where I felt the vul­ner­a­bil­ity those of us who are not pro­fes­sional mod­els feel when in front of a cam­era. Re­cently I have also banded to­gether with a friend to take pic­tures of all the busi­nesses in town to pro­mote the area as a whole. Just as Wanda in­tro­duced me to all sorts of new peo­ple and ex­pe­ri­ences, so too does my cam­era. She is a charm­ing fi­fixer, paving the way for me in a rel­a­tively new town and giv­ing me a rea­son to con­nect with my com­mu­nity. She is my new Wanda, al­beit slightly more in­quis­i­tive. Any ideas for a name?

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