29 August 2016

Images that Changed Me

Photographs are fascinating concepts. These photo-chemical reactions have the ability to teleport a viewer back into a certain time, which they were apart of, or not. Similarly, a photograph has the potential to evoke emotion in the viewer based on the complex, or simple, subject matter of the image. Well-placed subject matter, whether intentionally done, or not, in a photograph can captivate one's eyes and leave behind an indent in one's soul, like these images have done for me.

I stumbled upon the first historical photograph like a boy running through the untinctured shrubbery of a park- by accident. What started as a late night Google Search for something completely unrelated, ended up with myself scouring South Africa's National Heritage Council's website, and that's where I found this:















South Africa was placed on the map when the Witwatersrand Gold Rush took place, in the mid 20th century. Miners from across the globe quickly travelled to Johannesburg to swoop in on what minerals our unhandled earth had to offer. Several years later, building were being erected to support the bustling, new city.

One of South Africa's biggest bank, which still thrives today, Standard Bank, moved its headquarters 54km in an easterly direction, from Pretoria to Johannesburg. Johannesburg began to grow exponentially, and so did Standard Bank. In a board meeting, one morning in 1962,  it was decided that their current building was too small to accommodate a growing business like theirs, and decided to move.

 The new 'home' of Standard Bank was designed by Professor Helmut Hentrich, an architect from Dusseldorf. To this day, the building is still described as a 'hanging building'. The then mega-structure measures 139.60m (524 feet) tall from the ground level; The 27 storey skyscraper, for its time, was built from the top downwards, defying gravity and South African perceptions of how a building should be constructed. A central concrete core allows for beams and concrete to extend from it, supporting the structure. A crane, perched above the central concrete core, slowly pulled the floors into place, and meticulously made its way downwards, until the buildings completion in 1970. 

Standard Bank went on to reside at 78 Fox Street up until 1990. Since then, another board meeting dictated a larger building for a constantly growing company. 

I've often seen cement trucks sluggishly creeping along the highway due to the mass that it carries. It is incredible for me to see this truck hoisted above the city, as men in suits (possibly the project managers) watch on, alongside the shorter Joburg skyline. 



The next image captured my attention for a different reason:


This image is a screenshot from a video created in 2007 by Adrian Paci called Centro di Permanenza Temporanea, which means centre for temporary residence. The people on top of the ladder, which is synonymous with boarding an airplane for those who know of the luxury, are migrants or refugees, except they escalate the ladder only to be met with nothingness, in place of where an aiplane should meet them.

To me, this image means a dead end. These migrants are waiting, hoping, for a better life, but that opportunity doesn't meet them. This video was produced in 2007. Currently, the world is facing unprecedented mass-migration of people. This image is still relevant 9 years later due to ongoing crisis in several countries, globally.



To see the full story and more images about the Standard Bank building and photography of it under constructed click here:



To see the full video on migration go here:


















Let me know if you've evr seen an image that has left an impression on you, like these have left upon me.

Till next time-
Steph
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19 August 2016

Why I Deleted My Instagram Account

Instagram, reportedly, has around 500 million, monthly active users. To put that into a number for you, it's 500 000 000, and as of last week, it's four hundred ninety nine million, nine hundred ninety nine thousand, nine hundred ninety nine, or 499999999... because I deleted Instagram!

Amongst already existing social media apps like Facebook and Twitter, one would think that there isn't any room on the internet for anything else? Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom challenged this thinking and created their own niche on the ever-expanding internet- Instagram. The social-networking app allows users to add photos of themselves, their food, their drinks, their cats or well...anything else, accompanied by a caption which can be anything from an emoji to a profound Albert Einstein quote. Since its inception in 2010, the app has taken the world by storm, with an average of 58 million photographs being uploaded every day.

If you tapped the average teenager on the shoulder and asked them if they had Instagram, there is a high chance that they would say 'yes'. If a stranger tapped me on the shoulder and asked me this same question, I'd say 'no'. However, this would not have always been my answer.

Two or so years ago, which is already later than my peers, I decided to press the 'install' button and download Instagram, the application I'd heard so much about. Due to 'pop' culture and newspaper articles, I knew that food was a very popular subject matter in photos, hence, in true essence of conformity, I posted a picture of a crispy, caramel-coloured waffle, glazed with chocolate sauce and drizzled with rich Kefalonian honey that I'd ordered on a lunch out whilst on holiday. I clicked post. It was over 200 weeks later that I posted my next Instagram photo. Since the enzyme-enticing waffle photo two years ago, I've posted about 10 times- far less than the average Instagram user. By the end, I was scrolling through the 'recommendation' tab, spying on other people's holiday photos, pictures of Kim Kardashian West, and people spreading chocolate ganache on cakes (which is actually a lot more satisfying then one would think). However, despite this, I deleted Instagram.

I am a big fan of social media. I see the advantages in all of them- even Instagram- but I see the disadvantages too. Instagram, like many other social networking sites is great for being in the 'loop' over summer, or in touch with long lost relatives in other countries,but in my opinion, it's one big lie. I've believed for a long time, that we create misleading lives on social media. Zilla Van Den Born's story is a perfect example of this. Our photos show the highlights of our lives- our faces are covered with foundation, our feeds are a reel showing our latest exotic getaway and the chef-made cuisine. Our feeds don't show the burnt homemade dinner or our body's flaws. We manipulate camera angles and scenarios to deviate from reality in hopes of creating a seemingly perfect life to others. We should rather promote a society that encourages differences, abnormalities and one's flaws.

Instagram apps, along with others such as Snapchat, prevents people from 'living in the moment'. Here's another surprise: I don't have Snapchat, but its not always been that way. I first got Snapchat a couple of weeks after it came out. However, I soon deleted it, and not for any well-informed reason either, I was just not enjoying the application. Recently, when my sister, who has the app, was playing around with it, I joined in. I immediately became emerged and ended up taking more selfies then I've taken over the last two years but in the span of one hour.

In my opinion, applications like Snapchat and Instagram are creating a self-absorbed culture. Don't get me wrong, I'm a massive supporter of social media but I'm opposed to what social networking apps, like the one's above, represent. Think of an aeroplane being tracked on a radar system, similarly, we're constantly sending out signals, like a flashing plane, being tracked in the world.

Till next time-
Steph
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10 August 2016

9 Things I've learnt About the Olympics So Far

Every four years, athletes from around the world come together to battle it out in the pool, on the track or in the ring (among several other places) and this time, it's all coming together in Rio de Janeiro. Last week, the 2016 Summer Olympic Games began. Every night, thanks to the five-hour time-difference, I've bundled myself up around the TV and the fireplace, ready for an exhibition of raw talent, persistence and copious amounts of training which each athlete has put into their sport. I have a bias to admit: I've focused my attention particularly towards the direction of pools, being a 'swammer' myself. However, admittedly, the killer bods of those half-naked athletes may have something to do with it too.


Over this past week or so, I have observed some interesting aspects about the Olympic Games. Hence, without further ado...let my Olympic Games list begin!



1) Divers carry a shammy


After performing a dive, Olympic divers make their way to large, bubbling Jacuzzi-like baths and dunk their chamois (less-fancily called an aqua-towel or a shammy) and shower themselves with water. I don't know about you, but I usually use my towel dry. Intrigued, I did some research. Turns out that although diving is not an equipment-heavy sport, only requiring a swimsuit (preferably), a diving board and a deep pool, divers are very dependent on a piece of poly-vinyl cloth. They use this easy-drying cloth to dry off before a dive- ensuring that they don't slip. Afterwards, they dunk the shammy to ensure that they stay wet and don't get stiff before their next dive. Also, after a while, it becomes a habit. Athletes use the shammy as a comfort blankie before facing their competitors. Although to the viewer this piece of cloth may seem like, well, a cloth, to the athlete it's far more than that- it's a teammate.  If you want to know more, go here:



2) Female gymnasts don't get periods

Have you ever wondered what happens to an athlete if they get their period during the biggest competition of their life? I've wondered about this with regards to swimming... but never gymnastics. Gymnastics involves stretches, turns and tumbles which are all quite revealing.

Nicol Ruprecht
It is common knowledge that exercise is healthy for the body... but as is true with everything, anything in excess cannot be good. Amenorrhoea is a condition experienced by dancers and gymnasts worldwide. The condition means the absence of menstrual period. This condition is particular to athletes with a low body mass who train intensely, such as gymnasts. Although gymnasts are probably grateful that no strings need to stick out from their leotards during their performances, this condition does need to be supervised by a medical professional. If you want to know about this condition in more detail, go here: 




3) Don't mess with Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps is a man who needs no introduction...but I'm going to introduce him anyways. His feet, or flippers as I like to call them, fit into a size 14 shoe, he's the most decorated Olympian of all time and a new father. Phelps made his first appearance at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney and has dominated in every Olympic Games since.

Fast forward 12 years from his first Olympic appearance. Phelps was defeated in the 200m butterfly event at the London Olympic Games, a race he had triumphed in since the Athens Games in 2004. Newcomer, Chad Le Clos of South Africa, touched the wall first, beating Phelps, in a staggering defeat.

Phelps, who many believe came out of retirement to defend his title in this event, came back to the pool with a vengeance. Le Clos shadow-boxed Phelps in the 'Call Room' of the aquatic center in Rio, much to the displeasure of the American Athlete who shot a stare like no other in Le Clos' direction.

Le Clos' antics and 'high-headedness' was short-lived; Le Clos finally learnt his lesson when ultimately, the King of swimming reclaimed his title as the fastest man in the 200m butterfly event with the defending champion, Le Clos, not even finishing on the podium, but instead coming fourth.






4) Gymnasts can injure themselves pretty badly



After years of training, one would think that any injuries would have occurred in training...and not at the world's biggest sporting event. If Samir Ait Said ever thought this... he'd be wrong. The French gymnast landed wrong sending his foot in the opposite direction to his leg. Imagine training your whole life for the Olympics and then having things go horribly wrong? Said was treated immediately and resigns to watching his fellow athletes on the television, for the time being.  In the spirit of the Olympics, he was cheered for by the crowd as he was stretchered away.













5) The Youngest Olympian was born in 2002
Gaurika Singh, from Nepal but training in London, holds the title of the youngest Olympic athlete at the Rio Games. The 13 year old is a swimmer whose 2016 Olympic Career lasted just over 1 minute. Singh competed in the 100m backstroke event racing against the clock in a time of 1:08:45, ending 31st out of 34 swimmers. Nonetheless, this swimmer can only grow from strength to strength in the years to come.  
Olympic Aquatics Stadium

6) Greece always walks out first, at the Opening ceremony

The Olympic Games have their origin in Ancient Greece, specifically Olympia, in the year 776 B.C. However, the modern games, as we know it came about in 1896. To pay homage to the creators of this event, Greece always walks out first at the Games, proceeded by the other competing countries. To this day, one is able to visit Olympia and set foot on the tracks, which held these Games all that time ago. One is also able to witness the lighting of the Olympic torch which travels the globe making its way to the host nation, from Greece.












7) If Phelps were a country....
I briefly mentioned before that Phelps is the most decorated Olympian of all time... but I didn't tell you how decorated he really is. Phelps currently has 21 gold medals, 2 silver medals and 2 bronze medals. He surpassed Larisa Latynina,the previous record-holder, who won 18 Olympic medals in her career, 9 of which were gold, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. If Phelps were a country, all his medals place him 40th (ahead of 185 countries) in all the medals won by all the countries over all the Olympic Games.

8) There is a refugee team competing 
The team of 10 are competing in events ranging from swimming, to judo or athletics. All athletes apart of this team were victims in the latest migration trend which saw thousands flee from their countries in hopes of a better life. The athletes are all competing under the Olympic flag.


9) This isn't the first time a hijab has been worn at the Games


Ibtihaj Muhammed has become the first athlete from the US to wear a hijab at the Olympic Games. The fencer wanted to aimed to break established conventions and norms for Muslim woman. However, the first athlete to ever compete in a hijab was Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkani from Saudi Arabia, who competed in Judo at the 2012 Olympic Games














Did anything else catch your eye- maybe even an athlete- whilst watching the Games? If so, I'd love to hear about it!

Till next time-
Steph
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