26 September 2008

laksa and dragon fruit jelly with the Lim family

Arrived in Singapore last night, and in true Singapore hospitality: I was picked up at the airport by my friends and whisked to some good eating ground...

Today was full of picking up printed images, talking printing, looking at photos... (+ squeezed in a delicious massage...)

Tonight we stayed in + dined on Laksa + dragon fruit jelly (yum)... and I listened to wonderful stories about Sakthi Amma's singapore visits + incredible stories of healing from Justina + Benny.

The littlest of the LIM family dining on tonight's laksa...
before she headed off to English evening tutoring class

+ the dragonfruit jelly... home made.
There is always a sense of coming home when I get to asia...

25 September 2008


A friend of mine in Melbourne is studying Shiatsu - and I said to her that if she was learning Shiatsu - the book TAO SHIATSU by Ryokyu Endo was a must...

And she said she had it on her desk, waiting to be returned to its owner. When I told her my godson's mother, Maria Borrelli + I had translated it, she wasn't sure to believe me - so I asked her to look on the inside of the book for our names...

If anyone reading this post is interested in understanding more about holistic medicine or if you know of a person learning Shiatsu - I highly recommend the book, not because we translated it but because ENDO is a Master of Shiatsu (and a great guitarist as well as being a buddhist priest...). We met in Kyoto when I was studying at university, I had always been interested in holistic medicine, so finding him was a real treasure as he taught Shiatsu to english speakers every Thursday.

The day he showed me his manuscript, all the students were sitting having a picnic lunch by the river + I said to him "this has got to be translated into english". He replied "you should do it...".

At the time my Japanese was not up to translation level... so the following year, I headed to Sydney University, did my masters in Asian Studies (Japanese) and met Maria Borrelli who was equally interested in holistic medicine. We started to translate TAO SHIATSU after we graduated. We translated during the day in a tiny room in Maria's home in Rozelle, Sydney and taught Japanese at Continuing Education in Sydney University in the evening to support ourselves. By the end of the year we were back in Kyoto, working on the final version with ENDO (this was back in the 1992 when faxes were the go...). We found an editor quickly (didn't realise the gold we had in our hands...)

Years later our english translation was used as the base for future translations : spanish, french, hebrew...

That was some journey...

23 September 2008

flakphoto + direct line to stalin


flakphoto.com, a site actively supporting contemporary photography
(+ worth checking out)
is featuring



this month -

showing a photo a day from the book


andy put up my pic : #65 direct line to stalin on 17 sept.

Here is the text I wrote for the FOTOFEST catalogue in 2005 to give a background on the series.


#65 CLOSED CITY by Nathalie Latham

I knew very little about city N°65 as little information existed about the place. During the Soviet Union era it was one of the secret cities where military activities took place. The cities were designated with numbers instead of names, and didn’t appear on maps. N° 65 was particularly special because it was where the first Soviet atomic bomb was made. It was also the site of history’s greatest nuclear accident, in 1957, decades before Chernobyl.

I travelled with three scientists from Columbia University who were studying, with Russian colleagues, the effects of radiation on the chromosomes of people who had worked at the Mayak plutonium plant, the city’s main employer. I had been interested by the scientists’ work as they are directly addressing the issue of what it really means for human beings to be exposed to, and living with, radiation. The scientists were keen to involve me as an artist/ photographer, in order to disseminate ideas about their work outside the scientific realm. This visit meant I was the first photographer from the West to be entering this closed city.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, the city lost its numerical designation and was given the name Ozyorsk – “city of lakes.” I was told the city was still closed today because its 80,000 inhabitants had voted to keep it closed. They could leave, but no one could come in.

What did it mean to live in a closed city all one’s life? Why on earth would people vote to keep it closed?

I was told not worry about radiation but to prepare for cold, around minus 20 C. The scientists gave me snapshots from their last visit, showing a dull, anonymous Soviet town. I found some articles on the environmental consequences of radiation in the area, and tried to decipher Dr David J. Brenner’s papers on chromosomal damage. Ozyorsk was important for his research because it is a place where several generations exposed to low-dosage radiation still lived together.

When we arrived in Ozyorsk, we were given a schedule of our movements hour by hour for the six days of our visit. This schedule had been approved by the Russian Government and we were not to deviate from it.

For two days I photographed the scientists at work, carrying out their procedures to make sure that the blood samples met the standards their research required. (Their study measures the impact of radiation on individual chromosomes.) The hospital laboratory had that old Soviet look, where the décor was frozen in the 1960s but people’s presence and labour kept the space alive.

I asked the Russians what it was like to live here. I wanted to understand why one would want to keep a city like this closed. The answers were strangely familiar: It was a good place to raise children. It was safe to walk around. There were no hooligans. There was no mafia. There were good schools, good apartments. Everyone knew one another.

Most of all, there were jobs. Unemployment in Russia is high, and the closed city grants work to all its residents. Elena, who prepared the blood samples, was eager to marry her boyfriend so he could get a permit to come live with her. Nadia, a doctor who grew up in Kazakstan, met her Ozyorsk-born husband while studying medicine and followed him back. Igor, our driver, came back after his military service in Moscow.

On my third day I experienced photo-fatigue. I felt like a mouse caught in a cage. I had photographed every angle and object in these claustrophobic rooms. And I could not leave the premises due to the all controlling schedule.

Fortunately, I was able to meet and photograph some of the hospital’s patients. They were Mayak plutonium workers and retired workers. Some were on their annual check up, which lasted four days. Others were being treated for advanced cancer.

Each meeting was moving. Each person told me about their life. They spoke of what good workers they had been. One man cried when he spoke about how his life was now coming to an end. A woman spoke softly of her children and grandchildren and how her husband and all her friends had died. She told me how she loved to pick mushrooms; she felt it was being amongst the trees and nature that had saved her. Another told me how her sister starved in the Leningrad blockade, and how she had moved to Ozyorsk with her niece and nephew to raise them single-handedly, while working at the Mayak plutonium plant.

Each life story was full of fragility, beauty and sadness. And after meeting each person, what struck me the most was their desire to live a normal life, to be able to raise their children or grandchildren in a good enough environment, in a place where they could grow their flowers and vegetables.

During the Cold War, these workers were heroes. City No 65 had symbolically protected Mother Russia from the Americans. Now history had shifted and its legends expired. There was no longer any cause, just life. And in some cases, illness and death.

When I was growing up in Brisbane, Australia, my father, a doctor, campaigned for nuclear disarmament. He would tell us about nuclear fallout and what a bomb would do to our city. His stories turned me off my dinner and gave me nightmares. They made me question why human beings would create such awful technology.

I didn’t find the answers in Ozyorsk; just dignified men and women whom history had already forgotten, and like me, were searching for peace in their own way. ©Text by Nathalie Latham 2005

22 September 2008


I am in the midst of preparing my next video installation, GUARDIANS (working title) which focuses on guardians of the musical cultural heritage of humanity + their significant role in contemporary society today.

The series is about the invaluable role of musical cultural heritage as a factor of bringing human beings closer together and ensuring cultural diversity, exchange and understanding among them.

This is a continuation of the SAFEGUARDING series (which was my Berlin solo show earlier this year). It is really something to be directly involving my love of music on this project, the more I continue on it, the stronger it feels as a work and the more joy I experience from it.

These are 3-D images of the installation (7 screens in total) done by my friend Tamara Friebel ( Australian composer / architect)... she is the composer of SUFFRAGI, the 5 part string-quartet based on 5 asylum seeker's stories (from Diana Matar's LEAVE TO REMAIN) with Evguenia Chtchelkova (choreography) and myself on video.

more to come... I'm busy packing my bags, sorting out film equipment and finalising administration (ho-hum)... flying to Singapore on Wednesday then to south India to prepare first installation of the GUARDIANS work (focusing on the sacred texts of the Vedas).

"Great sages converted the still music of the Universe into the Vedas."
Sri Sakthi Amma

miriam dym _ dym products

Here is the lovely Miriam Dym in her Berlin studio - her studio was around the corner from mine during my Berlin stay.

I'm a big fan of her work + her brilliant mind: she was a great person to bounce off ideas with.

Inspired by the enormous piles of waste in her country (USA), the only materials she uses are items from her household (which includes herself, husband + 2 sons) which CANNOT be recycled (so this includes items like old clothes or worn out backpacks or airline tags(the plastic tape ones) etc etc.

She allows herself to use thread, strings, tape (and some other items) to bring her objects together. I ain't ever seen anyone zoom up+down+up+down items with a sewing machine like Ms Dym ....

Some are functional (like shelves or a CD case she made out of a pocket of an old back pac) and other objects are not so functional...

This coat has been re-dymmed + is not intended to be an item to be worn (becomes an object).

Some of her work is repair jobs (DYM style) on clothes that you love and just cannot cope with throwing out.


21 September 2008

Hugo Simberg's A Wounded Angel

Tidying up as I couldn't find my Australian passport (which,after a lot of methodical tidying...  I found... with gratitude...).  in the sorting I came across a catalogue I hadn't opened in a while : Hugo Simberg's A Wounded Angel.  It was an exhibition at theFinnish National Gallery I saw in Helsinki with my brother and his (now wife) Hanna-Mari.

At the time (we are talking 1998/99), I had finished working as line-producer of The Voice of an Angel - a documentary film about soprano Dawn Upshaw.  This was the film which introduced me to the world of live opera performance and Peter Sellars (we filmed the rehearsal process of Messiaen's St Francois D'Assise for 2 weeks at the Salzburg festival) where Dawn played the Angel.

Subsequently, I sent Dawn a postcard of the picture.  Then  at about the same time as the opera of El Nino was being premiered, her album on Bach + Purcell came out and she used the image of the postcard as the cover of the CD! And called it "Angels hide their faces"... 

17 September 2008


The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston have purchase this photograph from the #65 Closed City series! Although the images had been published in LE MONDE 2, DOMUS, FRANKFURTER RUNDERSHAU, it was Fotofest  which really launched this image (and series) onto a wider level, as it was part of the ARTISTS RESPONDING TO VIOLENCE exhibition at Fotofest in 06. 

The purchase was a part of the FOTOFEST auction, raising money for their year-round classroom education program, LITERACY THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY using photography to strengthen writing skills, visual literacy and cognitive learning.

I had the amazing opportunity to work on a project like #65, and I really like the fact that the project feeds back to the literacy programme in Houston TX by the image raising money... the interconnectedness is mind boggling :  the american scientists I travelled with, the russian plutonium workers I photographed, fotofest and kids in Houston benifitting from the programme...

This photo, "Direct Line to Stalin" is an image from the Museum of Plutonium in the city of Ozyorsk (originally known as city #65) where the first Soviet Union atom bomb was created in 1948. 

It's still a closed city today and I accompanied Dr DJ Brenner + his team from Columbia University, New York while they did their ongoing research on chromosomal aberrations there.

I definately need to get the series + story up on the web...

More on fotofest :

check out soody sharif's image

15 September 2008


Cecile Vargaftig, screenwriter (Paris) was my supervisor at the LUSSAS Maison du Documentaire - writers residency when I wrote my second documentary "où est passé le 14 juillet?" back in 2000.

She is the person who taught me the most about writing: the essentialness of telling the story with one's own voice,  remaining true to oneself throughout the entire process and listening to the inner voice/ intuition for direction.  

Here is a photo I just received from her tonight: a photo of Cecile in my mother's garden looking at an article of the film (that's me in the photo) when it was finally screened in Cahors (LOT) this summer. 

The twist is that the film actually introduced Cecile and her partner (and their dog) to the region of the Lot (where the film was based), they fell in love with the area and now live there half of the year.

14 September 2008

safeguarding, figs + autumn settling in berlin

Spent all day in the recording studios at the Berlin Philharmonie working towards the SAFEGUARDING project.  

At midday, I saw Daniel Barenboim appear on the screen as he warmed up on the piano... so I took the elevator and sat in the hall to listen to him rehearse.  The moment connected a bunch of dots : I had organised the film shoot for the documentary film, THE ART OF PIANO : Great Pianists of the 2Oth century (1999 - directed by Donald Sturrock).  The documentary involved archives of great pianists throughout the 20th century and interviews with the best living pianists.    It took me 8  months to get the interview with Barenboim... my persistence paid as his interview saved the film: he spoke so articulately about the piano, its history and its performance. 

Then earlier this year a friend gave me PARALLELS + PARADOXES : conversations with Barenboim + Edward Said... which supported my thought process of the SAFEGUARDING MUSIC series +  the importance of music having its place within contemporary society.

Then, only yesterday I learnt about the book, EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED : THE POWER OF MUSIC by Barenboim... and today there I was giving my SAFEGUARDING catalogue to his assistant with whom I had organised the film shoot ten years earlier...

Barenboim's Reith lectures are worth listening to:

+ on the way home found that the autumn air was seeping in...so I bought one of the signs of late summer in Europe : scrumptious, sensual fresh figs... along with mango (summer) + persimmon (autumn) my favourite fruits mark a delicious space of season + location.

12 September 2008

19 0CT in LA : Peter Sellars + Alex Miramontes

19 OCT 08 
OTIS College of Art + Design

Peter + Alex are having a public conversation ! 

If anyone reading this blog is near enough to LA (or if you know people interested in the role of art in contemporary society living in LA)  - this event  is a must ... two inspiring, eloquent, committed light-workers.  Over the last ten years they have both, at different times, inspired, supported, pushed + encouraged me.

Here is the blurb :

Internationall renowned theater, opera and festival director Peter Sellars spends an evening with one-time actor and mental health practictioner Alex Miramontes sharing with us their lively ongoing 10 year discussion about the artistic creative process, their respective professions and the efficacy of art in a global community.  Miramontes worked with Peter Sellars on several projects: The Screens (1998) The Story of a Soldier (1999) and El Nino (2000) composed by John Adams

11 September 2008

IN FLUID TIMES world premiere

From Alexandra's IN FLUID TIMES press-release:

"With her most recent interdisciplinary work, "In Fluid Times", the Düsseldorf- based Alexandra Waierstall focuses on the topics of identity, the collective and individuality.  she has created an atmospherically - dense  journey that transforms the past, the present and future utopias "into fluid time spaces".  Together with her dancers, she has generated delicately-composed and emotionally-powerful images on the relationship between the individual and the group, between isolation and communication and searches for the fundamental questions of the meaning of life."

Mary Randou solo

The group : Rania Glymitsa, Christos Papadopoulos, Savvas Baltzis, Mary Randou, Hamilton Monteiro.  

The delicious lighting by Panayiotis Manousis.

The show ended with the KAHN BROTHERS song, Love melts Fear with the video I filmed for the brothers last year in the Rocky Mountains, Canmore, Canada.  

IN FLUID TIMES world premiere

Here are some images of the production IN FLUID TIMES which premiered at TANZHAUS NRW in Düsseldorf on 7 Sept. 

A huge learning curve for me and I found my old love :
the space of live theatre... this is just the beginning for Alexandra Waierstall-Nathalie Latham collaborations.


Hamilton and Christos duet 

Rania + Christos duet

All five dancers against the back wall, behind back screen with Rania projected on the floor.

05 September 2008

in fluid times : bit by bit

testing testing...

Thursday - brought the lights and video together with the choreography... and it looks  m a g i c a l ... still a fair bit to get done technically ... 

(sorry no image yet of the beauty of both light + video + dancers... that will come...)

in fluid times : video

Here are the dancers on stage during rehearsal... and the video appearing in the space.

in fluid times : moving to the stage

We moved out of studio 6 (rehearsal space) onto the stage on Wednesday (this is the view from my booth)... being in the theatre is so delicious and universal... a space which has existed across cultures and through so many generations...

Panos the lighting magician arrived from Athens ...(this 
is him on stage contemplating what lights are going to be brought to the piece)... he doesn't speak a word of english or german and yet it was so beautiful to see how the space of theatre is so universal... he was at home within the first moments... the theatre space being his language, his land...

01 September 2008

In Fluid Times : Dusseldorf

I am in Dusseldorf working at the Tanzhaus (the fabulous Dance Theatre) with wonderful choreographer Alexandra Waierstall... (for those who saw the images of Athens earlier in this blog - same production/ choreographer)

The premiere for the show is next Sunday... the process remains very intuitive and is keeping me on my toes.  The collaborative process is full of space to move about it yet always with a very defined structure... the process reminds me of when I filmed Peter Sellars working on his productions. 

AND I am loving being back in a theatre too... something about live theatre that I really enjoy.

tamara+klemens got married (again)

I took the night train on friday night from Dusseldorf and woke up in the Austrian alps to photograph Tamara + Klemen's wedding. 

Tamara is the composer I often collaborate with (she did the soundscape for Speaking Through Water+ we are working on the SUFFRAGI piece based on asylum seekers' stories)

Tamara had just come out of the hair/make-up place and thought a little  "the hills are alive with the sound of muzak" with Khadija blowing bubbles would be a good introduction for the day...

T & K

These photos are totally out of order...Klemen's favourite view (when the mountains turn pink) from the restaurant where we had the reception (the apricot schnapps was delicious!)

getting to the church on time.

It was an Austrian-Australian wedding -
and the Austrian folk turned out in their gear (it's chamoix hair!)

ze kiss after ze church...

where the ceremony took place : 
ze church on the hill... 
the hill is an ancient place of worship and 
the church dates to the 1300s.