The Magic of Docklands

I caught the train to Southern Cross today and walked over to Docklands, grabbing along the way a display cabinet chicken tandoori wrap and a coffee. While I sat down to eat outside the ferry terminal, I got out my digital camera and tried to figure out how to tell it what I wanted to be in focus.

I've had this camera for a while (I seem still not to have reattached myself to the passage of time since March 2020) and I've figured out the focus settings more than once, but they just don't stick. I like this camera—an Olympus micro four-thirds—because it's smaller than a DSLR but still has interchangeable lenses. My problem is that it's all settings, acronyms and multi-level menus, which is great for doing an exact thing but is not conducive to heuristics. I work by heuristics, normally via some kind of visual logic, which suits photography pretty well but not with this camera.

I decided to give the Olympus a rest and use my film camera instead. It's my dad's old Pentax that he used to take all of our family photos in the 70s and 80s. He gave it to me in non-working order but it was easy to get repaired. I've decided to not bother with the light meter and just use rules of thumb instead: it was an overcast day so I set the f-stop to 5.6 and cranked up the shutter speed to 1/500 (I won't know until I get it developed whether this was a terrible idea and I come crawling back to the light meter). I am fairly sure the film currently loaded in it is from around when time stopped.

I realised my favourite part of Docklands is 'The District', a breezy, mostly indoor shopping and entertainment district that always seems to be mostly deserted. Even when there are people there. It has the Melbourne Star ferris wheel, which is no longer operating, and a Hoyts cinema with enormous screens and motorised recliner seats but which is almost entirely self-serve. There are several US American restaurant chains with highly developed aesthetics and food I would never eat. Lots of families do come to Docklands to hang out, I mean it seems like the parking is convenient and there is free ping pong.

I wandered around the upper walkways to get a view of the malls below and take some pictures. After a while I noticed that the same logo, the logo for the shopping centre itself, was on all the windows – the upper floor is almost entirely untenanted. With regularity, there were also decals urging your reconsideration of Docklands: [hashtag] Imagine different. Indulge your curiosity. More food and entertainment this way –> [a series of blank panels].

I realised that the signage was the best thing about the place. Incantations attempting to lift Docklands' hex. Underrated. Is this art? Are you art? Imaginaria. A flame inside a five-pointed star. A very many pot plants. Surely we can jump-start some psychogeographic significance here.

Of course, mocking Docklands is too easy and very tired. Cheap shots, the lot of them. But I do think the thing that makes Docklands funny is also what makes it interesting. Perhaps there'll be some paranormal indications when I get my film developed (or maybe the film was just expired).