RICHARD MARK DOBSON
Commute
Commute

[with object] reduce (a judicial sentence, especially a sentence of death) to one less severe:

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Station Deck Road. Cape Town Station # 1
2009

Mark, a graphic designer, who lived just along the tracks, at the Old Castle Brewery building in Woodstock, liked to come park his old Landcruiser on the Station Deck road and think. The sweeping unobstructed view of the Cape Town city bowl, and Table mountain allowed him to imagine how it all had been before. Before, when there was no city. Just the mountain and wilderness. Cape Mountain lions. The zebra like Quagga. And the ancient, hunter gather Strandlopers (beach walkers). Humans in loin cloths who had for Millennia, walked the shorelines of Southern Africa, scavenging sustenance from rock pools and surf zones. Restless souls who lived in temporary middens. And paused just long enough to fill their bellies before wandering off along an infinite coastline.

Mark reflected often on how the area abutting the sacred mountain, following the tracks from the city centre to the outer margins of the Mother City, had turned into another kind of jungle. An edgy, urban matrix of inter-racial disharmony and suspicion. X was a symbol for troubling issues. Along these tracks, Xenophobia was rife.

Station Deck road, an access channel to Cape Town's central station, along what is called the Foreshore, was usually deserted on the Sunday afternoon's when he liked to come park here. In fact it was empty of vehicular traffic most days, as middle class Capetonains avoided the notoriously high risk, commuter network, the Metro rail completely. They preferred to commute in the relative safety of their cars. It was the poorer communities of places like Mitchel's Plain that were the strap-hangers of the Metro. The foot soldiers of the working class.

A lone vehicle, parked anywhere in this precinct was a potential target for theft. Mark was only too aware of this, but he felt at ease embedded within the tank like structure of his old FJ60. The wrap around tinted windows helped. They increased his sense of safety. He used his left, right and windscreen rear-view mirrors like security CCTV cameras. Surveillance apparatus. He kept his eyes on those approaching from all sides but especially from behind. Car hijackers were notoriously quick.
Within station zones everyone was on their guard.
People walked with a sense of purpose. Those who did loiter were usually hobo's tanked up on grog and posed no threat. Just way to comatose to be a risk.

Mark liked to wind down his driver side window, and let in the salty air off Table Bay. He found something hauntingly beautiful in the cry of the kelp gulls, the rumble and screech of trains on steel tracks, and the stoic presence of Table Mountain. What tickled his mind the most were the questions of what she had seen over the last 25.000.000 years.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Silhouetted. Cape Town Station
2009

The evolution of black and white lines and stripes on zebras is not about camouflage against the fawn tones of the African savanna, but rather that of blending into each other. They are seen collectively by a pack of marauding lions as a blur. Individuals merge into the mass of the shape shifting herd. Lions hunt by focusing on one beast and attempt to separate it from the group and drive it towards companions lying in wait. Into the kill zone. But the staccato mosaic picture they receive as they close in on the herd, compromises their ability to pick one out.

However lions, creatures of cunning, learn to hunt when the low afternoon sun back lights and silhouettes the skittish beasts. The trade off is loss of surprise! For an attack out of blinding sunlight is how raptors nail their prey with devastating effect. With lions, the benefits of mounting a reverse, asymmetrical attack into the light far outweighs the disadvantages. Seen this way, the wary grazing zebra, present themselves as big, bold shapes with which to lunge at.

How lions catch their prey and muggers shake down their victims are vaguely comparable. They both use stealth and the element of surprise. Cape Town's Metro rail dimly lit station are ideal mugging zones. Regarded as risky, commuters are wary, and similar to grazing zebra, they are always watching their backs. Using their peripheral vision to the max. The further down quiet off-peak corridors they shuffle or into gloomy underpasses they wander, their trepidation rises. There is a palpable sense of urgency to get off the carriages and out of the system. Until they do they are in a state of hyperarousel, or acute stress, a psychological response, also known as fight or flight mode!

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
The Girl in Red. Cape Town Station.
2009

The backlit billboard had showcased a Kentucky Fried chicken advertisement. It's illumination ensuring higher visibility. But now, where the once arresting battered chicken, fries and coke visual had been, there was a gaping hole. The shuttered shops below it, were empty. Temptation replaced by disquiet?

This was the main station forecourt and ticketing hall at the end of the pan African railway line, Dar-Es-Salaam to Cape Town, and yet for the lady in red, caught in a state of suspended animation, her mind a moratorium of disbelief, this was not how she remembered it.

Things has been different then. In 1985 there had been no Tazara line. It had ended at Beit bridge. Facing the Limpopo and beyond that the newly declared state of Zimbabwe. But this station had seemed much friendlier then. Less forlorn. Jolly was word that came to mind.

Admittedly she’d been much younger. Travelling with her parents. Her own safety almost all their responsibility. Now things were different. She was on her own! Then they had hardly known who Mandela was. Imprisoned on an island just across the bay. Now he was dead and buried and with him for many, the hope of a better life and future buried too. She reeled at the thought of what might come next!

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Love & Fuck Girls. Cape Town Station.
2009

The woman, sat waiting for the doors to close on the mid afternoon 0557 to Athlone, stared at the face on the seat opposite. Her mute companion troubled her. She felt an urge to change seats. Or better still, move to a carriage with other occupants. The metro rail directive was to avoid empty carriages, especially women traveling alone. Instead, she remained where she was and studied the figure before her.

Her position as office clerk at the registrar office for the psychiatric and mental health department of the Groote Schuur hospital had, indirectly, contributed to her interest in the psychology of vandalism. The fine-nib, marker-pen graffiti before her she concluded, had, almost certainly been rendered by a man. Implausible she mused, that such a motif could be conceived in the mind of a female.

The oversized teeth spoke of cannibalism, yet she concluded this exaggeration was borne out of some perverse sexual fantasy. The metaphor. To gorge on female flesh? On an adjacent carriage prior to boarding she had read the words, 'Love and fuck girls', sprayed in a hurried red squiggle. These grotesque sentiments were of no surprise to her given the cold hard facts! That South Africa had the highest rate of sexual violence in the world, and the police openly declared that a woman was raped every 36 seconds. The reported cases!!

She acknowledged that women living on the Cape flats in a violent, patriarchal society, had to endure an all pervasive sense of unease and live with omnipresent danger. By default, they had developed a robust threshold to threat. The commute only exposed them to the unwanted male gaze and attention. To cope they bandied together. Safety in numbers was their rationale. The women from the flats were tough. She knew! Tougher than they should have to be.

As the doors closed, ready for departure, she remained where she was. Resolute. Defiant. No man was gonna scare her away. She studied the effigy some more. This thing, etched into the forlorn grey fabric spoke to her of the deeply troubled male psyche, and teased with her viewpoints. She understood that mental illness could be treated, yet her friends espoused that women had to take the law into their own hands. They shouted in unison, support for the kangaroo court and publicly lynching perpetrators of sexual abuse to women and minors. A necessary evil they unanimously agreed.

As the train began to rumble out of the station, she glanced away from the chilling drawing, to Table Mountain. The summit was partly obscured by heavy cloud, and it's dark, brooding presence seemed to enforce her pessimism. She wanted to believe that violence in her community, city and country would not continue, and yet this malevolent face before her spoke of darker things to come!
.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Discharge. Cape Town Station.
2009

The metro rail is no S-Bahn for sure. Swiss trains run punctually. In Cape Town they don't. They might leave the terminus close to schedule, but arriving at the destination on time is very rare.

While discharge is the concept behind any commuter rail network, ie. getting the working masses to and from home, the flow of humanity is interrupted when the system they use is leaking. Grinding to a halt!

Collateral damage, in the form of vandalism, and the siphoning off of assets integral to the integrity of the network, is the rot that destroys the host. Legions of vandals , a rag tag army of highly motivated scavengers, who steal overground/underground electrical cables for their steel and copper content, overwhelm the authorities and police. This underclass of criminals, with their unrelenting brazen tactics, contribute to putrefaction of the infrastructure. The community witnesses the slow and irreversible collapse of a network that their livelihoods depend.

With the system in shit, the local newspapers seep headlines to the public! 'The criminals have won'! Public morale deflates to base levels of resentment. Anger rises. Violence steps up. The blame game escalates. With it more violence. The arsonists vent their anger, and set whole fleets of carriages alight. All the while, the system decomposes. The smell of excrement and despair permeates the tracks.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Discarded Croutons. Cape Town Station.
2009

People discard things, get rid of stuff, throw out what they no longer find useful or valuable. Stale croutons are dumped because they cease to be desirable. The Cape Town Metro rail is loathed for it's lousy services, and dreadful stations. Travel on the rail network is an undesirable experience.

Humans tend to shun that which they dislike. Stay away from venues which make them feel uncomfortable.  Avoid places that scare them. The metro rail has a bad reputation. Beliefs and opinions are such that everyone, except possibly hardened criminals or drug addled youth feel trepidation to some degree when entering the system. They would be happy to dispense with the experience altogether if they had another choice. But certainly with every turnstile exit out of the network they discard temporarily with angst.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Three Yellow Chairs. Cape Town Statonn.
2009

Some would say South Africa is a nation of thieves. That looting and pillaging is part of the national psyche. Written into fabric of the land. That since time immemorial the hunter gather Xan (bushmen) clans stole from each other. Then later they stole from the cattle rearing Hottentots. In turn the Zulu's came along and stole from them both. Later the Xhosa and Zulu were at each other's throats, and still are today.

When the Dutch came along and stole ancestral land from the Strandlopers, Xan and Hottentots, and then later moved inland to steal from the Zulus, it was the British arriving much later that decided it was time to steal everything from everyone!

With this 'take away' culture in mind, it's no surprise then, that Jacob takes some unattended chairs from a quiet annex of Cape Town station, to make his life and a couple of his friends, living beneath one of the nearby underpasses a little more comfortable. He doesn't think for one moment, he's unwittingly propagating the gossip, that anything not chained down in this city, grows legs and walks.

He might see the chair as low hanging fruit. Easy pickings, given that most things of value in the land of the takeaway, are guarded behind barbed wire, electric fences or packs of half rabid guard dogs. If he's ever been picked up for shop lifting and taken to the nearby District 6 police station to be charged, he might have missed the irony of seeing the television in a steel cage, bolted to the ceiling. Placed there to entertain those waiting on the bench to file a theft complaint. An electrical appliance, in the centre of a police station, surrounded by heavily armed 'law enforcement officers' is not even safe. It's a TV not a safe is it not? Jacob is too busy trying to survive to amuse himself with such trivial ironies.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
The Spirit of the Nation. Cape Town Station.
2009

Out the back, out the front, some down and out. Some down and not yet out. Some down and out for good. Substance abuse in the Western Cape out of control.

Alcohol, methamphetamine, cannabis, cocain, heroin. Alcohol is the substance most misused. With it goes, rape, sodomy, sexually transmitted diseases. Crime. Injury. Women statistically are bigger binge drinkers than men. The result. The Western Cape has highest rate of FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectral Disorders) in the world. The results. Children with deformity. Mental disabilities, hearing and sight issues.

Alcohol's burden of harm, dictates traumatic injuries burden's society, and most certainly the metropolitan rails image and operations. Men are the most likely to die falling in front of one of their moving trains. That means the trains don't run on time!

Station car parks are where a lot of the inebriated gather. Some pose as car guards to fix their meth or tik habit. Some don't attempt to hide their addictions at all, and walk straight up to commuters exiting or entering the premises. The onus is on the individual commuter whether to risk ignoring the glue sniffers cry for spare change. The gamble is that a rebuttal might result in a mugging. Metro Rail security and police are usually elsewhere when needed.

Those on the floor are usually far too gone to cause too much harm. What others do to them or they do to themselves is another story altogether.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
The Dead of Night. Woodstock.
2009

Jacob was from the Eastern Cape. Umtata to be exact. He took the job of night security guard in Cape Town, to feed his family. His monthly paychecks were sent home. There were no jobs in Umtata.

He patrolled the Old Castle Brewery building premises every three hours. 12 hour shifts. From 7pm to 7am. Four circuits a night. The Metro rail abutted the south flank of the complex. The only thing that discouraged the thieves and vandals was the track, electric fences and razor wire. He was paid to monitor movement. Human or vehicle.

He would walk the three level car park on the SE corner of the premises. Up to the top. The view across to Woodstock station was all buttresses, cast iron, wire, cables, corrugated iron, concrete and steel tracks. Quite often he would see a lone Metro Rail guard in this tangle of stuff. A solitary diffused shape in the mist, that which would roll in off the sea in Table bay and smother the station. He wondered if his contemporary felt like he did. Thankful to have a job, but wishing he could be some place else. Like back home, in bed with his wife.

This corner of Woodstock was all godowns and factories. In the dead of night, all was eerily quiet. However, the dispossessed who slept under nearby bridges and in culverts besides the tracks would pass by in the gloom. They sought food and shelter. Jacob thought of them as hungry ghosts. He was paid to regard them as a menace. To keep an eye on them until they disappeared off into the shadows.

In the winter months, the last trains out of Cape Town station were 6:30pm. Nobody wanted to be on them at night. By 5:00pm Metro rail commuters, those that braved it's dilapidated system, were gone. The last few trains ran almost empty. Woodstock's illuminated yet vacant station reminded Jacob less of a transport hub to utopia, but more a terminus to dystopia. A stop, in terminal decline.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Junction Road. Woodstock/Salt River
2009

In Salt River, a residential areas between Woodstock and Observatory lies Junction road. As the name suggests, nearby there are tracks and shunting yards. A large open tract of land, abutting Voortrekker road, is where the Metro rail's rolling stock depot is to be found. To some degree a graveyard of decommissioned bogeys and vandalized carriages. Within that allotment of abandonment, another class of despair can be found. The homeless and dispossessed. Humans with no place to live except under rusting coach class coaches.

This neighbourhood, is where some might say the vibe shifts from ok to not so ok. While nearby central Woodstock is deemed cool, its recent facelift encouraging notoriety as an enclave for artists and trendy folks, and competing with Observatory's well established cafe society vibe to the East, Salt river is still regarded as dodgy. It sits in the twilight zone, between good n bad. Some folks see potential in it's dishevelment. Some see risk.

Junction meets Foundry, which is rammed up against the main commuter artery of Voortrekker road and the railway line which brings in and takes out, the good and bad people. Those from the east of Cape Town. Folks from Maitland. Elsies Rivier. Gangsterism, drugs and crime continue to plague these areas. Lives of the innocent squandered, caught in the cross fire of violent gang turf wars. Every year the murder rate climbs.

As one resident proclaimed "to live in Elsie's rivier, is akin to hell! Like been in prison. Burgled in our houses, we live behind bars and razor wire".

Gangster paranoia permeates out in all directions from violent suburbs. Residents living in areas abutting them, the high crime precincts, they live with a heightened sense of fear. For the exaggerated police presence found in and around the most dangerous neighbourhoods wanes, away from crime hot spots. Communities on the fringes of problem areas, feel vulnerable, because drug addicts look beyond their immediate surroundings for their fix cash.
Pick-pocketing, house breaking is rife. No one leaves an unbarred window open. Peoples possessions are worth a lot to a tik addict. Their life. Less so!

For many, living besides the length and breadth of the Metro rail, is about living with concealed unease. For a stranger hurrying towards them would activate their sympathetic nervous system. Trigger an acute stress response! That which prepares their body to fight or flee. A revolutionary adaptation designed to increase survival in threatening situations.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Lower Church Street. Woodstock.
2009

For anyone walking this corner of Lower Church street, surrounded by the omnipresent screech of trains and the grumble of cars, to them, it's name, might evoke the peace and quiet of a hushed church interior. Tug at their conscience. Strike them with an impulse to elope.

For this stretch of the foreshore, all roads and bridges, and derelict land abutting the tracks, can feel rather forlorn. Even on sunny day. But certainly on a cold wet winters afternoon, with not a church in sight, those factory workers, walking the overpasses across the N1, from Paarden Eiland to Woodstock metro rail station, could be excused for imagining more spiritual things. Only as means to help them cope. Weather the drudgery of the commute.

If any of the commuters were sanguine by nature, they might garner some inner peace from the sight of Table Mountain. For it's bare slopes may speak to them entirely of a different time. A former epoch, when the only sounds would be of wind, crashing waves, and the muffled moans of sea lions wallowing on the foreshore.

They might imagine their distant ancestors in loin cloths, speaking in incomprehensible clicks. Hardy, muscular people in tune with the rhythm of nature and with no inkling of the hideous factories to come. Soulless places, surrounded by graffiti clad walls and razor wire. Governed by time. And fear. They surely would not be able to comprehend this modern day sprawl thrown across the land. That which they regarded as communal. Owned by no one. Free for all. There were no clocks.

The enlightened commuter, inching his way towards the station, might look up ahead and notice the line on the distant horizon. The edge. Where humanities conurbation ends and the wild mountain begins. Upwards into wispy clouds. The heavens. A timeless place.

He may reflect upon the fact that down here, where he and other humans trundle home from work, as recipients of slave wages and conscripts to time and schedule, there was no freedom!

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
The Black Man. Woodstock # 11
2009

Black day. Black weather. Black road. Black cat. Black coat. Black man. Who was he? Jacob, the security guard peering at him through the security fence from the Old Castle Brewery building, had no idea. Whoever he was, he seemed lost in thought. His demenor and dress suggested he might be a cop.

Or rather a detective. A recent murder along the way, a homeless person found dead and lying on the grit of the service road that runs besides the tracks, might have prompted his revisit. Jacob's imagination continued to draw up a narrative. He'd decided to take a slow walk back to Woodstock police station and give the case a thinking over!

Jacob concluded the cop construct was a serious plausibility, given there was no shortage of evil around this neck of the woods. He acknowledged the misnomer. For there were no trees here. Just brick, concrete, corrugated iron, razor wire scruffy tracts of scrub and the odd scraggly date palm.

Jacob and all the commuters that used the Metro rail to and from work, knew only too well how it forced upon them introspection. For it was part of the process of blocking out reality. The daily grind through a menacing and unreliable system. By keeping's one's head down. Avoiding eye contact, it made the journey somehow seem safer. Everyone adopted the poise of a cat. A black cat at leisure. Appearing docile and at ease, half asleep. Yet eyes and ears tuned surreptitiously. Their senses ready for early warnings of trouble. Primed for fight or flight!

The start of another working week, a black Monday, and the rail ride, induced a black mood. The only way to deal with that was something akin to meditation. Or creative thought. Like shining a light into the darkness of his mind, it was the process that helped Jacob cope.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Salt River. The Seagull.
2009

Bad Company. Songwriters: Mick Ralphs / Paul RodgersSeagull lyrics © Wb Music Corp., Badco Music Inc.

'Seagull, you fly across the horizon
Into the misty morning sun
Nobody asks you where you are going,
Nobody knows where you're from
Here is a man asking the question
Is this really the end of the world?
Seagull, you must have known for a long time
The shape of things to come
Now you fly, through the sky, never asking why,
And you fly all around till somebody shoots you down.

Seagull, you fly, across the horizon,
Into the misty morning sun.
Nobody asks you where you are going,
Nobody knows where you are from,
Now you fly through the sky, never asking why,
And you fly all around till somebody, yeah,
Shoots you down. Mm mm, yeah.
Seagull you fly, seagull you fly away.

And you fly away today
And you fly away tomorrow
And you fly away, leave me to
My sorrow'.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Sign of our Times. Woodstock.
2009

Upon rusting razor wire, hangs degenerating plastic. This once airborne flotsam and jetsam of our contemporary trash economy, now snared in spikes designed to inflict pain, merely flaps in the steady SE Easterly, unfeeling. A talisman of the modern age? Or hoodoo? Think jinx!

Come rain or shine, this simulated material, born of the age of oil, flutters nonchalantly in the breeze. A sound akin to Tibetan prayer flag? A novel material to ancients perhaps? They might be forgiven for temporarily revering it. But hopefully their venerable wisdom would prevail and they’d come to see it for what it really was. An eyesore. A scourge! It’s synthetic cells the ruination of a once pristine planet. Or was humanity always destined to hang itself metaphorically speaking. Sloth, avarice, indifference, wired (excuse the pun) into our very DNA!

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Maitland, MOP.
2009

Most commuters wandering this side lane abutting the rails, heading towards Maitland station, probably don’t pay much attention to the paint splashed security walls. Or consider for a moment that the daubs of colour, may resemble dried blood. But then again, in this city and this neighborhood where there is much violence and much blood spilled, this motif has to give but only the most ardent day dreamer, a subliminal sting. A sort of pin prick to the senses. Surely! For studies in the 1950’s revealed that even brain damaged patients reacted negatively to the color red. It stimulated their visual activity and autonomic nervous system in ways that the colour blue, didn’t.

An astute commuter might see the irony in the three letters. MOP. And think, mop implies. To wipe! Wipe out? To clean! Remove? Mopping up in military terms, means, to kill all remaining enemy troops. Quite often, by rounding them up, standing them against a wall and mowing them all down!

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Come and Play
2009

Woodstock 2009. Children of all ages and from every socioeconomic background retreat into a closeted world of battery-operated toys, television, computers, smart phones. They abandon self-directed, imaginative, and creative play.

Traditionally, play is the work of children. It consists of activities performed for self-amusement that have behavioral and social rewards. It’s child-directed, and the rewards come from within the individual child; it’s enjoyable and spontaneous.

Some parents understand play is an important part of childhood development. It’s when they learn about shapes, colors, cause and effect, and themselves. Besides cognitive thinking, play helps children learn social and psychomotor skills. It allows children to gain control of their thoughts, feelings, actions, and helps them achieve self-confidence. It is also a way of communicating their joy, fear, sorrow, and anxiety.

Woodstock 2009. Playgrounds stand empty. Refuse collects in the framework of abandoned jungle gyms. Gone is the laughter of children. In the void there is merely the rumble of trains on tracks, the drone of distant traffic and the sound of tin cans clattering across the graffiti scarred tarmac. Junk driven by intermittent gusts of wind.

Sociologists acknowledge that the opposite of play is not work, it is depression. The decline of 'real' play spells the decline of society.
Ends.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Un-Merry_go_Round. Salt River Station
2009

Salt River station. On one side there’s the frenetic 4 lane Voortrekker road, carrying speeding cars in and out of the flats. On the other, there’s stripped down shunting yards and derelict land. In between these two danger zones lies the station platform & tracks, pointing east & west. Spiraling away from these commuter lines is the pedestrian on/off ramp. A concrete helix, reminiscent of an amusement park big dipper.

Those bodies in motion, many with their heads down, tend to miss the irony that to get up or down, they have to stray left to stroll right. Turn east to head west. Trundle backwards to mosey forwards. An un-merry-go-round. An experience akin to a bad dream. Everyone has them. Of trying to get somewhere and yet with every turn they slip inextricably further away from where they want to go.

So for those walking the helix with their heads bowed against the rudimentary experience that is called the commute, their conscious reality mirrors their unconscious troubled unreality. Life mimics illusion which in turn leads to delusion.

RICHARD MARK DOBSON Commute Hahnemuhle PhotoRag BrightWhite 310gsm 100% Cotton
Bax Street In the Box
2009

Adjacent to Maitland train station is the Bax Street industrial park. It lies sandwiched between the busy Berkley road and the defunct and abandoned end of the railway shunting yard.

Besides the Cape oil and Margarine company the other businesses that inhabit this moribund end of Maitland, include Jungle Oats, The Hideaway, Safety Mate, Quick Tint, Laser communications, In the Box delivery, Edge Lighting and Plumbcrazy plumbing suppliers. Names which some might agree alude to the notion of hazard. Uncertainty. Insecurity. Mental imbalance. Peril. Danger. Risk.

On weekends this area can feel particularly minatory. A dead zone comes to mind! For the only animated objects are plastic bags whipped up in the infamous Cape winds, and the flapping kelp gulls with their eerie cries. The scene made to feel all the more portentous set against a backdrop of gathering thunderclouds.

From the vacant yard, Signal Hill can seen in the background. Once a symbol of safety for mariners who had survived the savage storms along the Skeleton coast. That 1000 miles of denuded coastline between the Tropic of Capricorn and The Cape of Good Hope. Today some might say it's all rather hopeless and Signal Hill is nothing more than a monolith to melancholy.


COM-MUTE. reduce (a judicial sentence, esp. a sentence of death) to one less severe.

STATEMENT
Commute my second body of work set in South Africa explores multiple themes; fear, xenophobia, fate, issues such as crime, urban decay, the existence of the individual in an 'unpredictable & unsafe' world.

The work intends to tussle with both literal and figurative notions of fear through objective and subjective record of place. That place for the purpose of the narrative of this collection of photographs, is the commuter railway journey from Cape Town's city central station to the quaint coastal enclave of Simon's Town.

This is not a random selection of one route over the many routes which the state run Metro Rail runs across peninsular Cape Town. Or to neglect the countless other city commuter rail services globally that cut through diverse social, ethnological & geographical zones and could be treated with equal consideration! I choose this route because in contemporary South African terms it has been regarded as a heaven and hell experience. Scenic yet dangerous. Violent crime on and off the train has been and continues to plague the route.

There are certainly social and political inferences built into it's very essence, but I don't dwell on the complexities of them here. Possibly subliminally though I do gather referrals from another period in South Africa's history.  That of the 1980's, apartheid and the 'old' South Africa.  Certainly there continues to be much social comment that, under the authoritarian and draconian ways of the apartheid regime, this very same commute was clean, orderly and safe.

Certainly the seed from which this work germinated was a flashback to riding this line during summer of 1985. Recalling the fresh south easterly wind off table bay wafting through the window......

(fore more reading, click STATEMENT above
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