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Podcast: Memories from a last minute trip to Borneo

Kirsty Charlton explains how a last minute trip to Borneo, led to a beautifully calm picture of a bustling fish market.

The concept of Culture in Context is to find the stories behind some of the favourite creations of a wide variety of artists, be they choreographers, musicians or photographers.

Today, I have the great privilege of interviewing Kirsty Charlton, a Senior Client Service Manager and avid traveller about the picture featured in this podcast.

If we could kick off, could you tell me where you took the picture you would like to showcase?

So it was in a fish market in Borneo, and… Shall I tell you the story behind it?

Yeah, that would be great.

So my boyfriend, when we got together, he had just planned to go travelling in seven months’ time with his friend. His friend dropped out the night before they were meant to fly to India.

Oh, wow! 

Paul [Kirsty’s boyfriend] has never been travelling before and all he had booked was a one way ticket to Delhi on his own. So he obviously was pretty nervous and really worried about it. Anyway, I managed to sort some stuff out at work which meant that I could join him for quite a big bit of the travels. I managed to join him for seven weeks in the end. I flew out to Malaysia to meet him and we went to Borneo, which is somewhere I had always, always heard of and never thought I would get to. Because I thought it was so remote, I never thought I would be able to go and I love the Orang utans.

So, being in Borneo on its own was amazing and then this was our first night. Obviously, we thought that we weren’t going to see each other for three months. It was quite a heart-wrenching goodbye and then, a few weeks later, we were together again in Malaysia and we had seven weeks to look forward to of travelling.

Looking at the photo makes me remember just how excited I was because I hadn’t been planning on going travelling and, suddenly, I had seven weeks in Malaysia and Indonesia. It was just a feeling of real excitement.

On this particular photo, we were walking just down the pier which is where the locals hang out because there is a fish market. The way it works is the boats literally come in, they take the fish off the boats, and then put then on ice. And then people buy the fish by the weight, they weight them and buy it, and then barbeque it. And there are plastic chairs everywhere, so they sit and eat their rice and grilled fish.

So we did that. I just happened to turn around and saw the incredible sunset, which was everything I hoped and expected Borneo might be. And then you can see in the picture there are little fishing boats coming in and out.

I really like that photo. It is has got really good memories for me.

That’s amazing! Did you stumble upon that pier or read it in the tourist guide?

No we didn’t [read about it in the tourist guide]. My boyfriend is quite a fan of reading up. But we hadn’t on this particular place because we weren’t planning on spending very long there. It is a place that gets called K.K.

It is basically where all the flights and ships and things get in. And then, for tourists anyway, they generally don’t spend very long there and transfer. So we were travelling out in a couple of days. So we hadn’t really looked into it.  We just literally stumbled upon it.

And it was like such a hive of excitement. It was so interesting! And the variety and the colours of the fish was absolutely incredible! It was parrot fish, I think they are called…like bright purple and about this big. Massive. About half a foot long.

That’s amazing!

So you can see the boats, coming in and out, and then this is another island off in the distance.

And the way you composed the picture with the sunset in the top left corner and the row of boats, were you trying to convey a specific atmosphere or mood?

Yeah. So I took quite a few. If I remember correctly I really wanted to get the boats coming in and out so it took me ages to get. You can see those ones are obviously anchored, but I really wanted to get a picture of the boats coming in and out. And you could get a feeling of the hustle and bustle a bit.

But then obviously the picture itself is beautifully calm. But actually, there was so much excitement and so much going on around us, it was really interesting!

Actually, to get that picture, I had to squeeze right down between these two fishermen’s stalls because you couldn’t really get to the pier. Because there were hardly any tourists there, no one else was looking at the sunset. They all live there.

So I had to squeeze through and then take a quick couple of photos. So yes, I wanted to get the fishermen in the photo.

Did you take the picture with your phone or a camera?

I can’t remember! I think it was my phone because, if I remember correctly, I wouldn’t have taken my camera out because we were just walking around a lot in the evening. So I think probably my phone. Because it was more of a spur of the moment thing.

So you could see, when you took the picture… you could see the picture on your screen to make sure it looked like you wanted it to?

Yes, exactly. I think that is why I took a couple. Because I think there were a few where the boats were blurred or I got the top of someone’s head. So I took a couple more because I wanted to get the boat in and the guy driving it.

And have you shared it with friends and family this picture?

Yes. I have got it on Instagram.

I think I put it up with a photo of… I’ve got a photo on my phone of me and Paul actually in the fish market because we bought some lobster.

We thought it was a special occasion. Well I’ve had lobster but Paul had never had lobster. So we splashed out a little bit and spent like three pounds, or something, for a whole lobster!

So, yes, we ate there as well. So I think I put the two photos of Borneo, the sunset and then us eating in the restaurant. Well, I say restaurant, it’s like plastic chairs!

And how does this picture fit in with other pictures you have taken?

I think I probably have got quite a lot of photos of sunsets, because I think they are so beautiful. I love watching the sun set!  There is something quite magical about the sun set on one day and then go into the night time.

But I didn’t really share that many photos from my holiday on Facebook or anything because I think people get bored. I only put the odd one up. I actually think, thinking about it, all the photos that I put up from travelling were probably just the really bright ones! So I was thinking I put a couple up from the rainforest, and it was really green. And that one is obviously very vivid orange and yellow.

So probably, I like eye-catching photos actually. I like things that are very bright! That probably fits in quite well with what I like in photos.



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