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Dean Kyte, Writer, Artist, Filmmaker, Flaneur

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As someone not unskilled at picking up las chicas en la calle, I appreciated the direct way in which Melbourne photographer Tommy Backus (@writes_with_light) approached me in Frankston and asked if he could take my photograph.

I was surprised, moreover, at what his camera saw.

Are you surprised at how others see you?  I confess I often am.  To see yourself in a photograph is like seeing yourself reflected in a mirror which is angled away from you: you catch an unexpected vision of yourself—side-on, as it were.

I didn’t altogether recognize the dapper gloved gent staring back at me from Tommy’s photographs with such steely confidence.  Was this really the vision that others had of me as I took my dreamy flâneries down Melbourne’s laneways?

The hard-eyed, no-nonsense gent in these photographs looked more like a dandy Don Draper than Dean Kyte.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1QIoqbHLK-/

As I studied the stranger in the photographs, I was reminded of something which a girl had said to me once.  I picked her up in Chinatown, approaching her with the same sort of humble directness with which Tommy had approached me in the Shannon street mall.

It was our second rendez-vous.  As we departed the Treasury Gardens and wended our way down the Paris end of Collins street, she told me of some of the manipulative and socially unintelligent manœuvres which other men had pulled on her in the past.  I violently expressed my disgust with what I considered to be ‘weak’ behaviours because (as I had learned to my cost) they are ultimately unnecessary.

She gave a kind of ‘verbal shrug’, as if to say, ‘But of course!’  It was natural, to her mind, that I should regard such behaviours as weak and unnecessary.

‘You are a confident man,’ she told me, quite matter-of-factly, as though the intelligence was already well-known to me and she was not, in fact, giving me a revelatory clue to the mystery (which always preoccupies me) of who the hell I am.

I was as surprised by that observation of myself by another as I was looking at this confident gentleman I hardly recognized as me in Tommy’s photographs.  I didn’t ‘feel’ especially confident.  Perhaps truly confident men never do, because they never think about it.

In Daygame, we used to say that confidence was nothing more than ‘situational competence’: you gain competence (and thus confidence) as a man by consistently throwing yourself into situations where you are not yet confident (such as approaching women in the street) and mastering that domain until it enters into your economy of habits as an ‘unconscious competency’.

The truly confident man is, I think, as much a man of thought as of action.  To act decisively, with confidence, demands that we first of all consider the complexity of problems at a very deep level.  This takes time and does not preclude the potential for self-doubt: confidence is not something you ‘have’ even when you are competent in a given situation; it is a reserve you call upon to inspire action.

Certainly I did not ‘feel’ especially confident when I picked up the girl who alerted me to my innate confidence.  I had no intimation of what would transpire between us in a very few hours’ time, and I almost let her walk past before the reserve of unconscious competence commanded me to approach.

Indeed, I sensed a similar ‘summoning of courage’ in Tommy when he stopped me in Frankston, which made me appreciate his direct yet humble approach.  If you want to see Melbourne like a local, I recommend that you take a look at other of his portraits of Melburnians on Instagram.

I want to thank all my friends who have accepted the invitation to follow my adventures on The Melbourne Flâneur vlog.  As I commence my enterprise, offering a bespoke, artisanal approach to document preparation, it means a lot to me to have your support.

It’s also an honour and responsibility to produce online content for an audience who has committed to watch it.

In thinking about how to produce online content that is meaningful, engaging and valuable without bombarding or overwhelming you, I was influenced by Jasmine B. Ulmer’s article, “Writing Slow Ontology” (2017).

In the spirit of the ‘Slow’ movement (as in Slow Food, Slow Cities, etc.), I want to propose a ‘Slow’ approach to producing online content, one that does not bombard you with volume or overwhelm you with fast pace, one that is, as Ulmer says, ‘not unproductive’ but ‘differently productive’.

As opposed to the consumptive and disposable model of online content production that predominates, I won’t spam your inbox with clickbait.  You won’t hear from me often, but I hope that when you do receive notification of a new post, you will look forward to the content I offer.

To my mind, online video should open a space in which to breathe for the viewer, not fill a hole hungry to consume.  In line with the bespoke, artisanal value promise of my enterprise, I want whatever leaves my hand to be the best that I can make it.

I called my vlog The Melbourne Flâneur because I wanted to bring a more ‘pedestrian’ pace to producing online content, introducing Paul Schrader’s notion of the transcendental style in film to online video.

In the video above, you’ll notice my love of ‘leveraging boredom’—holding on shots of ‘nothing’ at the beginning and end, moments of ‘ventilation’ which encourage you to pause, breathe and observe with me in my flânerie.

The fast-paced, high-volume approach to content generation is opposed to the bespoke æsthetic of the handcrafted, artisanal products and services I promote.  To write and publish even a slender volume like Brazen Gifts for Gold took more than a year of my life.

Writing is a true ‘manual labour’, but, as Ulmer observes, it is also a labour of time and being in which we don’t just ‘do’ writing but ‘live’ writing.  To be a writer is to live an artisanal lifestyle.

Value emerges from this condition of artisanship: all the being and ‘life/time’ of the writer is imbued in the bespoke, handcrafted book, not merely in the words he sweats over to make perfect, but in the total ‘livery’ of his libello.

Likewise, in the video content I offer you on this vlog, in which places are allowed to be and breathe, I hope you enjoy a vicarious oasis of valuable respite from the overwhelming pace of our amped-up existence.

How does a ‘Slow’ approach to creating online content resonate with you?  Do you agree that we could benefit from a more thoughtful, deliberative pace to online video production?  I’m interested to hear your thoughts in the comments below.