Engaging Newcastle was a two week photo essay of our community by Conor Ashleigh for the University of Newcastle. Commissioned as part of the launch of Engage Newcastle in August 2012, the exhibition celebrated our diversity and vitality, and explored some of the new and old communities in our region.
The image above comes from the photo series Ocean of Wisdom. Here is the accompanying story in Conor’s words:
Most people walking past the Merewether Ocean Baths would barely notice the Steps of Knowledge. It isn’t the steps that are unique or profound, but more the collection of Novocastrians who gather there each morning after their daily swim.
I joined the men early one winter morning. Everyone stood around for a group photo on the steps before they hit the water. Observing the ease of these modern-day elders as they bounced jokes off one another, it was obvious how intimately they knew each other. Coming from a diverse range of professions and family backgrounds, these men were united by their love of the ocean. This was their morning ritual, their meditation.
As I chatted with well-known Novocastrian Bernie Curran after he finished his morning laps, I was spellbound by his stories of camaraderie involving members of the Steps of Knowledge crew. Time flew by and with Bernie running late for work I decided it was apt for me to slip into my board shorts and swim a lap in honour of the elders who turn up to swim at the Merewether Ocean Baths, whether it’s rain, hail, summer or winter.
To see the full Ocean of Wisdom photo series, visit Engage Newcastle on Flickr.