Friday, December 16, 2011

From surreal to real

For the past few weeks I've done little else but do stuff relating to the upcoming project, 52 Suburbs 
Around the World. I've been madly packing, sorting, tossing, cleaning - to get my apartment ready 
to rent out - at the same time as dismantling and unplugging our life in Sydney. I've spent hours working 
with the lovely people who are helping me design and create the new blog, finessing and fussing. 
And I've been organising Coco's distance education. It's all been about the project.

But until today the project itself has seemed very remote and surreal. Part of that is due to the fact
that I've been more anxious than excited to be honest. For so long it was about just trying to get
the project up that I never questioned whether or not I could do it. But ever since I got enough
funding to get the project up, albeit on a skinny shoe-string budget, I've started to question,
can I actually do this? 

Because not only is it going to be a very time and labour intensive project. It'll also be done on the
road. And I'll be doing it with my eight year old daughter at my hip. Coco occasionally used to 
accompany me out to the suburbs in the first project. But only for a couple of hours every so often.
This will be 365 days worth of accompanying! 

And not only that, I'm going to be home schooling her at the same time. I used to say quite breezily,
oh, Coco, she'll be doing distance education. What I discovered when we went to the orientation
day at Sydney Distance Education Public School is that we will be doing distance education. While I'm
technically called the 'Supervisor' and there are real teachers at the school, the reality is that I'm
expected to sit with her and teach her for four hours a day. That to me is home schooling, something
I've always greatly respected in other people but never thought I could do myself. 

So. Ha! There it is. All the ammunition my brain needs to wake me at 3am and remind me that I'm
going to attempt to do a project that took me six days a week the first time around, at the same time
as navigating seven new cities and spending 20 hours a week home schooling, unless of course
one or other or both of us come down with some exotic illness and then, well, I'm not quite sure. 
Shambolic comes to mind.

When I sat down to post today I didn't intend to share all this. But I'd hate you to think I've been 

wandering around in a pre-trip state of bliss, just waiting until the 30th of December rolls around.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I've also gone into a decline about leaving Tom and Jinx. Now when I say 
that Tom and Jinx are cats, well, that's not really true. They're Burmese and being Burmese,
they are more like dogs than cats. So in essence we're leaving our two dogs behind - and because
they don't understand English, I'm unable to tell them that we love them very much and have done
since they arrived as tiny kittens two years ago, and we're not abandoning them really and we'll be 
back before they know it.

All they're going to think is that they've been dumped. Too sad. 

But today, finally, all the endless packing has finished and we are now officially living out of a 
suitcase: the tenants move in tomorrow morning so we're off to stay with friends for two weeks
until we go. On the way we'll drop Tom and Jinx off to their new home, some dear friends of ours,
and pray that they don't try and escape.

So although I'll be a basket-case saying goodbye to the cats (and friends and family of course),
suddenly the whole thing has moved from surreal to very real. And finally I feel less anxious
and more excited.

I also needed to post today because this is the last day I'll be posting on this blog from the computer
and room that I began 52 Suburbs on just over two years ago. It's been an amazing couple of years
and for anyone who's been following for a while or since the very start, can I just say a huge 
thank you for coming along for the ride and contributing to the project along the way.

The upshot is that I'm pretty sure the next time I post will be on the new blog so this will probably

be the last post ever on 52 Suburbs. Before we bid it farewell, can I just explain that the new blog
URL will be the same as this old one - And then this blog will have a new URL,

Reason being, it was too long to have the new blog address be, 

so we've decided to keep it short and just change this blog's URL.

Anyway, no need to absorb those fascinating facts as you'll be automatically transferred over to

the new blog unless you tell me otherwise.

So see you over there in the next week or so!

And I promise, this will be the last essay of a post. Back to brevity next time we meet.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

52 Suburbs Around the World is imminent!

Apologies for the break in transmission. It has been full-on around here ever since a few weeks ago when
the Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for 52 Suburbs Around the World successfully reached its goal.
The funds played a vital role in getting the project over the line - which meant I was suddenly very 
busy doing all the stuff you have to do when you exit your life in one country and prepare to start new lives
in a number of other countries.

So first things first, my heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported the Kickstarter campaign, either by

making a pledge or just spreading the word. Many many thanks. I love yous all.

Next on the agenda is to let you know of a few changes to the itinerary of the project. We were all going

to be nosing around the suburbs of Shanghai and Tokyo first, until I discovered that Shanghai's icy
winter can be debilitating for wandering photographers (let alone the eight year old 'assistant'), 
and Tokyo, well, Tokyo is just a little too iffy for my liking in terms of the radiation factor (and my budget
doesn't extend to buying imported food when we're there). So, after much mind-swirling, I settled on the
following for the first three months of 2012: January, Hong Kong; February, New Delhi; March, Istanbul.

I know it's a little disappointing not to be going to Tokyo in particular (I've never been but hear it's amazing).

But I reckon the new choices are going to be pretty amazing too. And they're all cities that received a lot
of votes from followers of this blog when I put the question of where to visit some time ago - so I hope you

Then after March, it stays the same as it was: Paris, Berlin, Rome and ending in New York. All famous, 

over-photographed cities that I hope to be able to show another less famous side of - and in an imaginative
way, care of my diptych, double-image obsession.

Lastly, the new blog is moments away from being ready to show you - so hopefully next time I post, 

it will be on the new blog. Very exciting.

Well, that's all for now. I am knee-deep in lists and packing boxes, and Coco is busy ticking off the days on

the calendar - we leave Sydney on December 30, precisely 37 days away.

Before I go, can I just say that, of course, I'm totally stoked about this upcoming adventure. Thrilled at the 

same time as being a little sick in the guts with excitement and nerves.

Yet despite all this, Sydney has never seemed more appealing, with purple carpets everywhere, fair-minded
people strolling about and until these last few cold and rainy days, a particular type of blue sky and quality
of light that I adore, especially around the 'golden hour' of 7-8pm. As if I needed any more convincing 
after exploring the place for a year and finding so much to be proud of. But really, what a city. 

the purple carpets of Sydney

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the new cities by the way (and of course anything else you care to share). 
Good, bad, indifferent?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NEWS! 52 Suburbs prints now part of Kickstarter rewards

The 52 Suburbs Around the World Kickstarter campaign is looking pretty hopeful - we're 78% of the way
to the goal! But there's only eight days to go - and if I don't reach my goal, I won't receive a single penny.

So I thought I'd do a quick post to let you know about some NEW rewards on Kickstarter - prints from
52 Suburbs rather than the new project. Unlike prints from the new project, these ones can be delivered
this month or latest, early December. Just in time for you know what.

Plus you can choose ANY image you like from the blog, book and exhibition. 

So, if the idea of a 52 Suburbs print and supporting the next project at the same time appeals to you,
head over here to Kickstarter and have a look at the new rewards - they're on the right-hand side,
at $165, $275 and $425.(Framing costs extra but I can point you in the right direction there too - the white
box frames like the ones in these photos are really good value, about a third of the cost of the print.)

Of course, any pledge, as little as $10, will help too. 


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Suburb No 54, Mt Druitt

Well, you know. There's only so much desk-ing a restless roamer can take. So where, I wondered, if I gave
myself leave from my desk, would I wander? For reasons not necessarily known to me, Mount Druitt
popped into mind. 

I think I chose it because, let's be honest, it doesn't get the best rap. Far from it in fact. But seeing as
I've never clapped eyes on the place, how different would it be to the (not good) image I have of it in
my mind's eye?

Hence why on a nondescript Thursday last week I found myself making the 43 km trek west.

Some facts. A Major George Druitt was given the place in the 1800s by Governor Macquarie and duly named
it after his good self. Has one historic house called The Manse (missed it), a large, sprawling shopping
mall/Westfield (can't miss it if you tried) and a handful of religious houses (found two). In 1966 they built
the first housing commission homes and more recently, masses of carbon copy blond brick 'villas'. Almost half
of the people living here were born overseas, double the national average.

So what did I find? Well, I'll let the pictures tell the story. But in a nutshell, it was perhaps one of the best

examples of how a few headlines can ruin a suburb's reputation. Mt Druitt is not without its issues but it
isn't nearly as bleak as you might imagine.

Let's go Mt Druitt!

Part 1: The mall

I have to admit, I did drive around for a bit before I decided to commit to Mt Druitt. It reminded me of

Blacktown and Granville - at first glance, it's hard to see what you'd actually photograph. But seeing as I'd
just spent close to an hour getting here, coupled with the fact I don't like giving in, I finally stopped my 
kerbside crawl, parked and started to walk - to the outside mall area. If I wasn't going to find any 
architectural gems, I'd at least find people.

Starting with a delightful (true) bunch of hair and beauty Tafe students.

spot the hair and beauty students

colourful bunch




So, I asked one of the students, is Mt Druitt as bad as they say it is. "Nup", she said, "I can hang out here at
11 o'clock at night and I won't get jumped."

Leaving the budding beauty artists I discovered they weren't the only ones hanging out on the mall who

like to spend time on their tresses. There are a large number of Africans living in the area, and all of them
have the best, most interesting, photogenic hair.

salvation in a bottle of dye


five going on fifteen

Acakue from Sudan

back to cheeky

repeat patterns

same idea

Then I met Kamissa ("you can call me Lana") and her mum. In Australia for just one year from Sudan, how did
they find Mt Druitt? "Love it!" they said. It's all relative isn't it?

Kamissa, all the way from across the seas


"call me Lana"

Part 2: Religion

More unprepared and unresearched than ever, I stumbled across just two of the suburb's holy houses -

a mosque and a Maronite church.

good neighbours

residents of Mt Druitt

sun and stars

liberty or death

Part 3: House and Garden, Mt Druitt style

Was driving past when I spotted Ron and his whipper snipper. Been in the area for 40 years, "quite quiet really".

Ron and the whipper snipper

home sweet home at No 10 for 40 years

random old

After Ron, I was told by another local that I should check out 'Old Mt Druitt' on the other side of the railway.
It didn't take long to work out why people who live here never drop the 'Old' when they're asked where they
live - it's almost another world, with well-tended gardens on large quarter acre blocks and a mix of tidy fibro
and brick homes.

I did my first double-take when I spotted David mowing his pristine lawn, set around a centerpiece of old

machinery he inherited from his great-great-great someone or other.

neat is an understatement

David's five kids were home because they'd all just got back from a six week holiday in Malta, visiting relatives.
Lovely man, lovely wife, gorgeous kids and a respect for family history, no matter how rusty. Living on a 
quarter acre with a garage big enough to fit a truck (literally - David's a truck driver). Mt Druitt?

Montana, Bryson, Seaton, Chelsea and Dean

Seaton and Bryson

A couple of streets away I met another truck-driver, Gary, and his lovely wife. I asked if I could take a few
shots of their lovely rose bush and they produced a vase filled with yesterday's pruning. 

Gary and his garden :: 1

Gary and his garden :: 2

Just as I was beginning to wonder if I'd find anything remotely sinister about Mt Druitt I stumbled across
Kathleen. 89 years old, she was born a few streets away and had been here all her long life. Surely she
must have seen the place 'change' in that time. "Well, yes, but I've never had any trouble." Not surprising
though really - her little dog, Trixie, would frighten the living daylights out of anyone who dared come near
Kathleen - lots of gnashing of teeth and deep growling accompanied by Kathleen's warning, "He'll bite."

Finally I'd found a sinister element in Mt Druitt - small, fat and goes by the name of Trixie.

Kathleen on her quarter acre

Trixie the tyrant

flowers everywhere

hanging gardens of Mt Druitt

bougainvillea buttons

Is there beauty in Mt Druitt? The place isn't flash and of course it has its problems. But it was so much more
normal than I expected. And colourful, from the bright locks of the hair and beauty students to the
multitude of flowers. But perhaps the biggest surprise of all were those quarter acre blocks with well-tended
gardens, tidy homes and nice people. You never hear about that in the 6 o'clock news.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

progress report

I thought I'd check in to let you know how the 52 Suburbs ATW Kickstarter campaign is shaping up.

As the nifty little Kickstarter widget shows, we are 32% of the way to our goal. 71 fabulous backers have made
pledges to the tune of $6,499. Everything from $1 to $1,000. In return for their generosity they'll receive
various rewards, everything from most excellent stickers to limited edition prints and a limited edition
book of the project.

Many thanks if you've already made a pledge. But if you haven't, can I be bold and say this: If everyone
who subscribes to this blog forgoes one cheap(ish) bottle of red or one non-fancy pants pizza, and
instead contributes that $15 to the Kickstarter campaign, this project will happen! That's all it will

Meanwhile, I'm still flat out exploring every avenue to get this project off the ground.

In fact, I've been so consumed that I can't think of much else. Everywhere I look I see the world, even
when I'm doing my shopping down Marrickville way...

buying lemongrass I see Asia

buying meat for spag bol I see Italy

buying a croissant for Coco I see Paris

looking at tiles I see New York (why I'm not sure)

chatting to Life (yes, that's his name) I see a funny man!

I guess you could say I'm a little obsessed. But there doesn't seem to be any other way than obsession to get
this project up and running.
If you'd like to make a pledge please click here. Arigato. Merci. Danke. Etc.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Kickstarter has started! Help make 52 Suburbs ATW a reality!

In the words of Steve Jobs: "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid
the trap of thinking you have something to lose."

And so I begin my Kickstarter fund raising campaign for 52 Suburbs Around the World. Nothing
to lose, maybe lots to gain.

The video above is the one I made for my Kickstarter page. If you're interested in helping to make
52 Suburbs Around the World a reality, please head over and check it out. If you're not familiar
with the concept of crowd funding, it's basically a way to raise funds for creative projects by asking
supporters to give some moola in exchange for various rewards.

A note about the cities I've ended up choosing. You know how I was going to visit 12 cities? Well, 
having given it some serious thought, I've reduced the number of cities to between 4-6. Why?
Because that way we can spend 2-3 months in each city and really get a feel for the place, exploring
8-12 suburbs in each. A month might just have been rushing it. Plus I'm keen to try and get as many
locals in these cities to interact on the blog and the longer we're there, the more chance there is
of that happening.

When it comes down to it, the rewards you'll see are hopefully pleasing, but in my mind, the
reason to give will ultimately be, if you enjoyed my first project, 52 Suburbs, and want to help
make this second project happen so that you can enjoy another year of weekly installments of
virtual travel.

Anyway, I don't want to say too much - all the details are on my Kickstarter page

I have butterflies just posting this. But, nothing to lose.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

the 53rd suburb, Palm Beach

A few weeks ago I called for suggestions as to which suburb I should make an honourary 53rd suburb, as a
diversion from sitting stuck behind my desk trying to drum up support for 52 Suburbs Around the World.   

There were so many fantastic responses - in fact, at one point there were exactly 52 suggestions, enough
to keep me busy for another year. But the deal was, the one most voted for would win the day. So after tallying
up all the blog comments, emails and Facebook suggestions, the winner was Palm Beach.

Hmm. Palmie huh. Interesting. Although I felt bad that I couldn't satisfy everyone's requests, I did

quite like the idea of visiting Sydney's most northerly coastal suburb (41km from the city), the last one 
before you hit water and then the Central Coast.

Brief history of the place: Named after the cabbage tree palms that still dominate the area. Original

residents were the Guringai people. European and Chinese fishermen lived on Snapperman Beach during 
the early part of the 19th century. 1843, the colonial government built a customs house to stop smugglers
entering Broken Bay. 1881, shot up a lighthouse. 1912, land sold off to wealthy folk interested in
'fishing, sailing, golf and rowing'. Fast forward to today and not much has changed. PB is regarded as
one of Sydney's most beautiful - and expensive - suburbs, surrounded as it is by water with sweeping views
all around. 


Let's Go Palmie!

Part 1: Palm Beach in a former life - House No 1

As anyone who's followed this blog for a while knows, I am a sucker for the old stuff and not so interested

in the shiny new. So when I rang one of the real estate agents up there to ask whether it was possible to
get entry into a PB home, I requested 'old not new please'. As a result I found myself being driven up a 
windy road by Noel from LJ Hooker to meet heritage listed Windyridge, and David, its owner. A modest
home but one that made you drop your shoulders the moment you entered and saw the view, uninterrupted
to the north, east and west.

Thanks Noel and thank you David for putting up with a total stranger nosing around your house and for

rummaging around to find the original plans of Windyridge, built in 1919.

not windy today

view towards the lighthouse

David with the 100 year old plans


the home's heart

from an era past

tea pot, painted many moons ago by David's wife

ahoy there

Part 2: Palm Beach in a former life - House No 2

I heard about another 'classic' PB house through an old friend. This time it was one of the 75% of homes

in the area that sit empty for the most of the year waiting patiently for a holiday to roll around and life
to inhabit them once again. Luckily for me, not only did the owner happen to be there when I knocked
on the door but she also very kindly agreed to let me in.

In her 80s, Claire explained that the house has been in the family for donkeys and was once a boathouse.

The little cottage is the opposite of grand yet it has the most majestic position - literally right on the
water's edge, looking out over the bay side of Palm Beach, Pittwater. I spent a good few hours there,
talking with Claire and snapping away. Long enough for a southerly to hit and turn the place into a
dreamy, moody landscape, one I had to drag myself away from.

Thank you Claire.

buoy up a tree

beach babes - Claire's mum and her sister, 1928

protection from the harsh western sun

outside in

on water's edge

wish I could stick my feet in the water

Part 3: Palm Beach in a former life - Houses various

Nothing new here either, all wonderfully old and original.

Jodie's house :: 1 - patterns from head to toe

Jodie's house :: 2 - window seat

take a seat

love a breezeway

garage with a view :: 1

garage with a view :: 2


dragonflies ahead of the southerly

troppo in Florida

Part 4: Water to the west

As I mentioned, PB is surrounded by water. Pittwater to the west, Pacific Ocean to the east and Broken Bay
to the north.

Starting with Pittwater, a body of water people traverse in anything that floats, from tinnies to ferries.

straight off the ferry from the Central Coast

Margaret's ride home aboard Myra


long lines


married in a southerly

time to batten down the hatches

Part 5: Water to the east - and from above

Palm Beach Surf Life Saving Club is an institution in the area. Founded in 1921, it holds court over the
southern end of Palm Beach, spread out over four charming old buildings. The members of the club will
happily save your life in the surf but as for having a nose about those charming interiors? No way buster.

no access

flexing their muscle

the boys


shutting up shop

the girls

That was Saturday. By Sunday the weather had really turned and it was only good for ducks. And surfers
with cameras on their heads as it turns out. Jack, if you're reading this, send me your video!

and then it really rained

Jack, wired for video

putting the Beach Closed sign up

Part 6: I can see for miles and miles (19 to be precise)

I ended my visit to Palm Beach on a high note, climbing 350 feet into the air to the Barrenjoey Lighthouse,
built in 1881 and still guiding ships to this day. Almost killed me but the steep steps were worth it - the view 
ain't half bad from up there. 

tea before the trek

steep steps up Smugglers

on the top - looking back over Pittwater

view to the lighthouse, 1927

sandstone, hewn and unhewn

flora on high

Tim and Bree, barefoot up Barrenjoey

The area is managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Services. Back down at sea level I popped my head
into one of the old cottages there and met manager Col and a few of his mates who were visiting. Col told
me the cottage was where the film Tim was shot and hadn't really changed since except for a lick of yellow
paint. Recognise it?

Dan and Col where Tim was filmed

One of Col's friends was visiting with his 11 year old son, Jack. When Jack decided to try his luck on the
Pittwater fish, I couldn't help snap away - both at the beautiful half Balinese Jack and the sublime setting sun. 

Jack, fishing not surfing

as the sun sets slowly in the west


I can see why they call it god's country

people have been fishing here forever

On the way back to my car for my final trip back home, I met another fisherman, Jo. He was surveying
his two fishing rods from the comfort of a wheelbarrow, hoping to catch his dinner. What, I wondered, would
those Chinese and European fishermen - and the Guringai before them - who used to fish in that exact same
spot, make of the wheelbarrow?

Jo, catching his dinner

Having once lived in Avalon, I wasn't unfamiliar with this week's suburb. But I'd never liked it as much as I
did this week. Meeting some of its long-time locals, both human and man-made, made me feel like I'd 
stepped back in time, to a less showy and more down to earth Palm Beach. I thought I would miss
doing a more urban, gritty suburb but it was invigorating to get out of the city for a change. 
Many thanks to those who opened their doors to a curious woman with a camera.