Tuesday, December 21, 2010

a tale of two suburbs

So good to be here again! I've been trying to find the time to post but The Book sucked up all my
time and once it was done, left me a little dazed and confused - that's what five weeks of 16 hour
days does I guess.

But now that the book is done - it flies off to be printed this week - and I feel almost human
again, I find myself giddy with the prospect of blogging once more. Only question is, what to blog about?

I could tell you all about the book - the size, look and feel etc - but I thought I'd leave that as a

surprise for next May when it materialises on the book shelves.

I could tell you about the various ideas I have for my next project. But really, they're daydreams
at the moment and not entirely baked. Maybe in the new year one or two might be more solid.

So what I thought I'd share today is a mini-post about two suburbs, Fairfield and nearby Bonnyrigg. 
I took these shots when I was out there a few weeks ago taking some pics for a client. I didn't have
time to do my usual slow trawl but what I did try and capture is the contrast between the faded 
suburban side of Fairfield and the shiny 'just new' bits of nearby Bonnyrigg.

Fairfield has been designated as a growth area over the next few decades. Hence the 24 hour
T-Ways and futuristic looking bus shelters around the place. And the homes with names like Dover
and Newbury that are rising out of the mud at the rate of knots in Bonnyrigg. Their unblemished
blond brick and tidy gardens with super-sized sunflowers are in striking contrast to the faded
suburbia that is still hanging on in Fairfield - but for how much longer? Which is why I leapt out of
my car like a mad woman when I spied Marcus and Ben, two gentlemen from Iraq and Assyria,
quietly sipping their morning coffee in a corner 'cafe' that I bet my bottom dollar will not exist in
its current, charming, faded state for too many more moons... 

A tale of two suburbs:

the modern way

the old pub

at the cafe - Marcus and Ben

Bonnyrigg rises out of the mud


old and new


smoko :: 1

smoko :: 2



before and after

give a man a hammer


Bonnyrigg is blooming

beads and buses

2020 in 2010

for how much longer?

watch this space

I'm glad I finally saw Fairfield (I tried once before but ended up in Bonnyrigg - remember the
religious smorgasbord?). And I'm so glad Marcus and Ben just happened to be there when I drove
past. I don't know if they were as thrilled to see me - they did seem just a little bemused - but you
know, how often does a woman wielding a camera around enter a room with an atmosphere of secret
men's business and ask you for your picture? Novel if nothing else.

I suspect I won't post again until 2011 has dawned - so Merry Holidays and Happy New Year! 
I hope it brings you good health and all the happiness in the world.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

coming up for air - briefly

It's been two weeks since I last posted - which is at least one week too long.
Where have I been? Well, after swirling around the suburbs for 52 weeks, I've
spent the last two weeks rooted to the spot. Stuck in one place. Chained to a
computer. Bit of a shock to my restless being but all in the name of a good
cause: THE BOOK.

Part 1: The journey of an image from the ether into printed form

Now, who has any idea how much pre-press work is required to produce a
photographic book? Not me that was for sure. I now marvel at the mountain
of stuff that I have to do to give birth to The Book.

Not that I am complaining. This is a dream come true. Huge. Thrilling. But sheez,
you should see what's involved. It makes the last 52 weeks seem like a gentle stroll.
This is a MARATHON.

You may be entirely uninterested in what I'm about to describe but I just thought
I'd bore you with my current schedule:

Up at seven. Stumble immediately to the computer to start work, only stopping
to holler various commands at my daughter and deliver her to school. And here
is where I stay until midnight, only moving to pick up my daughter from school
and attend to vital bodily functions.

For the most part, I am processing images all day long. But occassionally I take a
'break' to do a little bit of writing work to pay the bills (bills which seem to forming
a small mountain of their own lately).

Sometimes I press on until 1am in the morning. I'd stay longer if I thought a
marathon effort would make a significant dent in the side of the mountain of
work. But no, I've been at this for ages and still the mountain towers.

So what's involved that makes it such a behemoth? Well, for one thing, I took too
many photos. Now I have to sort through them all, attempting to narrow thousands
down to around a thousand. Then there's this thing called colour profiles. Who knew
four little letters could mean so much - CMYK. Converting RGB to CMYK to be more specific.

Translation - you can end up working on one image alone for ages, just to
ensure it'll look good in printed form rather than online, computer form.

And the thing is, I'm a newbie at all this. Not only am I learning about preparing
images for pre-press, I've also just switched photo editing programs in the last fortnight.

End result is that I'm on a learning curve so steep I keep feeling that at any moment
I may just fall off.

The good news is, I am learning. A lot. And at the end of my learning curve will
hopefully be a beautiful book.

So I'm not complaining, really. I just wanted to let you know why I haven't posted -
and why I may not post much again until the book is out the door.

Part 2: A major omission

In my last post I couldn't thank everyone who's followed 52 Suburbs enough.
Yet where, I asked myself a little later, once those damn tears had stopped
spouting, were my thanks to all the people I'd photographed. The ones who
stopped mid-march to give some lady with a camera five minutes of their time.
People hurrying to work or to get milk or to meet a lover. They all - bar maybe
three - were gracious enough to let me take their photograph. 

So can I jut say a HUGE, ENORMOUS, HEARTFELT thank you to those kind souls.
This project would be much less rich without you. And an especially big thanks
to those who let me document their tattoos; it's not everyday someone stops
you in the street, stares pointedly at some part of your body and then says,
could you just pull up/down/around your shirt a little more so I can snap that tat.

Part 3: Er, me
Image by Andrew Goldie

This is for all those people who have asked me to 'come out of the shadows' and
show myself. I kept meaning to take a shot in some reflected surface but never
got around to it. And to be honest, I adore photographing other people but not
so keen on being photographed (oh, the irony).

However, I do like this photograph. Sure, I'm doing a bit of a serious trying-to-look-
relaxed pose but I love that the textures in the wall happen (true) to match my
top and bizarrely enough, my hair. Freaky. And I love the tiny dabs of yellow and
red above (lifesavers). The lovely Andrew Goldie shot it as part of the story Sydney 

Magazine did on 52 Suburbs last week (page 64-67 if you have it lying around).
So while I'm at it, thanks Andrew and Sydney Magazine!

How weird huh, a 52 Suburbs post without suburban images. Makes me want to
fly out the door and find a suburb to annoy. All in good time.

Okay, I feel much better having taken the time out to say hello. Now back to my
scary but wonderful monster.

See you next week? Maybe. But definitely soon.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Suburb No 52: Milsons Point

Well well. After just over a year of daytripping around this amazing city, we have finally arrived at
our last stop - suburb No 52. It's a very strange feeling I have to say - much odder than I thought it
would be. A potent mix of sadness, relief and satisfaction, with a tiny touch of fear for good measure. 

It's a mix of emotions that I haven't been able to shake all week. Every time someone has asked me
what I'm planning to do to celebrate the end of 52 Suburbs, I've felt quite disturbed. I know what
they mean and appreciate the sentiment - but celebrate? Part of me never wants this to end.

So much so that I seem to have spent double the time getting this post out the door. Admittedly
it is a bit of a bumper issue but I think I've been holding on too. Now after two days of editing and
re-editing the time has come - Let's Go Milsons Point!

I had thought about leaving it to chance and choosing the last suburb from a hat filled with the remaining
500 plus suburbs I have yet to nose around in. But after more thought than I've ever given a suburb choice,
I settled on Milsons Point.

Why? For a number of reasons. When I began this project 50 something weeks ago, I was insatiably
curious about the 'non-postcard Sydney', a place that few tourists would ever think to visit. While I 
still have hundreds of suburbs left to explore I now feel like I at least have some idea about the Sydney
beyond the glossy brochures. Time to do an about turn and pay a visit to a suburb packed with icons
that scream Sydney to millions of people around the world. Because I never said I didn't like the
shiny glistening bits - the harbour, the Opera House, the bridge. They just had to wait their turn.

Knowing that the last suburb had the potential to be a bit sad, I also wanted to share something

fun with you and end on a high note somehow. A trip to Luna Park, the fun fair at Milsons Point, seemed
like a good idea. Especially as fun and fantasty is where we started with the 1950s Fair at Wahroonga.
Why not end with it too?

And lastly, I liked that we were finishing with a suburb that sits right across from the place where it all

started in 1788, Sydney Cove.

Before we hop on the Ferris Wheel, some history. The Cammeraygal lived along the foreshores
of the area until the British arrived. The suburb was named after settler James Milson, whose son
was one of the bright sparks who built up a ferry business to transport people across the harbour,
pre-Sydney Harbour Bridge days (1935). In the 1920s, many of the suburb's homes were resumed
to make way for the building of the bridge and railway. Today, Milsons Point is a mix of high-rise
residential and commercial, its most notable bits being one end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge,
Luna Park and North Sydney Pool.

Shall we? 

Part 1: Just for Fun - the entertainers

My memory must be pretty shocking because as I entered Luna Park through the enormous smiling face,

I could not for the life of me remember if I'd ever been before. I'm certain I never went as a kid (grew
up in Hong Kong) but maybe I did as a young adult. 

Anyway, I have to say, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It helped that I went with my daughter
whose excitement was infectious. And that it was the 75th birthday of the park. But I also expected
it to be tackier somehow and was thrilled to find so much of it is old and original. 

Part of the reason for this is that it hasn't always been 'Just for Fun' at Luna Park. In 1979 tragedy 
struck when a fire killed seven people - six children and one adult - on the Ghost Train. Since then the
park has been closed for long periods of time; at one point complaints about the noise from the rides
threatened to close it down entirely.
As an article I read later explained, "Perhaps ironically, it has been the years of neglect that has
ensured these rare historic designs [murals, art deco architecture] remaining largely intact." 

Today, Luna Park's future looks as bright as its zillions of tiny lights with a heritage listing and a special
place in the heart of many Sydneysiders.

So first, let's wander and meet some of the fantastic entertainers who swagger/dance/stilt-walk
through the crowd.

funny faces

my, what large lips you have


say cheese

welcome, you're just in time to see the Incredible Flying Bird

oh, that is a good one!

a real life Dolly Varden cake

Lola and Miss purple toes


Freckle and Speckle :: 1

Freckle and Speckle :: 2

Freckle and Speckle :: 3

dancing girls :: 1

dancing girls :: 2

dancing girls :: 3

peeping tom

dancing girls :: 4


Try Your Kissing Style

nice going kid

hoola hoop :: 1

hoola hoop :: 1

Part 2: Just for Fun - the happy customers

Happiness is...

happiness is a kid on a carousel


Jem at the Wheel of Joy

ha ha


up up and away in my beautiful balloon

woo hoo

waiting to see The Script

not really dressed for The Rotor

Dianne and Loula

Part 3: Swimming under the Sydney Harbour Bridge

North Sydney Pool, probably my favourite pool in Sydney. Original 1936 art deco building with a

tasteful new addition, right on the harbour's edge. On one side is the Sydney Harbour Bridge,
on the other Luna Park. Good for distracting one from counting the laps.

an icon among icons

neighbours :: 1


round and round, lap after lap

the lounge area

look at all those lily pads fellas

nice place to work on a tan :: 1

nice place to work on a tan :: 2

a swim would be nice

neighbours :: 2

Part 4: A walk down memory lane

The last time I walked around the foreshore from Luna Park to Lavender Bay was 10 years ago. 

Since then a section of it has been transformed into a sweet little park, the Art Barton Park (named
after the resident artist at Luna Park from 1935 to 1970, Arthur Barton).

If you keep an eye out you'll spy a handful of tiny sculptures dotted along the way by local resident
and artist Peter Kingston. Most of them are classic Australian comic characters such as Blinky Bill
but one is especially moving - 'A Cup of Tea' is a memorial to the Ghost Train victims, designed
by cartoonist Michael Leunig in 1994 and sculpted by Peter Kingston in 2006. 

Blinky Bill

A Cup of Tea


Ginger Meggs, stuck on a plinth but with a ripper view



underwater world

sea creatures

old growth

Part 5: The Coat Hanger - above it

Ah yes, the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Fast facts - opened in 1932 after six years of toil, world's
largest steel arch bridge that once upon a time cost six pence to cross (three pence if you were a
horse and rider). And you know why they are always painting it? Because the surface area that needs
a slap of paint is equal to the surface area of 60 sports fields.

What amuses me is that despite the fact it takes just minutes to cross the bridge, it's a big
deal to get people from one side or the other to do so.

Milsons Point supports the northern end of the bridge and as such is a busy transport hub. Not just
of trains and cars but cyclists in colourful cling-film Lycra on their way to and from work.

ta da!


rush hour

the final ascent - Karl :: 1

the final ascent - Karl :: 2


the final ascent - Terry

climbing not riding

ooh, it gets windy on the bridge

Part 6: The Coat Hanger - below it

Always wondered what went on behind those massive walls of windows under the bridge you drive

past on your way to North Sydney. Now I know. Car mechanics, classic car shop and a RTA service centre.

old school transport

they don't make cars/windows like they used to

under the bridge

RTA boys :: 1

RTA boys :: 2

RTA boys :: 3

Speaking of cars...

Popeye, stop hitting that car!

Part 7: Harry's buildings

Am at Luna Park, enjoying the chaos, when I look up and see this interesting building. Concrete

looking with white grid. Turns out to be a Harry Seidler and Associates design. Built in three stages,
one section at 2 Glenn Street just won the 25 Year Award for Enduring Architecture at the Australian
Institute of Architects' NSW Architecture Awards. It looks right across the water at another Seidler,
the Blues Point Tower. A slightly more controversial creation.

two Seidlers


classic lines

view over to the other Seidler

Part 8: And back to Luna Park, just for fun

One last look as the day comes to an end, the rides wind up and we all wander home...

afternoon light

golden glow

precious chains :: 1

precious chains :: 2

flying chairs at rest

Chris and Shannon from Mt Druitt :: 1

Chris and Shannon from Mt Druitt :: 2

Chris and Shannon from Mt Druitt :: 3

Gina, reflective, just like me

oh no, she's going!

bringing the suburbs to the icons :: 1

bringing the suburbs to the icons :: 2

surrounded by bright lights now

twinkle twinkle

and goodnight

Oh, I almost forgot, I have a virtual present for you...

cheesy but true

The beauty in Milsons Point? While the icons pack a punch, I like the kinetic energy of the place.
Trains, cars, buses, cyclists. Runners, swimmers, thrill seekers. A suburb in constant motion.
Except for that peaceful little park, honouring six kids and a dad who were just trying to have 
some fun.


So it's 2am in the morning. The usual time I finish these posts. But aside from that, nothing is usual
about this particular post. You know what this feels like? When you've been travelling with people
- people you didn't know to begin with but soon felt connected to - and the travels have come to 
an end. Some of you have been with me on this adventure for 52 weeks - a whole year.

And now what? This is just too sad. Well, let's just say this is not the end okay? I don't know if there'll

be another 52 Suburbs but here's what I do know - there will definitely be another project and more
adventuring. There just will be.

So stay tuned. I'll be head down for the next three weeks getting the book ready and then who knows.

It is hard to see the keyboard now through the hot salty tears rolling down my cheeks. I cannot
imagine not getting out there and exploring. This city is so amazing and I don't want to stop sharing
it with you.

But like I said, this project has ended but there will be another. And after I've finished the book,

I'll be organising some sort of do. Because by then I probably will feel like celebrating.

In the meantime, I plan on posting once a week still. In fact, if you have any questions about

the project, fire away and I'll answer them next week.

So thank you, thank you, thank you. You've been the most wonderful travelling companion I could

have wished for. I really hope you enjoyed it. I did. Every single hot/cold/hard/easy/exhausting/
funny/disturbing/curious/satisfying/beautiful/ugly/wonderful minute of it.

See you next week.