Monday, January 4, 2010

suburb No 17: Surry Hills

The first suburb in 2010 had to be the one that bears the very same postcode – Surry Hills 2010. 
Which was handy because Surry Hills is relatively close to home and there’s been no time to roam 
far these past few weeks.

My five minute research revealed Surry Hills to have endured a roller coaster ride over the past 

200 years.

In short, it goes something like this:

Cadigal kicked out in the 1790’s – British farmed the land – population explosion – crime-ridden 

slum – reborn by post-war migrant influx – gentrification from 1960’s to today. Now a vibrant suburb 
filled with restaurants, pubs, art galleries and the rag trade.

I’ve been many times before over the years but as with suburbs like Haberfield and Pyrmont, I’ve 

never really wandered the streets for hours on end, just for the sake of looking. I left with a much 
greater appreciation of Surry Hills’ history as well as its present day incarnation as a wonderfully 
colourful corner of the city…

Part 1: Red

Ruby red


red flower girl


it has spark


chop chop!


the colour of Asia


branch out (shot of house is from last winter - the tree is now in full green bloom)


or maybe not


let the battle begin


a classic check


the woman with the long black hair


Part 2: Gold

is everything


a gold mine (Bourke Street Bakery)


different religions (Bourke Street Bakery and St Peters Catholic Church)


time for a drink (Clock Hotel)


tropical Surry Hills


the bell


No 11



pink and gold


light streams in (Toko)


living walls


skinny lanes


but old spirits


Part 3: Green

green eyed 


no garden? just grow one on your walls : 1


no garden? just grow one on your walls : 2

no garden? just grow one on your walls : 3

no garden? just grow one on your walls : 4

some flowers can grow anywhere


hand-made (street art and sushi being made at Toko)


patina vs perfection


Part 4: Blue

protector of children :: 1 (Superman and the former Children's Court)


stick 'em up sister




Part 5: Black and White

the well-heeled mix with the downtrodden


window shopping (David met Nicole)


day of rest (Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church)


which way will the Hopetoun go? (music venue currently closed until further notice)


is he?


an old butchers, now serving cooked cuts of meat


black and white


protector of children :: 2 (Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church and former Children's Court)

urban jungle


creator of crustacean art (Toko)

sun on screen

The beauty for me in Surry Hills - the way its tangled streets and lanes remain true to their history, 
peppered with handsome beauties that have seen better days but still stand tall. The street art that 
enlivens otherwise characterless walls. And the mix of residents, from seasoned old timers to fresh 
faced young hopefuls.

Next week - I plan on day tripping somewhere far far away. See you then.


  1. I'm DeeDee, one of the readers from Canada. I really enjoy your tours - I had no idea Sydney had so many suburbs. I originally started reading your blog because I wanted to see some views of a different place, but I keep coming back for your fantastic photos and great pairings. At least one makes me chuckle to myself everytime. That is probably not your intention, but it makes my day. I look forward to the rest of your project. Thanks for investing the time in it. It shows! Happy New Year.

  2. Nice way to treat yourself..... food at Toko. Yummmmm!

  3. I have lived and worked in Surry Hills for the past 10 years and you have captured it beautifully! nice work!

  4. DeeDee - Glad to provide a lightening chuckle.
    Belinda - Yes, yum!
    Tim - That's one of the questions I ask myself when I assemble all the images at the end of a week - have I captured the feel of a suburb in the brief time I'm there - so I'm glad to hear from a local that you think I have - thanks.

  5. Your photographs are fantastic. Referred to your site as a future resident of Sydney (in a year or two's time)

  6. dear louise
    it's always wonderful to see your pictures and read your stories
    never realize that we're actually surrounded by unrevealed beauty here and there
    those tickled me to explore my own town,, :)

    novi - tokyo

  7. Sean - thank you - Sydney is a great place to live - my appreciation of it has increased quite dramatically since I started roaming so I'm glad to be able to pass on the insights.

    Novi - thank you - Tokyo must be amazing to explore! And yes, it's quite remarkable how much beauty there is when you decide to search for it.

  8. ooh we like you... we like you very much! Max the Duster, King of Darlinghurst =M=

  9. schnook you are a

  10. these gorgeous pics are saturated in the memories i have of living in the slurry hills, many years ago. good to know some things never change, or at least not too much. keep up the good work!

  11. In your brief description of Surry Hills' history, you didn't mention the eighties - recession and massive unemployment, many from the post-war immigration boom had become landlords, and poor students and the unemployed could get a room for $40 per week, or less. Grand but crumbling old terraces filled with punks, goths, band members. Inexpensive gigs with some of the best live bands of the time, everywhere - e.g. The Cricketers' Arms, The Hopetoun, The Evil Star. Parties anyone could go to, at any time of night. People from all over Australia (And New Zealand!) connecting over music, fashion, literature, sexuality - all discovered before the internet. People who were fully informed about safe sex, and needle exchanges. That's the Surry Hills I lived in, and loved, and will miss forever.

  12. Cath
    Thank you for painting such a clear picture of that time. Sounds quite amazing.

  13. amazing pictures, i love them...

    I am writing a report about surry hills and i would love to hear what people think and feel about surry hills...

    I am really interested in Cath Stuart ... amazing description and really interesting... I would appreciate if you could explain me something else about the eighties...

    Thank you very much


  14. Anna
    Sorry I can't put you in touch with Cath - I don't have any contact details aside from her name. But it sounds like there are a lot of people who are passionate about Surry Hills. Good luck with the report.

  15. I need to get out more. What a wonderful snapshot (or several) of my home suburb. Thanks for sharing, and inspiring me to take the camera out and shoot my lovely little town :)

  16. Yay Louise you did Surry Hills!! Red flower girl is my fave from this series.. Can't wait to see what you get up to this year!

  17. foraggio - always glad to inspire.

    dagnabbit -Yes! Loved it, such a varied suburb. I love the red flower girl too.

  18. I had forgotten how much I love Sydney. You've shown me so much about suburbs I didn't know about suburbs I've actually been a resident of. Beautiful and so well done. Thank you so much for letting me come on this amazing tour.

  19. Awesome paired compositions, particularly in the red section.

  20. Beautiful images.
    Great blog.
    Nice work Louise.

  21. Two Tuesdays - welcome, more the merrier.
    Rachel and barry p - many thanks, glad you like.

  22. I lived in Surry Hills for a year or so and I still miss it. Thanks for this snapshot. Wish I'd been there when Cath Stuart describes it!

  23. At one time in its tattered history, Surry Hills was very affected by HIV/AIDS, with many local residents, the gay men who were doing up the old terraces, or living in the cheap rentals, succumbing quickly to the disease. It is one of the reasons the area gentrified at such a fast rate in the 1990's. Many of the gay bars became straight bars and swank restaurants overnight.

  24. .........and Cath Stuart is right, it was goths, punks and what we called Swampies, the guys in the paisley shirts and stovepipe trousers, alongside the gays, the students, it was cheap, busy, colourful, and extremely druggy! I can barely stand to see how dull it is in comparison now, as "nice" as it is, Surry Hills looks like a spread from "Inside Out" magazine these days, where Mosman accountants can drive in and feel "street".

  25. oh little schnookins
    go hard

  26. love your photos and the way you've put them together!

  27. Gorgeous. You are a talented artist.

  28. Beautiful meaningful photography. I feel nourished. Thank you.

  29. Fantastic compound images. I live in Surry Hills and i'm fascinated every day as i walk through the streets.

    Keep up the great work :)

  30. I just stumbled upon your blog and had to seek out Surry Hills, my burb. What an amazing perspective you have. I love the colours, seeing it through your eyes. Thank you for the voyage through my beloved area.

  31. Been a while since I checked out the most recent comments - thanks so much everyone. Surry Hills was and is one of Sydney's more interesting places - I can imagine those who knew it way back when could be disappointed by how much 'edge' it has lost - but I reckon it still has more edge than many other suburbs. And I don't think there's a single McMansion in the place - that's got to count for a lot!


  32. Hey :) Awesome photos...the one withe the boardshorts "stick em up" do you remember by any chance what brand they are?

  33. Walking down memory lane .... this used to be my local haunt, living in Esther Street. I truly appreciate and cherished looking at your photographs and in particular this suburb. Fond memories indeed. Thank you!