Thursday, February 25, 2010

hitting the wall - and pushing through

I was wondering when this might happen. Maybe it was all that talk about obstacle courses but 
yesterday I 'hit the wall'. After 24 weeks and 24 suburbs - just shy of half way through this project
- I woke up and realised I had nothing in the tank. I felt completely and utterly devoid of energy
or motivation. Empty. As flat as a pancake - no, that's too buoyant - more like a crepe.

A marathon day on Monday - editing, assembling and posting more images than normal - didn't
help. It finished at 3am. Nor did the realisation that this week was going to be almost impossible
to find the time to do the blog - it was filled with appointments and kids' parties and just stuff,
the normal everyday life stuff I try hard to avoid so I can focus on this project - but sometimes
it's unavoidable and I just need to do it.

I thought about writing to you all yesterday about this wall I've hit - but I thought, nah, too self-absorbed.
Too me me me. But today I thought, bugger it, we're in this together - on this journey - and I reckoned
you could cope with my 'sharing'. 

So, am I about to abandon my project? 24 Suburbs rather than 52? No. NO! No way. I'm not going to
let this temporary glitch undo me. I work-shopped it all last night with good friends and that 
really helped - one of them was my neighbour who sees my light on late most nights, knowing
I'm in my office, chained to the computer, editing photos or whatever. She knows I pour my heart 
and soul into 52 Suburbs - that I LOVE it. But her counsel was wise - 'Of course you've bloody
hit a wall! You've been doing this without a break - fitting in work and looking after a child at the
same time - for almost six months and you need a break!' 

It was the slap of sanity I needed. We all have hard days when our job, paid or not, seems too much
and you just want to escape to an island far away. And really, considering the time and energy
I've spent on this project to date, I guess it's surprising I didn't hit the wall earlier. In fact, until 
yesterday, I was kind of amazed how driven and motivated I was, never needing to rev myself
up, just totally into it and rearing to go.

I could take a break - but I reckon this is the part where I am meant to dig deep and conquer
the inertia. I like a challenge and I'm 100% committed to this project.

So what I've decided to do is keep on course and do my suburb this week - but do a suburb that's 
close. Like really close. One that I've never explored on foot but driven through many times.

Why am I sharing ALL this? Well, two reasons. 

One, I wanted to explain that I remain true to my original purpose - to explore suburbs I've never
even heard of, ones that are generally far from the city centre. But that sometimes - Christmas,
now - life gets in the way and I have two options. To abandon or delay my post or do a suburb
closer to home.

The second reason I'm sharing this essay of thought and feeling with you is this - I don't need 
anyone to fawn over me - but I guess it might help to hear from you that you're still into this 
project - that you still love it - that I can console myself at 2am in the morning when I'm STILL
assembling my diptychs, that I'm not just doing this for myself. Because that's the thing - I may 
have started this project on my own, but pretty soon you joined me - and I really like that. There's
a sense of connection and community about it that I really value. It's not about me, it's about
a project that enables people to celebrate this pretty amazing city we live in. Isn't it?

And just so you know, I feel much better today. I woke up and started researching my suburb of
the week - expecting to feel as flat as I did yesterday - but as soon as I started reading about all
the old buildings and things I've never noticed, I felt some sparkle return. 

So I will be posting on Monday as usual - and I hope to press 'Publish Post' during daylight hours - 
but please forgive if the post is a little leaner than usual.
Okay, enough already. Thanks for listening. I feel better already.

Monday, February 22, 2010

suburb No 24: Liverpool

Last week I decided to go 'deep into suburbia' and visit Eastwood. As one reader kindly pointed out,
Eastwood is just 17 km from the city centre - hardly in the bosom of suburbia. So this week I was 
determined to double the distance and ended up in Liverpool, 32 km south-west of the CBD.

I'd never been to Livo before so I did my usual in-depth five second research. In brief: Indigenous
Australians given the boot to make way for Governor Macquarie in 1810 to create a town with the
help of convict/architect Francis Greenway and turn the surrounds into a market garden and chook
farm. Stayed very agricultural until the 1950's when it filled up with working class families and huge 
housing commission estates. Now a major city centre and very multicultural, including Lebanese,
Indian and Eastern European.

Of all the suburbs I've visited, Liverpool reminded me most of the Sydney I remember as a child. 
I'm not sure why exactly - maybe something about the grid-like layout of the suburb - but it felt like 
my memory was being tugged and prodded at every turn. It was the sort of place my nan would take
me for a milkshake and a bag of coloured popcorn. High livin' indeed...

Part 1: The art of capturing Liverpool

Day one in the suburb. I'm wandering around taking shots of a few small businesses that have been 

around for 20 plus years and are still managing to survive despite the Westfield invasion up the other
end of town. There's a 'continental supermarket', a 'continental butchery', an Indian sweet shop and
a barber.

Having drooled over their modest beauty and taken as many shots as I could without freaking
out the bemused owners, I decide to check out Casula Powerhouse, five minutes down the road. 

reborn not replaced - Casula Powerhouse

My architect friend, Julie Mackenzie from Tonkin Zulaikha Greer, was involved eons ago with turning
the Powerhouse into an art space (and now theatre). I walk in, expecting to have a quick squizz and
maybe take a few shots, and guess what? There's an exhibition on called 'Living Liverpool',
with some great work by a variety of artists, all telling stories about the suburb of Liverpool.

I had no idea the exhibition was on (that's how thorough my research is). But there on the wall were

these lovely detailed charcoal drawings of two of the small businesses that I'd just photographed
- the Continental Supermarket and the Indian sweet shop, the Indo Australian Caterers. Another
artist had painted shopping trolleys and mattresses as part of her work - things I hadn't taken shots
of yet but had wondered why there were so many hanging around.

It made me feel a little less strange about the things that catch my eye and that I'm not alone in 
wanting to document and celebrate the 'ordinary' and 'everyday'.

The Continental Supermarket:

'Aussie Market', Catherine O'Donnell (Boutwell Draper Gallery)


daily coffee

3 wise men


The Indian sweet shop:

'Dutchy & Son', Catherine O'Donnell (Boutwell Draper Gallery)

sweet mate

Famous Liverpool lads:

Gough Whitlam, in office 1972-1975 ('Gough Whitlam, His Younger Days', Gina Sinozich)

military men ('John Edmondson, Earlier Settler in Edmondson Park', Gina Sinozich,
and sculpture of Governor Macquarie, Robin Blau)

protector of the aged ('Maurice Tulic, More Blue Hills', Gina Sinozich)

Once upon a time in Liverpool:

multiplying like rabbits (detail from 'Over the Rainbow', Anney Bounpraseuth)

mattresses spring up everywhere (detail from 'The Princess and the Pee', Anney Bounpraseuth)

all heart (detail from 'Over the Rainbow', Anney Bounpraseuth)

Going around in circles:

'Blood, Sweat, Tears', Jason Wing

suffering is part of life (stations of the cross, and 'Blood, Sweat, Tears', Jason Wing)

Part 2: The butcher and the barber

Near the Indian sweet shop were two other gems, a continental butchery and a barber. Both been

there forever - but in the face of Westfield and the like, for how much longer?

The Polish woman's Continental Butchery:

small goods, big heart

warm smile, cold cuts

'Steven', Adam's Barber Shop:

Adam the barber

take a seat

fantasy vs reality

smoke and mirrors

Part 3: Grand old Liverpool

Francis Greenway had a hand in a fair few buildings, including the Liverpool Hospital (1820's), 

now TAFE College.

a hospital in a former life

winding staircase :: 1

winding staircase :: 2

Greenway also designed St Luke's Church in Liverpool but not the two churches that caught my eye -
Uniting Church with its fantastic jewel like windows and All Saints Catholic Church.

art and religion :: 1 (Casula Powerhouse and Uniting Church)

art and religion :: 2 (Uniting Church and Casula Powerhouse)


inside the jewel

different churches, same faith (unknown, maybe Greek Church and Uniting Church)

4 young musicians from Liverpool...

coridoors of power (All Saints Catholic Church and Liverpool TAFE)

take a pew (Uniting Church and All Saints Catholic Church)

quiet places of contemplation

open air vs on air

Part 4: Red brick, breeze brick and arcades

the red brick ('no. 19', Catherine O'Donnell, Boutwell Draper Gallery)

can you drive me to the bus stop?

you know, the bus stop outside No 32

where do they lead, nobody knows

i see leaves

rough diamonds

the journey ('Koori Floor', Judy Watson)

Part 5: The Livo Boyz

say cheese

young and old 

stop, stop

Part 6: The Livo girlz


fancy hair do

Miss Peace and the silver door

fashion of the day

wanna take my photo?

Part 7: A place of refuge

colours of survival


home is where the park is

Beauty... The impressive buildings are impressive. But as usual I loved the low key and the uncelebrated,
the places you won't find in any travel guide. Especially given they may well disappear before too long,
to be replaced by some souless horror with zip personality. Give me chipped tiles, peeling paint and wonky 
signwriting any day.

You might like to visit:

Casula Powerhouse, 1 Casula Road, Casula ('Living Liverpool' exhibition ends April 11)

See you next Monday - very late Monday if the last few are anything to go by.