Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Suburb No 29: Waterloo

I found Redfern so captivating last week that I decided to stay in the area and visit neighboring suburb,
Waterloo. Two consequences of that decision. One, I have had a certain Abba song on high rotation in
my head all week, and two, my suspicion that this is one of the more interesting areas of Sydney has
been confirmed.

Why so interesting? Because it's so hard to pin down. Enormous public housing towers watch over swanky
cafe/art gallery patrons, who in turn can drink their lattes while observing busloads of Hillsong-ers
arrive at their church, just down the road from one of the highest concentrations of Aboriginal
people in Sydney. What exactly, I wondered, do the men sitting across in the Salvation Army centre
make of it all? In the southern end of the suburb there's a major oval, a skate park and on the site of
the old Waterloo Incinerator, a new 'mini-city' in the making, Green Square.

Some history: Gadigal until 1788, Irish and English settlers worked in the many industries (brick, glass,
brewery, flour, paper) in the area during the 1800's, joined by Chinese market gardeners in the late
19th century, public housing estates built in the second half of the 20th century. Today, it's an edgy mix
of industrial, trendy retail, and residential (towers and terraces).

Oh, and it was named after the Battle of Waterloo of 1815 (I just find that so weird. An area that

was and still is so 'Aboriginal', named after a war in Belgium, involving the British, their mates and
a small French man.)

Part 1: Aboriginal Australia

many suns

in black and white

his colours

on the oval (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2008', Utopia Art Sydney)

kicking goals

the bee and the rabbit


Part 2: Skate Park

having a break

it's a religion

their wheels


Part 3: Those girls again

I ran into the gorgeous girls I met last week in Redfern. Turns out they actually live and go to school

in Waterloo. They were playing on a structure that I've admired a thousand times while driving
through Waterloo. What I'd always thought was a bus shelter is actually a place to play chess - 
or, as the girls see it, a climbing frame.

'wanna take our pictures AGAIN?'

why play chess when you can climb? (Teora)

brown eyed girl (Eileen Napaltjarri, Utopia Art Sydney, and Christine)

flower girl (Kim)

A note about the image above. The image on the left-hand side is a mosaic done
by a partnership between South Sydney City Council, the Factory Community 
Centre, local residents and children and community artists Angela Yeend, Marily
Cintra and Malcolm Cooke.

sun girls (Saysha and Christine)

Part 4: Art and cafe culture

Turn right past the public housing towers, keep going past the Salvation Army Centre, turn left when

you see the big 'Jesus' sign at the Hillsong church and you suddenly enter another world, one filled
with hip cafes and well-groomed people wandering around art galleries - Danks Street. One of the
galleries, however, isn't entirely divorced from its surrounds, exhibiting work by Aboriginal artist, 
Eileen Napaltjarri. 

it's art baby :: 1 (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2010', Utopia Art Sydney)

it's art baby :: 2

it's art baby :: 3 (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2008', Utopia Art Sydney)

retail, old and new

paper town :: 1 (Thurle Wright, 'A history of England 2010', Brenda May Gallery)

paper town :: 2 (Thurle Wright, 'A history of England 2010', Brenda May Gallery)

it's art baby :: 4 (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2008', Utopia Art Sydney)

walk on by 

Part 5: Again!

Checking out a local pub by the name of George, I ran into those girls again, walking past on their

way home. I think at this point they must have thought I was stalking them.

'come on, we've gotta go'

'last one okay!'

seeing double after the pub

all locked up vs free as a balloon

Part 6: The AGM (Australian Glass Manufacturers) Building

This is another building I've long admired but never got out of my car to focus on. It's 1940s
Functionalist style' with an art deco tower. Once a glass factory, now a storage facility (in case you
couldn't guess - I know they need to put their names up big but sheez, how to spoil the look of a great
old building). 

walls of glass

look at those lines :: 1

look at those lines :: 2

Part 7: A selection of other sights worth stopping the car for

lanterns and loops

fuel (Eileen Napaltjarri, 'untitled 2006', Utopia Art Sydney)

nice type

a famous church

the towers that tower

or hate 'em?

an unknown future

Beauty? For a former swamp, Waterloo's got a lot to catch your eye. The old weathered stuff that
sits happily decaying alongside the new. Some great old buildings. And those kids. Hope I run into
them again some time.

Happy Easter and see you next week.


  1. Hi Louise!
    I came across a link to your site in the Australia Post magazine and I am fascinated! I love your photos and love the way you juxtapose shapes and lines, colours and textures in your little diptychs. I, too, live in Sydney but on the Northern Beaches side. Anytime you decide to head up here, drop me a line (indigo2087atgmaildotcom) and maybe we can go snapping together! I blog occasionally at and post photos of my little corner of the world. You have inspired me to dust off my seldom-used wide-angle lens and give it another whirl...

  2. Love this post! As a frequent Danks Street lurker (not one of the particularly well dressed kinds though!) it's nice to see a bit of depth to the neighbourhood.

    And I LOVE the AGM building, I wish it was used for something a little more worthy than storage!

    Oh oh, and love the rust stains on the warehouse in 'it's art baby' - I always walk past that building and think how beautiful it is.

    xx Kit

  3. That's what I love about this project - hearing you're not alone loving rust stains!! And yes, can't they do something else with the AGM building. Surely. Thanks Ms Unreliable (and for your piece on my project over at your blog home).

    Indigio2087 - And I also love that this project inspired people like you to pick up your camera again. Thanks for your lovely comments and I do plan on coming North - it's been a while.


  4. I have always loved that AGM building and it is such a shame to see those beautiful deco lines languishing.....

  5. Looks like you're well and truly back, Louise! Great post, as usual. Sigh. You're truly inspirational :)

  6. Love love love your work, Louise!! Isn't it fascinating how we can rediscover thing we walk or drive past everyday without really noticing?!

    I definitely to go for a walk around Waterloo now, I'm usually sticking to the Dank St area so need to explore a bit more ;-)

  7. Louise
    Just beautiful - and all the more relevant for me as south-east Sydney is where I am from. I love how the pictures with your brief tagline evoke a much larger story, which you are inviting us to explore further through our own research.

    I often get my hair cut at "Chris Souths Hairdresser" the barber shop in Morehead St opposite the pub. Chris is real old-school, a charming gentleman who still offers a full men's shave service for about $13 - amazing!

    Thanks again. Amazing and inspiring work.

    Tony Hollingsworth

  8. scream4noreason - Languish they do. Can we start some sort of 'Reclaim the AGM' movement?
    Kate - Too kind, thanks.
    Myriam - Exactly. I guess it just isn't a priority, to wander out of our way. But it's so often worth it, to discover and re-discover the details of any city.
    Tony - Thanks and so glad you like it. Does Chris the barber use one of those lethal looking blades to de-forest his clients?!

  9. Thanks again Louise, i really look forward to each weeks new suburb, the combination of pictures makes you think of the suburb in a new and refreshing way. IThis week i wont ask you when are you coming to Annandale

  10. Hi Louise,

    Your work inspires me to draw and pastel paint. I'll let the results do the talking. ;)

    Best and thanks for adding beauty to our lives.


  11. Again a great post! As I haven't been living in Sydney for quite a while now (and seem to have forgotten some of the areas), I first thought you meant Woolloomooloo so was looking out for the harbour to show up in the photos! Wouldn't it be a great suburb to shoot!!?? I don't think you've done a harbourside suburb yet have you? (well I just checked and you've done Pyrmont and Potts Point) I guess I'm just a fan of the harbour!

  12. Another lovely post, full of smiles too. "Lanterns and Loops" and "Fuel" are the ones I kept coming back to, the shadow on the wall of the tree and the colorful tabs? on the curb. I've been slowly working my way through your older posts and enjoying myself, immensely.

  13. The photos of the girls are just beautiful.
    I love "flower girl" - beautiful, beautiful face
    and "last one, okay" - makes me smile.

  14. Oooooh! I love your shot of the towers... an angle I've never seen them from.

  15. wow ive learnt a thing today that kennards buildign i pass it all the time when we want to go to the m5 i wouldnt of ever called that waterloo

  16. Louise you are truly an inspiration for me. If I could achieve 1% of your talent I would be truly thankful

  17. Sevapuri - I may make it to Annandale yet!
    Robin - Thank you and I'm so happy my images inspire your art.
    Nat - The 'loo' would be a good one - was just thinking that the other day.
    Helen - I love those 'lanterns' in the 'trees' too. Shadows in general actually are pretty beautiful.
    freefalling - I know, those girls are pretty special. So full of life and energy.
    kookyknut - There's something quite compelling about the towers. I asked those Russian women I met the week before what they're like to live in - they said, not bad, a mix of people like anywhere. But the views would be pretty amazing towards the top I imagine.
    ellen charge - I was surprised too that the AGM building is in Waterloo. Great building.
    The Reverend - Oh, how I love that! Inspiring other people is such a good feeling. Thank you.


  18. Brilliant Sydney photos on your blog. I'm glad I discovered it.
    Sydney - City and Suburbs

  19. I love this! Absolutely beautiful! Keep this awesomeness up! Much love!


  20. What I truly love about your blog is the way you show the beauty of suburbs i have previously dismissed. I drive through Waterloo regularly and all I normally think is "here's a place I'd never like to break down". But now I want to go and explore. Thank you once again!

  21. Two things grab me in this post.
    #1. The name Waterloo! now that you make me think of it... it is a ridiculous name for any suburb in Australia and I guess if I thought about it I'd come up with a lot more silly names! Thankfully there are still plenty of Aboriginal suburbs and town names around one of which we are proud to live in.
    #2. What beautiful teeth those girls have! How lucky are they eh!
    cheers Pennie

  22. I finally remembered to check your blog! So blessed to see my wee lass (the red and black waspy bee). I cannot wait to show her in the morning she is on your site :)

  23. J Bar - Thank you.

    sunshineon - Thank you too!

    acoopers4me - Job done!

    Pennie - Agree re-the names. And yes, they have great choppers!

    Kristie - And she was such an obedient little wasp too, standing so patiently - thank her again from me please. Hope the move was good.


  24. Louise - I have just heard 52 Suburbs is at the Museum... any chance the Wasp is there?