Monday, September 13, 2010

Suburb No 48: Penrith

Woo hoo! Manged to break out of the city limits this week and head 50 km west to the edge of Sydney
- Penrith. Windows down, music blaring, my mini road trip was all the more exciting because
I was going somewhere I'd never been before. Driven through Penrith at 110km an hour en route to
the Blue Mountains many times - but never once thought to pull off the highway and explore.

Some history before we look. Darug people happily fishing away when the British showed up.

In 1810, Governor Macquarie named his five top towns, one of which was Castlereagh, just up the
road from Penrith. But Penrith took off instead due to the fact a whopping great highway ran
through it. When the railway came to town in 1863, Penrith really bloomed, then again during
the Second World War and once more in the 1970s. Today Penrith is dominated by large shopping
complexes, one of the largest rugby league clubs in the country and Penrith Stadium, home to the
Panthers. There is also a major performing arts complex, 'the Joan'. Penrith takes its name from
another Penrith by the river in Cumbria, England. 

Part 1: Penrith's past in pictures

Macquarie sailed up the river

Penrith ruled thanks to the mighty highway

where emus once roamed, shopping centres now sprawl

where fish once fed a people, markets now provide

where blackfellas once walked, whities now wander

Part 2: Katie's crew at the Joan

I happened to visit the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre on the same day that a group

from AFFORD, the Australian Foundation for Disability, were visiting too. They had come from
Mount Druitt to perform in a talent show, AFFORD's Got Talent. With only minutes to spare before
they went on stage they kindly allowed me to take a few quick pics in the foyer.

new stars at the Joan

stepping into the light
back row: James (music therapist), Warren, Katie (disability support worker), Carlo.  middle row: Peter, Monique,
Daniel.  front: Glenn

Katie, disability support worker

flying the flag


Monique :: 1

I only spent a couple of minutes with the group but they left a lasting impression on me. I was
particularly captivated by Monique and her lively personality. She may be sight impaired with
an intellectual disability but every time I pointed the camera at her she smiled and laughed as if
she didn't have a care in the world.

Monique :: 2

off to star on stage

and then they were gone

Until I ran into them again, after the show.

Monique :: 3

Part 3: Wolf and Swan

You know how I like a tattoo or two. On my first day in Penrith I spotted two pink flamingos in

the distance. "Excuse me", I shouted across the road, "I love your flamingos! Can I take a shot
of them please?" The owner of the elegant birds obliged and that was how I met the very striking
Veruska Wolf and her partner, William Swan. Living in the lower Blue Mountains, they were in
Penrith to buy groceries. While I was busy photographing the couple and their myriad tattoos,
I learnt that Veruska was born of Hungarian Romani or Gypsy blood. Which explained her striking
appearance - and the fact she spent the first 13 years of her life happily living in a tent and remains
restless to this day.  

Wolf and Swan prepare to hunt and gather - at Aldi

Love Hard, because life is a delicate business

Angelina and Brad of the West :: 1

Angelina and Brad of the West :: 2

i am eagle, you are chair

even glamorous Gypsy types have to get the groceries :: 1

lust and caravans go together

even glamorous Gypsy types have to get the groceries :: 2

Part 4: The other Gypsies

The day after I met Veruska and Will, I stumbled on another group of people who like to keep

moving - a team of horsemen and women who travel around Australia performing a show called
The Horseman from Snowy River. While I didn't see the show I did meet the beautiful Pasha, 
an Arabian stallion with a snow white mane that I couldn't stop photographing...


the man from Nepean River

Penrith Valley


then the bird gave the unicorn a flower


I popped my head in again on Saturday to take a few more snaps. This time of the two legged
members of the team, just after their afternoon show.

Sonny, master horseman

Sarah, plaiting manes

Cal and Sarah

Brett, Master of Ceremonies

They're performing in Penrith until late September, then moving on - to St Ives then Castle Hill and
who knows where after that.

Part 5: Panthers passion

I left Sonny and his team to take a few shots of the entertainment happening on the other side of

the road - the Penrith Panthers were about to play at Penrith Stadium.

I know nothing about Rugby League but I do know that it's a big deal in Penrith, especially when
the home team are playing. The game wasn't on for hours but supporters were already starting
to arrive.

P is for paraphernalia

up from Melbourne to see the game

the boys arrive

a proud Panther

getting into position

Part 6: People of Penrith

As they went about their business - at the markets, in their cars, going to school and messing

about the front yard - I stuck my camera in their faces and asked nicely.

Starting with Aisha and Jade, two Muslim women I met at the Penrith Showground Markets. Aisha,

the more covered of the two, was particularly keen to have her photo taken - "I don't have any shots of me". 

Jade and Aisha at the markets :: 1

Jade and Aisha at the markets :: 2

Jade and Aisha at the markets :: 3

Next, this happy couple, selling jewellrey I think.

stars and skull & bones

Tammy, on her way to work as a cleaner.

"i just love pink"

Mum and daughter, on the high street.

ladies in red

Jagmel and Maninder, two Indian taxi drivers, waiting for their next job.

from Punjab to Penrith

Mersal and Lauren, off to school.

scarves and pearls

Another group of school kids, about to catch the bus.

yellow boots

And finally, half Fijian, half 'Australian' Xavier and Isabella, playing in their front yard with their
Fijian auntie, Laisani.

the tickle


Part 7: People and plants

Just because.


pink and green should always be seen

tree house, Penrith Regional Gallery

The highlights of my time in Penrith were many - from meeting Monique and Veruska and Will to
being able to admire Pasha and his perfect plaits at such close quarters. And while I don't follow
rugby, I do appreciate the passion. I found myself scanning the sports pages this morning for news
of the Panthers game. My condolences. Who do those Canberra Raiders think they are anyway?

Can you believe it, just four more suburbs to go. 

See you next week.


  1. You really are a wonderful photographer that manages to capture the essence of a town, you should be very proud of yourself!

  2. I'll be so sad when you've finished : (

    But look forward to your book coming out - how exciting!

  3. Hi Louise

    Loved this post.
    Fave's this week:
    Wolf's face....amazing...interesting tatts!!
    The light in Wild
    See you next week
    Di x

  4. oh those nut bars at Penrith Markets! The Nepean River is a treat all times of the year...'n the Bridge to Bridge walk is a treat...

    beautiful range of snaps...

  5. Wow, your photos are just amazing. I love the use of light, contrasts and your composition. Are you just walking up to people and asking if you can take a photograph of them? Veruska is just stunning!

  6. Another stunning set of photos. I have blogged abt you to my readers

    I did a screen dump of one of your pages but made sure I didn't copy an entire photo without your permission. Pls let me know if what I have copied isn't ok.

  7. Addicted 2 Lip Balm - Thanks so much, that's great praise.

    Fiona Edge - I know, I have very mixed feelings about the project coming to an end. But yes, the book!

    Di - Thank you. Veruska has such a voluptuous face, and so still.

    madameshawshank - Thanks. The river is lovely indeed.

    Nicole - I walk up, run up, drive over - whatever i need to do to stop them in their tracks so I can snap them! And yes, stunning is a good word to describe the lovely Veruska.

    Geniaus - Thank you, yes, all good.

    Louise x

  8. Just brilliant Louise - as usual. LOVE "The Tickle" - what a completely gorgeous moment for that family. LOVE Tammy - what a find!! LOVE "Love Hard (because life is a delicate business)" too. Drove past Penrith on my way to the Blue Mountains on Saturday and how funny to think that all that was going on just minutes from the motorway. Beautifully captured. x

  9. It felt like a brain transplant going from Paddo last week to Pantho this week. It is not so much your photos that are brilliant - which they are - but the way that you weave the whole into a story about people and the way they live. Some of your photos do have an extraordinary perspective.

    I loved the shots of the plaits - human and equine - but my favourite was the head stone. Yes, yes, the ones of people were good too ... but the headstone was tops.

    Wonderful stuff ... a lesson in the value of 'seeing' ...

  10. It's a very multicultural place, which I didn't expect to see.

  11. love love love your work

  12. How Stunning is Veruska!!! You also captured Monique beautifully too, what an amazing smile she has.
    Well Done Louise, I too will miss your photos!

  13. Dayna - Thank you. I love "the tickle" too. Such a tender moment between brother and sister.

    Julie - It made my head spin too, going from P to P! And I understand you loving the head stone - there's something about old carved stone representing someone long gone.

    copywaitress - Thanks!

    J Bar - Is anywhere (aside from north of the bridge) not multicultural in Sydney anymore? One day even Palm Beach will succumb!

    Anon - Love love your comment!

    Sarah - Yes, don't think I'll ever forget Veruska or Monique. Beautiful people.

    Louise x

  14. Beautifully captured! Go AFFORD! So much joy from the happy faces.

  15. Tammy the cleaner would have to be the coolest 'in the pink'. You manage to capture everyone in a 'happy in their own skin' state. Even the Indian taxi drivers appear content although they are not smiling. Must be how you approach them - intriguing and clever!

  16. I've been waiting and hoping you'd do the 'Riff' just to see what you'd bring home with you. You really do have a talent that can't be taught. Nice work

  17. good one i acutaly go to afford marickville workshop wednesdays i do packaging and i love it we have mixed disabilites there but its cool wats on the plan for next foru suburbs lokl

  18. Wonderful as usual.
    I know! Move to Melbourne and start all over again!
    Could you?????

  19. i love your portraiture style! its so lovely! my favourite photos are of the brad & ange of penrith! i can't wait to see what suburb will be lucky last!

  20. foodwink - Thank you - and yes, all power to AFFORD.

    Louise - Tammy is pretty cool isn't she?!

    Mr Matboy - Thanks! Never knew it was called the 'Riff'. Love that.

    Ellen - I can imagine it must get pretty interesting at AFFORD on occasion! I know the suburb I'm doing this week but not the remaining three. Which one will be No 52 - that's got me the most perplexed!

    Gabrielle - I'd love to do Melbourne actually. Who knows - certainly not me at this point!!

    Mindy - Thank you. 'Brad' and 'Ange' are a pretty interesting couple. Makes it easy to take interesting images of them.

    Louise x

  21. Oh how I love discovering your new suburb each week.

  22. Quite true. Most of Sydney is very multicultural these days. Like the North Shore and maybe The Shire, down south, I thought maybe that some of the more Western Suburbs were also not very multicultural yet. It's been quite a while since I've been out there and had a good look around. Thanks for showing it all to us. :)