Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Suburb No 49: Maroubra

After hanging out west in the Riff last week I thought I'd head back east to the Bra - Maroubra, 10 
km south-east of the city centre. Not entirely sure why but I suspect it's because some part of my
brain regards Maroubra as a classic Sydney suburb, despite the fact I've never explored it beyond
the house of some friends who live there.

What did I find? A beach suburb that has managed to resist the tidal wave of hip and groove that

has transformed its northern neighbours. While Bondi, Tamarama, Bronte and Coogee struggle to
keep up with the fashion of the day, Maroubra doesn't seem to give a damn. Where else, for 
example, can you find a greasy garage filled with cars in various states of undress right on the 
beach front? Or a massive 'sports and community club' enjoying the ocean views instead of a 
dozen trendy bars and restaurants?

What is also striking about the Bra is the mix of people who live there, from residents of the 

Coral Sea Housing Estate to urban professional weekend surfer types. I don't imagine it's all 
smooth sailing but there's a general feeling of friendliness - and an understanding that this 
is not a place to have tickets on oneself.

Some facts. Name means 'windy place' or 'like thunder'. Didn't really take off until the 1910's 

when Herbert Dudley carved up some land and in 1921 when the tramline was extended down
to the beach. Boomed after the 1950s when Chinese, Greek, Indonesian, Italian and Spanish 
moved to the area for the cheapish housing and beach lifestyle. Famous for its surf and surfie 
gang, the Bra Boys.

Part 1: Colourful details

flowers :: 1

flowers :: 2

flowers :: 3

Peta on baking day

hey Mr Fairlane, you goin' my way?

free spirit

decorative vs plain jane

so Do Not Enter Eleni's Greek cake shop



flowers :: 4

el oucho

Part 2: The beach

One kilometre of surfing joy.

blue on blue

checking out the surfer checking out the surf

late afternoon surf

Felix, from Germany

Sunday surf :: 1

Sunday surf :: 2

Max, skim-board rider :: 1

the beach all to himself

Max, skim-board rider :: 2

Ocean and Laetitia - twins

Ocean at the beach

safe harbour

look over there

run Rabbitohs run


Part 4: A mission comes to Maroubra

I met four boys with
broad smiles, olive complexions and close shaven heads walking back from the
beach one day. Their older sister explained that their family of eight kids and two parents were 
American-Mexican, had just moved to Sydney from Denver and were part of a Christian mission. 
Meet Joel, Israel, Juba and Angel.

back from the beach

Joel, Israel and Angel

big ears

two faces of Joel

three faces of Israel

Part 5: Beach side

Visit any other beach front on Sydney's eastern seaboard and you'll find the place heaving with 

swanky restaurants and trendy shops - or at the very least, a Maccas and a Subway. Not so in Maroubra.
So who's taking up the prime real estate? Eddie's garage and the Seals, a massive building housing
a sports and community club.

garage by the beach

father and son - Eddie and Beau


There are, however, a couple of cafes around the corner from the beach. At one I met three backpackers,
bonding over a couple of guitars.

making their own music

laundry next to the cafe

Wandering back from the beach I met Vivienne, a resident of a nearby retirement village, and something
so rare I had to take a picture - a true blonde.


born and bred in the Bra

Part 6: Backyard in the Bra

Speaking of blondes, meet Sylvie and her red-headed bro, Finbar, hanging out in their backyard.

Sylvie and Giraffe

Finbar goes flying


puppy love

Part 7: Nancy and Royce

This home caught my eye. Two semis married together in an unusual way, one named Royce,

the other Nancy. There's got to be a story behind that don't you reckon?

a couple of semis

Dave and Nancy

curling cat

his name is Cookie but I'm calling him Royce

Part 8: Up at Maroubra Junction

Large shopping strip up from the beach that once ruled the roost until Bondi Junction took 

over the mantle of premier Eastern suburbs shopping mecca.

It was here I ran into an intriguing man called Frenkie. Originally from Hungary, he now 
lives in Coral Sea Housing Estate. Frenkie's dream? To start a Ninja school. How good is 


Frenkie and his flag

Tom and Frenkie

Part 9: Coco

My kid. Usually just to the left or right of so many of the shots you've seen over the last year. 

But today, front and centre - on Maroubra Beach, just after we'd both been soaked by a 'rogue 
wave'. Because without her patience and cooperation, I wouldn't have been able to have spent
so much of this past year out and about "blogging".

girl in red

So, the beauty in the Bra? The feeling that the elements - wind and water - dominate and that as
long as the surf keeps pumping, the paint can keep peeling and no-one will care. 

See you next week.


Finally, I can share a secret...

If you live in Sydney, you'll probably notice a whole load of new faces appearing this week in the city.

They're portraits of 100 Sydney-siders for Art & About, hanging as 4.5 metre tall banners up and down 
streets in the CBD and Glebe. The City of Sydney commissioned me to do them as part of the Art 
& About Festival, after seeing this blog. 

I shot them over four weeks in June, at the same time as shooting my suburbs for the blog. I really
wanted to tell you about it at the time but wasn't allowed to let the cat out of the bag until now.
Which is lucky because aside from the fact I was thrilled to bits to get such an amazing brief, I 
would probably have whinged about how flat chat I was.

If you're around this Thursday evening, come along to the Art & About launch. From 6pm at Hyde Park,
near the fountain. It would be lovely to meet you. Otherwise, have a stroll down George, Oxford or 
William and tilt your head heavenward.


  1. Thanks for sharing Coco with us - what a gorgeous picture. And lucky me, I'm in Sydney this week, so I'll do a stroll down George Street before I head back to Perth tomorrow.

  2. Your have an amazing eye, especially when you match colours and patterns, always my favourite images. I'll be very sad when the series ends - it's given me pleasure in the city I left 30 years ago and new perceptions of my current rural landscape. What next?

  3. Ditto

    I don't want it to end either...

  4. I am so impressed that your blog and dedication to it - sometimes at the cost of other things no doubt - has lead to your commission with the City of Sydney!! Your work is fabulous and your sticktoitiveness is applaudable. I love how the world works - congratulations!!

  5. Louise, you clever thing. So proud of you and your achievements - so far!!
    Your daughter is a cutie.
    My faves this week:
    Flowers 3
    and the light in - Look over there.
    Loving all the flower ones actually.
    See you next week.
    Di x

  6. Jenni - Yes, I thought it was time to share the Coco! Hope you enjoy your stroll.

    glossy black cockatoo - Thanks so much. I'll be sad too! What's next? Not sure, time to catch my breath I think.

    Fiona Edge - Ah, thanks. But at least there'll be a book.

    Bev R - Lovely comment, thanks so much. The commission was such a delight, I feel extremely lucky.

    Di - Thank you! That's very kind. And yes, I love the flowers too.

    Louise x

  7. Why won't my comment post - try again.
    The way you juxtapose your shots is stunning and inspirational. I assume the flags in Martin Place are yours as well. Saw them yesterday on the way home - glorious.

  8. Your photos are so beautiful and your blog is an inspiration. Well done.

  9. maroubra my neighbour hoold or just about and i have a thrid no shes foruth cousins called peta LOL how funny is that dont think shes the baker tho but my cous peta lives in cuthgo street and is a hairdresser need a hair cut jstu go c peta coulston LOL i have a familyu traditon in mums isde of the family nyou grow up here in the east you dont go further than clovelly well grandma doesnt shes lived in the area all her life grew up on melody street lives henning ave maroubra and will for ever lives in henning ave till she dies so i believe her aunty who is her mums 99 year old sister has lived in cuthgo street all her life all our family have lived here all the life mum and her brothers and her one sis r the only that have straggled out my two uncles r in katoomnba and byron my aunty lives was in nz now redfern us well we were ashifeld drummoyne now back here we got sucked back to the ocean and mums cous sue whos my third cous has a son who was a bra boy yeah we have stead fast family history of this area and allwyas will love to u and ur lovely fam

  10. Another fabulous collection Lou - and good to see Coco too - I wondered where she was all this time!! Great about the commission - wish i could see it. Please blog! Jx

  11. Ann - The flags in Martin Place are my shots too yes. Glad you like them.

    Ellen - I love that, "sucked back to the ocean". I was going to say that your grandma would've seen so much change - but then Maroubra doesn't seem to change that much so maybe not.

    Esme/J - I only know one Esme so assume this is Juliette?!! Hello! I'll try and blog about the banners in the next few weeks.

    Louise x

  12. Sunday Collector - Thanks so much, so happy to be any sort of inspiration!


  13. I absolutely love your blog and can't wait for your book to be published!

  14. Terrific set of shots again. Love the Sydney suburban nicknames like the 'The Riff' and 'The Bra'.

  15. well if all the houso comionsion and the units srpinging up around coogee maroubra randwick are anything to go b y she has seen soem changes LOL

  16. Don't know how you always manage to find hidden gems of murals n every suburb, but they are amazing! Lovely to see Coco too! And congratulations on Art & About - I'm gonna tell everyone i know in Sydney to look out for it!

  17. Wonderful, wonderful post as per usual. Love the portrait of your daughter, such a cutie. And got a little portrait of you too, or at least your shadow in "surfer checking the surf" Then also love Finbar and Sylvie in" funny?" and another fave is curling cat. What will you do with all that time when you are done? And lastly, congrats on the banners. Wish I could be there.

  18. I'm sooooooooo glad I stumbled on this devine love letter to Sydney.
    I am a proud Sydney-sider - grew up in balmain - live half the time in bondi now and newport. Will you be doing the northern beaches this summer maybe...?
    I look forward to more posts and will pass this on to other sydney folk who will love it.
    please do visit at my place:


  19. Jennifer - Thanks!

    J Bar - Yes, they're so Australian aren't they?

    Ellen - Very true!

    Nat - Love a mural so I guess I search them out.

    Helen - Thanks so much. As to what I'll do when I'm finished - I'm sure I find something...

    Jasmin - I like that, "love letter to Sydney". Will pop over to your blog home soon as I can.

    Louise x

  20. I am a huge fan of your blog and your project. I love nothing better than viewing my own backyard with fresh eyes. Your photos have made me start to see things in my own neighbourhood I hadn't noticed before!!

    It is funny because today I was sitting on the bus admiring your banners not realizing it was your handiwork!

  21. Ah - the best suburb! What beautiful photos Louise, especially of that gorgeous kelpie ;). It's great to see so many familiar faces and places through a different lens.

  22. Fantastic insight. I've been to Maroubra very often, but have never appreciated its true beauty, as you have allowed me to through your photographs. Thanks for showing me such beauty that often goes unnoticed.

    x Vanessa

    ps - I love that your photographed 'Dave' - the man on the wall of one of my favourite restaurants 'Mr Big Stuff'. + I will make a note to look at your portraits around the city! Can't wait.

  23. Love the photographer's assistant, such a sweet smile :-)

  24. hey,

    love the blog, photos are great. I am a maroubra local and you took a photo of me on my retro bike, just wondering if the photos turned out and if so would love to see them.


  25. Sara - Thanks so much. It thrills me to think of my project inspiring people to look at their surroundings differently.

    Eleanor - The kelpie is undeniably cute but what about the redhead and the blondie?!!

    Vanessa - Glad you see the suburb in a new light now. A great thing.

    flowerpress - ah, thanks! She's a sweetie through and through.

    Hannah - Hello! Happy to send you a pic - please email me and I'll whizz one over. 52suburbs@gmail.com

    Louise x

  26. I have been SO admiring the faces on the banner every day this past week as I head in and out of work! So delighted to discover that you are the creative genius behind the photos! Is there a catalogue or some other way of getting a permanent version. Congratulations!

  27. I've been living in Germany for almost a year now and nothing made me as homesick as this post. Thanks for the great photos, I could almost smell the salt air and taste the bacon and egg rolls from Mr Big Stuff.

  28. Anita - Thanks! I think the City of Sydney may be producing a book of the images - I'll check.

    Martin - I always have mixed feelings when people tell me my posts make them homesick. It's such a bittersweet feeling, being homesick. But I hope it's more sweet than bitter. And you know, the bacon and egg rolls will still be here when you come back one day.

    Louise x

  29. You have managed to capture the essence of what maroubra looks like , i really miss it as i lived there for 30 years +

  30. oh im so excited you got to maroubra! im not a native sydney-sider, but maroubra feels like a second home, having spent so much of my childhood there visiting family (whose apartment i can see in a couple of your photos, how exciting!). i love that every time i go back there, all i have to do is close my eyes, listen to the waves and smell the salty ocean and it takes me right back to being a kid. its also lovely as so much of it hasnt changed (maroubra junction has more, but the beach area not so much).. lots of happy memories seeing this post! :)

  31. Your links to art and about are broken. Love your fresh approach to photography, you are indeed a powerhouse.....