We haven’t been doing nearly as many photo walks lately as we once did. As lovely and loving as they are, both Rod and Jack have been far too busy to be happy about giving up their rare down time to entertaining me with something they find only mildly entertaining.
However, my mother has asked several times to see photos “of our new home”. I don’t think she really means the house – though I have sent some photos of that, too — and that has triggered a new photo project: trying to capture our neighbourhood as I see it.
I don’t think I am anywhere close yet – I love our neighbourhood and I often capture the details I find so intriguing, but I don’t think I have really captured the sense of the place.
So one day last month, I talked the guys into going out with me.
Jack was very uncomfortable with my street photography, and after a while he had to bow out and go home to leave us to it. It felt too invasive to him to be taking pictures of people’s homes – and occasionally even the people themselves. Even though he wasn’t taking part, just being along made him uncomfortable.
I can’t say I disagree with him. It feels invasive to me, too and I have been working my way up to it – that’s why I haven’t really tackled street photography before. But I have done my research. Australia has no legal concept of “personal privacy” and a person in Australia does not have the right not to be photographed in public place.
Australian law also has a strong concept of the importance of candid photography in an historical and political context. It stops short of being an obligation to shoot street photography, but Jack and I are clearly out of step with Australian culture on this.
Magpie has his doubts about our motley flock.
I look at the work of Eugène Atget, and I see the value of candid historical photographs. Not that my specific photographs will ever be that important…but if I don’t take them, they can never prove to be important, right? And if no one takes them, they won’t exist and this time and the world we inhabit in Norlane in the late 2010s will fade to memory.
Not that every photo has to be important to be useful. I belong to a Facebook group where people discuss the history of my neighbourhood. The photos that are posted are almost entirely taken by amateurs taking snapshots of their friends and family around the neighbourhood in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. For the most part, the photos are out of focus, poorly framed, and focused on specific people in the foreground while the backgrounds may or may not be visible. Not what most people would consider good street photographs – but it’s fascinating to see how the neighbourhood has grown and changed which is evident even from these photos.
And now, this neighbourhood is on the cusp of another major change – one by one, the old workers’ cottages from the post war period are coming down and being replaced by modern apartment blocks as the area moved from moderate density residential to high density residential. There are three houses on our block that have been since we got here, each replaced by three new “units”. (And another that was replaced by a HUGE house that entirely fills its block – that must be very expensive!)
Most properties in our neighbourhood have fences. It feels very cosy and protective but makes it hard to capture the neighbourhood.
In ten years, the old neighbourhood may well be completely unrecognisable. I think it’s worthwhile to capture is “as it was” — if I can just figure out how to do that.
Again on this recent walk, I didn’t manage to capture it. Part of the problem I am having is that the streets are so wide and the houses so far apart that I can take photos of specific house, but no one house seems “representative”. The privacy that arrangement affords is actually one of the vanishing charms of the neighbourhood, so it’s worth persevering in trying to figure out how to capture it in pixels.
Rod has suggested a couple of shots that feel to him like they would be representative, so probably we’ll head out again while life is shut down for January.
(Have I mentioned how cool it is that the whole country effectively shuts down for the month of January? The boys are home for weeks at a time! I love it! Sweden does much the same for the month of August!)
Walking and biking are popular modes of transportation – but we have enough auto traffic to require traffic circles.
I’ve done the “scenic views” around here to death, of course – and there are many of those. There’s the tree on the cliff at Moorpanyal Park, the beautiful pond at Cowie creek, and a little further afield, the esplanade and the boats in Corio Bay – but the neighbourhood continues to stump me.
In a way, it’s nice to have a challenging new photo project even if it is a bit of a strain to push myself beyond my comfort zone.
Just as well.
Socially, my comfort zone has been shrinking as I get older and it’s important not to get too comfortable as I get older, lest one day I look around and find myself a stale and lonely old lady. Keeping my mind active means at least I won’t bore myself.