Prior to going on the camel trek to the northern Flinders Ranges I was in Melbourne for a photoshoot about old industrial Melbourne for an upcoming SALA exhibition at Atkins Photo Lab with Stuart Murdoch. We spent a part of Sunday afternoon walking along Kororoit Creek in Sunshine in Melbourne’s west. It was a pleasant afternoon walking for a couple of hours along the creek from Stuart’s place, even though I was suffering from a painful back that I’d damaged just prior to leaving Adelaide for Melbourne.
The creek features in Stuart’s Sunshine project–which is about place, lived experience and memory. Some of his photos made along the Kororoit Creek Trail had been included a recent exhibition he had in 2018. It was interesting walking with a fellow photographer in their own territory.
Though Sunshine is generally regarded as one of the forgotten suburbs of Melbourne’s west, I find it to be a fascinating place, both photographically and sociologically. It is a low-density residential suburb that is close to Melboune’s CBD by rail; the Vietnamese migrants are rapidly changing this suburb from its old industrial and white working class base; it still has plenty of industrial sites; it is earmarked for redevelopment; and there are some well cared for public commons. It is a photographically rich suburb to walk around in. Stuart’s Sunshine project is a making sense of this place that is his home.
I was a tourist walking around Sunshine–a stranger being shown around by an expert guide as it were. It was not my place or home. As a tourist I was attracted to the wooden houses along Chapman St, which is the street Stuart lives in. They reminded me of the family house in Christchurch New Zealand that I grew up in. Small, cold houses on big blocks that now have a heritage quality to them because of their historical significance:
What was interesting was that my photos are snaps along Humean lines—the mind as a bundle of perceptions. They are like the frames of a film without a narrative. Stuart’s photos arose from both his active and embodied involvement in his world and his interpretative orientations. So in the forefront of his photography is his experiential interpretations of the diverse cultural meanings associated with the history of the western suburbs of Melbourne where he has lived for several decades.
I was able to connect: the wooden houses, the connecting the old Sunshine harvesters in the Mallee’s pioneer museums from my involvement in photographing the Mallee to H. V. McKay’s manufacturing plant the Sunshine Harvester Works; an industrial Australia, car based travel after WW2 and the western industrial suburbs of the capital cities.
What I didn’t know was the history of Sunshine as a garden city, a company town and a model industry-centred community in the early 20th century.