Can you you tell me a little about yourself and how the Darlinghurst eats its young project came about?
Not sure where to start so will just start with I am an artist who lives and works in Sydney, and apart from a stint in Melbourne have done so since graduating from art school. I didn’t spend a lot of time at school in year 11 and 12, instead spending it in Darlinghurst with the people that make up the photos in the exhibition.
Darlinghurst at that time – mid 1980s – was an exciting place. It was run down; the rents were cheap’ there were little or no renovated terraces and because of all of that there was a lot going on artistically and musically.
Oxford Street was, as it still is, a major part of the gay community. So the whole area ran against what mainstream Australia was about. Most people that I knew were on the dole or students so there was no money – everything was invented out of nothing.
My best friend at the time, Maggie Woods, was an avid photographer. Most people, if they had a camera at all, didn’t want to spend what little money they had on printing. Maggie wanted to be a photographer so she took photos of what she knew. She took photos to the point of annoyance really, when you woke up, when you looked hung over; all the time, not just the good times. When Maggie died I inherited the large box of photos that I have dragged around from house to house, to Melbourne and back.
The impetus for the show came when I saw how people responded to a friend who posted a series of images from the 80s on their Facebook page. There was an attraction to images from the past. It wasn’t just that the images were from the 80s it was also due to the ‘analogue’ nature of the images. The quality that so many apps try to recreate. Hard to define but it made me think people might want to see the images from the box under my bed.
I proposed the idea of using the photos to the curators of the Left Coast Festival, which was held in the Sedition barbershop on Victoria Street. Mainly because I thought when else am I going to get to put the photos back into a Darlinghurst context, and out of that came the show Darlinghurst Eats Its Young.
How did the exhibition turn into a web project?
Once the exhibition came down I posted the photos that comprised the show on Facebook and almost immediately people began to respond with comments. The response was overwhelming and at the same time limited by the fact that only friends or friends of friends could see and comment on the photos. A friend suggested I get in touch with the Powerhouse to see if they would be interested in incorporating the photos into their The 80s Are Back exhibition in some way and after meeting with Jason Gee and Renae Mason they in turn suggested the project would suit a blog. After a lot of help from Jason Gee the Darlinghurst Eats its Young blog was born. The idea was to enable anyone to comment or contribute to the discussion that grew out of the exhibition and the photos to form something independent of both photos and exhibition.
How have people reacted to these images?
I was really surprised by the reaction to the pictures; for me the photos have taken the place of my memory in a lot of instances, so other people’s reactions are always unexpected. The photos seem to be a trigger for a range of different ideas and emotions. In some cases the reactions have been pure nostalgia, but in others the photos have sparked debates about what it means to be cool, and what makes an image ‘authentic’
The majority of comments at this stage are on the facebook postings of the images (all of which are now on the Darlinghurst Eats Its Young blog) but increasingly people are starting to comment on the blog postings as well. The difference between the blog and Facebook, apart from the fact the blog is open to everyone is that I have tried to contextualise the photos with titles, and in some cases, descriptions. After the initial wave of interest there is now a steady flow of people and increasingly as the site is reposted the traffic to the site is from overseas
People who were around at the time talk about how inner city Sydney and Darllinghurst has changed and those who weren’t around at that time seem to really react to the fashion – there have been a few repostings on a couple of fashion blogs. It’s interesting to see which photos generate the most interest in the re-postings and it tends to be the haircuts or the photos of the squats. The hair cuts are easy to understand, the squats I’m not sure what fascinates people so much other than perhaps surprise that there was ever such a thing in a property obsessed city like Sydney.
Visit the Darlinghurst eats its young website