Heart of the Na­tion

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Front Page - Pho­tog­ra­phy War­ren By Ross Bil­ton

I’m in­ter­ested in time trav­el­ling,” says War­ren Kirk. He does it ev­ery sin­gle day. Not in a DeLorean DMC-12 with a mad pro­fes­sor for a side­kick – don’t be ridicu­lous – but in an old Toy­ota van with his one-eyed whip­pet, Ocky, for com­pany. Kirk, 67, is a pho­tog­ra­pher with an un­usual shtick: he trawls sub­ur­ban Mel­bourne cap­tur­ing rem­nants of the old Aus­tralia.

His new book, Sub­ur­bia (Scribe, $40), is full of quirky finds from those daily drives with Ocky: a Holden EH parked out­side an orig­i­nal, neat-as-a-pin ’60s cot­tage, say; cor­ner stores that haven’t had a facelift in decades; watch re­pair work­shops and frock sa­lons and old-school bar­bers who have some­how clung on, even as the city around them changed out of all recog­ni­tion. Of­ten Kirk is in­vited into these homes and busi­nesses when he knocks on the door. “They’re places that are stuck in time,” he says. “You know, it’s 2018 but it feels like you’ve just walked into 1950 or 1962…” It’s not just about doc­u­ment­ing these peo­ple and places be­fore they fi­nally dis­ap­pear; Kirk sees a poignant beauty in them. “Seek­ing beauty in the or­di­nary and the mun­dane” is how he de­scribes his pho­to­graphic prac­tice. “It’s all around us, if we’re pre­pared to seek it out.”

Pic­tured is John Halilovich, whom he spot­ted in a Yar­rav­ille laun­dro­mat one day. The 78-year-old, who em­i­grated from the for­mer Yu­goslavia half a cen­tury ago “look­ing for a bet­ter life”, is a re­tired met­al­worker who wears a suit and tie ev­ery day out of an old-fash­ioned sense of deco­rum. Kirk sees him as typ­i­cal of his gen­er­a­tion, a relic of sorts: “They tend to be hum­ble and self-ef­fac­ing peo­ple,” he says. “They don’t big-note them­selves, un­like peo­ple to­day whose lives are like a bloody shop-front.”

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