Heart of the Nation
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.”