Over the past couple of years my attention has turned to the vanishing mid-century suburban interiors of Northcote, Brunswick, Reservoir, Coburg and other formerly working-class northern areas that were the destination of choice for the post-war immigrants from Europe. The once-ubiquitous terrazzo, balustrades, marble columns and lions and other manifestations of pride and nostalgia for their homelands have become increasingly rare as the years pass, generations change, and gentrification takes place.
I have previously been content to photograph the exterior of houses – my collection contains 1500 in Northcote alone. My attention has now turned to the interiors, and intact ones are much more rare – and increasingly so. At first I documented the real-estate “For Sale” boards. This formed a series from 2010 to 2016. The logical next step was to actually go inside and capture the interiors myself. This takes considerable effort to research and source, and then to gain access – all part of the project’s demands
Even more than an exterior, the rooms are redolent of a different era and imbued with pathos, as most are the pride and joy of a generation that is passing. The decor speaks of post-war immigration in a fascinating time capsule, where one experiences a mix of local – the proverbial Franco Cozzo furniture – and imported, defying current “minimalist” design conventions. Often the owners proudly designed the rooms to suit their preferences and to impress their friends and neighbours back in the 1970s, and they have immaculately maintained them that way ever since.
The interiors are the private domestic spaces of a generation that contributed much to the post-war wave of multiculturalism that changed Melbourne for the better. To my knowledge this inner-Melbourne Mediterranean fusion is stylistically unique to Australia, but I’ll need further research to substantiate this.
Although these interiors are a rich part of Melbourne’s cultural and social heritage, they remain little appreciated and largely undocumented.
This project aims to address that. One can’t foresee any circumstance where prime examples of these interiors will be preserved for posterity – changing taste, practical considerations and market forces will see to that. Consequently, this photographic collection will form the principal record, proving invaluable to later generations.