A little lost and tinkered with: Christmas in the suburbs
Photographer Warren Kirk finds beauty in the unexpected: homemade, often a little messy. It documents the suburbs of old Melbourne, the rapidly declining world of homes on a quarter-acre block, with unique exteriors and original gardens stamped in time.
This year he’s making his first foray into the party, with a book of postcards titled Christmas in the suburbs. It’s a typically gorgeous collection of homes adorned with all kinds of decorations, with an emphasis on kitsch.
“I am interested in the a little abandoned or the melancholy or the tinkered with. I’m not interested in the decorations you see in the leafy eastern suburbs that people spend a lot of money on, ”he says, adding that these often seem to turn into an arms race, in which people are trying to outdo the neighbors up the street with the biggest Santa Claus.
There is a lot more heart in Kirk’s images, which paint a portrait of the person behind them without them being in the frame. The local nature of the scenes he unearths reflects an essence, suggesting that they were lovingly put together, using whatever resources people had.
The nativity scenes are beautiful, some featuring outdoor almost life-size plastic figurines of Jesus, Mary and baby Jesus in the spotlight. Take a look at the vintage cars, there’s a bocce club with a garland-covered portrait of the queen, handcrafted macrame elves, and a fabulous hand-painted sign offering a Christmas special on the bikes. Each is a simple vignette, a glance into another world, another reality.
Kirk has amassed an archive of 50,000 digital images. Last year’s lockdown allowed him to change his film archive to around 3,000. Next year his book Westography will be reprinted. It is a magnificent collection of photographs of people and their homes and gardens in the western suburbs, a reality that is fading and is threatened by rampant development.
The postcard format of the book reflects the nature of Kirk’s photographs: old-fashioned and charming. Be careful though, it can be tricky to part with it.
Christmas in the suburbs by Warren Kirk is now available, published by Scribe.