If you take a walk around Sydney these days you will notice that there is quite alot of construction going on. Many of the areas that are under development are in historically important and even sensitive parts of the city. Walking around this town during the beginning of the holiday silly season, you are able to get snapshots of what these places looked like in the past, and there is a profound sense of how important image making during these times was, and that street photography matters as a way of recording the way we are today so that others can get a glimpse of the way we were.
The City of Sydney has a policy for building and construction works that requires temporary structures surrounding heritage-listed sites or in areas of heritage significance to display historic images of the locality.
On its website the City states the program aims to "transform the visual impact of construction sites, providing evolving, temporary urban canvases and outdoor galleries".
This is an incredibly clever move by the City. On the one hand it beautifies what would ordinarily look and feel like just another construction site, of which there is an abundance across the CBD and beyond. However providing a snapshot into the past and the way that the city and its inhabitants used to be, also provides a reminder that the changes are not new, that the City has, is and always will be evolving and changing over time. Thirdly, it also serves to honour and memorialise a great city and the people who built it.
The key thing for me is that the City has undertaken these steps in response to "...community demand for more street art to enliven the streets of Sydney”. Street photography of old is being used to capture the essence of a place, entertain and beautify our surroundings and deliver a message to the citizens of the City about the way things once were.
If follows for me then that capturing that essence today is just as important, and the role of the street photographer to ensure that we are all documenting what our little corner of the world looks like today, be it in cities like Sydney or Melbourne, world famous cities like New York and Paris, or locally renowned places like Cabramatta and Glebe.
You can check out all of the historic images being used on Sydney hoardings at the City of Sydneys historic images page. This includes images for:
I also recommend checking out the excellent documentary art project “Double Take” by Rachel Harris, that can be seen around Martin Place. Rachel takes the concept of historic street photography even further by taking source historical images of Sydney and photoshopping modern items into the pictures.