To honour that anniversary and in recognition that I haven’t been back to Australia since moving to NYC, the pictures I am posting today are all Australian. Some were personal and some were commissioned. This first one was taken as part of a photo essay I shot on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for The Bulletin magazine.
The tourists visible on the right side of the picture were part of the ‘Bridge Climb’, which I’d recommend highly for anybody visiting Sydney. Or anyone who lives there for that matter. Even if the locals do call it the ‘Coathanger’ (for obvious reasons), it’s one of the coolest things its possible to do, especially around sunset. I didn’t realise until I climbed the Bridge that you can see almost all of Sydney from the top as it’s one of the highest points in the city.
Australia is blessed with iconic images. The Opera House is one the most recognisable buildings in the world and an absolute joy to behold in real life. I remember going down to the Opera House when I arrived in Australia and for the first time feeling like I really was on the other side of the world. These are two of the more unusual perspectives on this magnificent building as the picture above was taken halfway up the Harbour Bridge and the picture below was taken from the AMP Insurance building.
Bondi Beach is another touchstone in Australia’s identity. The picture above was taken from the south end of the beach on Australia Day, which is always a huge party with tens of thousands flocking to the beach for the day. It’s worth noting that the area where the waves are breaking white on the shore is known locally as Backpackers Rip because so many backpackers have drowned there. More often than not they arrive at the beach for the first time and go straight down to the water from the closest bus stop (which is just up the road), not realising large parts of the beach are actually really dangerous and there are only two areas which are patrolled by lifeguards which are both towards the north end of the beach. The fire breathing Recyco Dragon below was built by Jonh Ridley, Phil Becker, Bob Brewster and myself over the course of a week at Bondi Beach for the Fringe Festival in 1996.
For those not willing to risk the waves on the beach, Bondi Icebergs swimming club at the south end of the beach was established for winter swimming (!!!) and features a salt water swimming pool alongside the ocean. As a member of the swimming club you commit to swimming 3 times a month during winter and are dismissed from membership if you fail to keep that up.
At the other end of the beach is Speedo’s Cafe, which is my favourite cafe in Sydney. I used to go down there two or three times a week and hang out drinking coffee and people watching in between wandering down to the water for a swim.
As well as going to the beach for Australia Day, Big Day Out has become another favourite destination for thousands of young Australians. I went for many years and was in the photographers pit when 15 year old Jessica Michalik was crushed to death during a set by Limp Bizkit in 2001. I was enraged by their appalling behaviour and ended up giving evidence to the inquest into her death after taking the picture below. Half way through their second song, the crowd was obviously out of control and security personnel were becoming seriously concerned with the pressure being placed on the barrier in front of the stage.
One of the yellow shirted security guards asked me to tell the band to stop playing. I replied that he should do so himself, as he was wearing the yellow shirt and the band would be more likely to listen to him. After hesitating for a minute, the security guard jumped up onto the camera platform in front of the stage and waved his arms at Fred Durst, asking him to stop. Fred Durst ignored him and I took the below picture as he carried on singing. The security guard was then hustled off the platform by two members of Limp Bizkits’ personal bodyguard detail.
The band played on even though the war zone continued to develop in the mosh pit. I was so angry I then went to one of the bodyguards who’d hustled the security guard off stage and told him that it was obvious local security were concerned for the safety of the fans, which was why the guard had tried stopping the show. The bodyguard then went and talked to the head of front of stage security, who called head of production on his radio.
Once the band had finished their song, they continued to play quietly in the background for at least another 5-10 minutes as lead singer Fred Durst asked the audience to step back and help people who had fallen. I shouted at him to tell the band to stop playing entirely (as the Red Hot Chili Peppers had done when a similar incident happened at the previous years BDO). Someone in the audience abused Fred Durst and they started to argue. The photographers were then hustled away from the front of stage area.
I lived in Sydney for twelve years before moving to NYC. And I have to say, even though it’s a beautiful and I knew some good people there, I was over it and if I would have stayed in Australia I would have moved to Melbourne. The above picture is of Luna Park in St. Kilda, which is the coolest bay side suburb in Melbourne. In many ways I think Sydney is about being glamorous and making money and Melbourne is about being stylish and creative. In American terms Sydney is very much like LA and Melbourne is like NYC. But as can be seen from the picture of the city below, much smaller.
I lived in Melbourne in the early 1990’s and achieved some great things there. I developed my photographic career, co-founded the Mutoid Waste Co. and built Carhenge at Confest before starting Imagineer. Which kicked off the Feral Techno sub sculture in Australia. but that is a whole other story which I am starting to write at the moment. But one of the other principal things I did in Melbourne was split my time between living in my apartment in Elwood and a cottage I rented about an hour northeast of Melbourne from my good friend Bob Brewster on his property in Kinglake, which is where I took the photograph below. I’m not sure of the history of this bus, but I know it ended up on his property sometime in the seventies. I have no doubt it disappeared in the tragic 2009 Black Saturday bush fires which swept through Kinglake and killed 42 people from this tiny hamlet. I spent some time on the phone trying to find out if bob had made it out before being informed by the red Cross that he had registered with them. I haven’t spoken to him and was told by a friend he was seen in Nimbin on his way to Thailand. Which wouldn’t surprise me as Bob is a genuine legend and was one of the principals of Imagineer . Way before I met him he hitch hiked from Australia to Europe in the early 1960’s, spent the ’60’s in Europe working as a pavement artist and was in Paris during the 1968 Students Revolution. He then hitch hiked back to Australia and built his house in Kinglake. Which is now gone. As is the bus.
Before moving to Melbourne I lived on the Far North Coast of NSW. My daughter Sharna was born in Kyogle and I spent a lot of time on Pinpuna, a property close to Nimbin, the Australian equivalent to Woodstock. My good friend Jonh Ridley (who originally came up with the idea for us to build the Recycle ) was one of the shareholders of Pinpuna and was building his house there. I think he still is. Back then this was the bath tub he used for showering and washing. A fire would be lit underneath to heat the water and I loved lying in this bath listening to the sounds of the forest.
This picture was taken at Wooyung Beach just after dawn on New Years Day 2000. Robin Cooke from the Mutoid Waste Co. was organising the Earthdream trip to the desert in the middle of the year and a lot of people had come out from London to undertake the journey with Robin. Amongst them was the legendary Steve Bedlam with his sound system. A few of us got together and decided to celebrate the new Millennium by throwing a free party with 5 sound systems on a 50 mile long beach for which I built the Zerogate. Several hundred people showed up and had a total ball. As did I.
This last picture was taken not long before I left Australia. A friend had a property about 4 hours north of Sydney and I made my way up there for a New Years Eve party. The temperature was around 45C/115F and as he still hadn’t built the much vaunted and long promised dam, he got this backyard swimming pool instead. We spent most of our time submerged in the pool trying to deal with the heat. It all seem so far away now. Even though today was incredibly warm in NYC at 17C/63F.