'52 Suburbs': A photographic journey into the art of urban tourism in Sydney

'52 Suburbs': A photographic journey into the art of urban tourism in Sydney

Louise Hawson explored the cultures and characters in different Sydney suburbs every week for a year, to produce both a book and an exhibition

By Louise Hawson"What Lies Behind Randwick" by Louise Hawson.Imagine a place with 680 suburbs, 70 beaches and millions of homes and you have Sydney. The irony is that most Sydneysiders, wherever they live, stick to their own villages. Most are rarely urban tourists in their own city.

For those who seldom leave their own backyard, photographer Louise Hawson set about capturing what’s out there. Ironically, it happened by accident -- a spider bite that led to her losing half her thumb inspired her to leave her job and follow her photographic dream.

She realized that in 30 years of living in Sydney, she had only really seen a few suburbs. She would become a tourist in her own town and begun to pick suburbs spontaneously to document.

She vowed to photograph a suburb in Sydney per week, for a year. And so her exhibition and book, “52 Suburbs,” was born.

She pairs her photographs together in diptych style -- and highlights the links between the pairs in captions.

From Paddington to Penrith, she has tried to capture the characters, cultures and lifestyles of the urban enclaves in the harbor city.

“The biggest surprise though was to see just how multicultural Sydney really is and how certain suburbs seem to be mini versions of other countries,” Hawson says. “It’s not until you see and experience the diversity that you can really appreciate it.”

“There are some wonderful hidden gems in the suburbs that you rarely hear about such as the impressive mosque in Auburn, reminiscent of mosques in Istanbul, and just around the corner the botanic gardens with its lush greenery, waterfall and lakes.

“I was surprised by the friendly faces and history I discovered along the way."

She says the Aboriginal enclave around La Perouse is “one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I visited.”

Of the thousand of photographs she shot, she picks a favorite: “Motherly Love” from Lidcombe. She says, “(It’s) a mother hugging her son in the local pool juxtaposed with a religious stained-glass image of mother and child from a nearby church. I love the emotion of the embrace, and by placing the two together I’m suggesting that motherly love is the same, no matter what culture or religion you belong to.”

Louise Hawson"Pillars of Society, Darlinghurst" by Louise Hawson.

'52 Suburbs'

“52 Suburbs” exhibition until October 9 at Museum of Sydney, corner Bridge and Phillip streets Sydney, daily 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m., +61 (0)2 9251 5988, hht.net.au, admission $10, family $20.

"52 Suburbs" is published by UNSW Press, $39.95