By Arlo Langham, Victoria University alumni
‘Gentrification’ is a scary word. It’s up there with ‘renewal’ and ‘development’ in the pantheon of buzzwords that should remain in the boardroom. You wouldn’t claim to have spent your weekend gentrifying the flowerbeds in your backyard, so why say it about Footscray?
History says that gentrification is something to be wary of, but the evolution of Footscray’s public and private spaces is plain to see. How can we preserve some of the old Footscray before it fades away? How can we protect some of the Footscray we have now? The future of Footscray hinges on the past and present.
Since colonisation, Footscray has been a place apart. When Europeans first landed in Melbourne they settled around a freshwater river: the Yarra. The Maribyrnong, a saltwater river to the west, became an industrial sewer that cleaved the burgeoning city in two along class lines. Prior to this, indigenous people had lived in and around Footscray for millennia.
Footscray is a place that is best measured not in years and decades but in these histories and cultures. Its working class and indigenous histories persist to this day, as do those injected by migrants from around the world.
If you look up when strolling down Nicholson Street (site of VU at MetroWest, the home of the Picturing Footscray photography prize) you will see that it is in fact an avenue, lined with the flags of 54 African nations. Pass through the Mall – still a casual meeting place for many post-war European migrants – and pop out onto Hopkins Street to find yourself surrounded by the aromas and languages of Asia. No wonder Lonely Planet set up shop in Footscray.
The keystone of Footscray’s identity is that people and cultures have been afforded space to evolve, adjust and diversify. Through these cultures we can uncover ‘old’ Footscray, and by maintaining them we can carve a path towards the ‘new’. But what does that look like? Perhaps this is the role of the photographer. The photographer is more than just a technician; they are a journalist, an artist, an ethnographer. Find the old, find the new and synthesize them into a picture of Footscray. That’s a photo I’d like to see.
Entries for the Picturing Footscray Photography Prize are now open. Visit www.vu.edu.au/picturing-footscray for more information.
FREE ENTRY $5,000 PRIZE POOL EXHIBITION OPPORTUNITY
Picturing Footscray is an open-entry photography prize that focuses on Melbourne’s unique inner-west suburb of Footscray. This year, ‘Old and New in Footscray’ is the guiding theme. Anyone can enter. There are no boundaries of age, ability, experience or technical equipment. Get snapping!
ENTRIES CLOSE FRIDAY 27 APRIL 2018