Riches & Textures (a pilot project initiated by Penrith City Council) was a photographic project I was invited to join and participate in, last year, June 2012. Thanks to my teachers Cath Barcan and Jo Newton, I was lucky enough to join a group of students, mentored by Sydney photographer John Slaytor.
We stared our very first session at St Marys Corner on June the 7th, and had our introductions and briefings to the assignment we had ahead of us. I’ll never forget sitting in the conference room with John, talking and getting to know each other before the rest of the group arrived. I think I needed to experience this kind of interaction with a practicing professional photographer. In hindsight, the whole time spent working on the project gave me a huge kick in the butt, and opened to my eyes to the realities of not only life within a world community, but the fact that I really can be whatever I want to be, so long as I persist in what it is I choose. The whole experience not only helped me with my photographic vision, but helped me focus and become more determined with my artworks and schooling.
After our briefing with Adnan Begic (Cultural Projects – St Marys Corner) and John Slaytor, we all headed out for a demonstration and our initial first-hand encounter with a shop owner, along Queen Street. Guido Piccialli’s barber salon, “Guido’s”, inducted our first challenge – introducing ourselves to a stranger, getting everyone comfortable with our presence, getting permission to photograph and gaining some background information about where we were. An article posted here on Neighbourhood Stories, sums up what we gathered that evening at Guido’s.
After Jimmy retired Guido became the new owner and he’s still there cutting hair to this day. “He is one of the best Barbers in St Marys” says George Ray (2010). Guido Piccialli at Guido’s Hairdressing Salon and Barber Shop in Queen Street, St Marys.
“I’ve been coming to Guido’s for over 50 years now, no-one but Guido cuts my hair…” says George Ray.
“It was one of the first barber shops open in St Marys, originally owned by Jimmy Hackett situated under the Crown Picture Theatre, which is all shops now. Guido assumed ownership once Jimmy retired. They’ve always given good haircuts and are one of the oldest established businesses in St Marys.” George Ray, June 2010
We spent a couple of hours at Guido’s, beginning to understand what we will be facing ahead of us in the coming weeks. For myself, who suffers from severe anxiety, this was a liberating experience. Almost like facing a fear, getting out in the public and engaging with people. Thankfully, Guido and Mr.Wilkes were kind enough to let me sit on the wall like a fly and click.
By the time we were done, a feeling of excitement, and anxiety surged through me. I was tired and ready to save energy for the next installment in this wondrous project.
An article overview of the Riches & Textures project, 2012, posted on the Penrith City Coucil’s ‘Art Everyday’ P.C.L. blog, includes some of the photographs chosen, that were exhibited in the ‘space’. There are some wonderful words written about the project and everyone involved in the post; it’s well worth the read. QUEEN STREET RICHES AND TEXTURES 2012.
The Queen Street Riches and Textures project was born from the aspiration to explore the connections, uniqueness and vibrancy of the main street of St Marys through the eyes of the artist.
We wanted to express the human face of Queen Street, which is far more than just a place to shop, it is acommunity!
By forming creative partnerships and engaging mentor John Slaytor, a renowned photographic artist, six creative young photographers took the opportunity to experience and develop a range of technical skills in photography.
The camera acts as a silent observer facilitating a connection with the everyday, capturing the personal interaction, the conversations, the shared knowledge and friendship between retailers and customer. Only a main street such as Queen Street can offer these opportunities.
Queen Street is the main street of the St Marys Town Centre in the Penrith Local Government Area in outer Western Sydney. Previously known as Windsor Road and later Station Street, this street was re-named after Queen Victoria in 1897 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. Throughout the history of St Marys, Queen Street has always served as a main boulevard reflecting a unique sense of place.
Queen Street reflects the best of traditional main streets in Western Sydney. It offers a uniquely imaginative narrative of the past while depicting the present. It reveals the unique make-up of St Marys and the identity of its communities by presenting a mixture of images filled with rich social and cultural expressions: casual neighbourhood connections, transport and trade, food and cuisine, diverse multicultural restaurants and shops, rural and urban heritage, festivals and cultural celebrations.
Queen Street Riches and Textures explores opportunities for community engagement in
re-discovering, documenting, creatively expressing and interpreting the street’s past, present and future. The project’s approach is one of creative collaborations, social connection and conversations, between artists and community and people and places.
The project engages with people of all ages, neighbours, businesses, restaurant owners, and surrounding social and other services to respond to some simple questions: What does Queen Street mean to you? What is its importance and character? What are the personal and collective memories connected to the street? What is Queen Street going to look like in the future?
Developed through collaboration between contemporary artists and the community, Queen Street Riches and Textures examines the socio-cultural dynamics of the St Marys Town Centre. It explores the multiple dimensions of social life in an interactive and visual way using the medium of photography and public presentations.
Queen Street Riches and Textures has multiple objectives. It serves as a platform for conversation and dialogue, community engagement and interaction, mentorship, growth in the skills of the participating artists, and the presentation of new work by these artists.
Queen Street Riches and Textures 2012 has also been developed in collaboration between contemporary artists and the commercial centre of St Marys. This year we invited professional photographer John Slaytor to mentor a group of students from the Nepean Arts and Design Centre TAFE NSW-Western Sydney Institute and Caroline Chisholm College and develop the photojournalistic work that comprises Queen Street Riches and Textures 2012.
The result of their creative interaction with twenty five shop owners is featured in the Queen Street Riches and Textures 2012 exhibition.
On the NADC Blogspot site, an article was posted about Julieanne Bartolo and I; our involvement with the project = HERE
Also, a news article posted about four of the fellow students I had the pleasure working alongside = Courtney Roberson, Madeline Robson, Emily Cahill and Emily Tsattialos – Caroline Chisholm College
St Marys Star article = HERE
And for the final presentation catalog/book, here is a PDF = Riches & Textures – 2012 (2.6MB)