Interview: Baby Bust
Safety: Dust To Dust
Bad Boss: Shaming in Print
National Focus: Work's Cripplin' Us
International: Bulk Bullies
History: The Battle for Kelly's Bush
Economics: Aid, Trade And Oil
Review: The Art Of Work
Poetry: Sew His Lips Together
Saving The Planet
The Art Of Work
From the coalface to the computer terminal, see how life on the job has changed and mutated throughout the last century with the This Working Life exhibition now showing at the State Library of NSW. Watch your ancestors work, check out the visual history of many workplaces still operating (though mostly now downsized enough to fit on a postage stamp), and trawl through revealing company records from 1824 to the 1950s.
Then travel east to the Australian Centre for Photography in Oxford Street, Paddington, to celebrate a modern take on all things Australiana. From truckies to taxi drivers, tattoos, burnt out cars, public transport, and everyday people sharing thoughts on their first sexual experiences, there is something for (and of) all who pass through the Centre's latest exhibition Suburban Edge.
Glenn Lockitch exposes the secret life of taxis in his photographic collection, telling the stories usually shared only between passenger and driver. Images of passengers breaking the rules by smoking cigarettes, boozing, and bleeding on the seats sit beside a photo of one driver dressed in his full Navy regalia. The accompanying story explains he had just quit the Navy after 30 years and this was his first week working as a taxi driver.
In another collection, Australian Services Union organiser Shabnam Hameed and friend Madeleine Heatherton have joined forces provide a series of photographs illustrating truckies' lives. Originally setting out to make a documentary about truck drivers, the pair's approach has been to steal away as often as possible over the past several years, front up to roadside diners, and hitch rides with the truck drivers who roll in for a pit stop. Their destination? "As far away as possible," they say.
Shabnam Hameed says she first got a taste for this activity when she ran away from home as a 16-year-old and relied on a string of truck drivers to give the teenager her first taste of outback Australia. Years later she met old friend Madeleine Heatherton in an art gallery where the pair got talking about their mutual love of trucks and soon after they hatched their ongoing working holiday plan. For them the exhibition represents the cumulation of a seemingly fated string of events that sees them back in galleryland to again celebrate their love of trucks but this time eager to share some broader messages.
"We want to share the stories that the truck drivers have to tell. They will talk non stop for hours and days and tell you about their trucks and their lives. They'll tell you about failed relationships, and they'll tell you about what they dream and hope for and then some of them will take you back and introduce you to their families," Hameed says.
"I think they represent something we all want to get to whether we drive trucks or not," says Heatherton. "It's about testing limits, being in the outback and having something that's powerful."
"Australians invest so much in the outback as being a point of their identity. It's kind of absurd because we're so attached to this idea of outback. We've always held up this idea of the pioneering spirit - the frontier spirit - as being absolutely Australian. We want to use this exhibition to say 'this is the changing face' and we want to look at it sympathetically."
As a "non-white", non-indigenous Australian Hameed has an additional take. Although she says the truckies largely represent a "very white Australia", this project has enabled her to "get out there and say, 'yeah, I'm a part of this country too'". This has sometimes meant confronting racism head on.
The highways of this country have been representing 'white man's dreaming', Hameed says. "There's that ribbon of walkabout. It's how white men run away and as much as it has had it's difficulties it is part of our culture - and it's not a part of our culture that I want to give up. Also, I kind of feel as a non-white migrant in Australia that I want to interact with it and be a part of it."
Heatherton says the exhibition encourages people to ask some important questions. "Have you ever wanted to escape - to just get away?," she asks.
"About 90 per cent of us live in the city so why is much of our identity focussed on the outback? This exhibition is kind of about people who say "f**k it, I want to find out".
Check out the exhibition between March 5 and April 18 and stay tuned for Hameed and Heatherton's next expedition, this time to find funding for their long dreamed of documentary following the lives of some of the truckers they meet on their travels.
Entry is free to Suburban Edge and This Working Life.
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