Slightly forlorn and cobbled together: Christmas in Suburbia

Slightly forlorn and cobbled together: Christmas in Suburbia

Photographer Warren Kirk finds beauty in the unexpected: the homemade, often slightly dishevelled. He documents the suburbs of old Melbourne, the fast-diminishing world of houses on a quarter-acre block, with one-of-a-kind exteriors and quirky gardens stamped in time.

West FootscrayCredit:Warren Kirk

This year he makes his first foray into the festive, with a book of postcards called Christmas in Suburbia. It’s a typically gorgeous collection of houses festooned with all manner of decorations, with an emphasis on the kitsch.

“I’m interested in the slightly forlorn or the melancholic or the cobbled together. I’m not interested in the decorations that you see out in the eastern leafy suburbs that people spend big money on,” he says, adding the latter often seem to turn into an arms race, in which people try to outdo the neighbours up the street with the biggest Santa.

There’s a lot more heart in Kirk’s images, which paint a portrait of the person behind them without them being featured in the frame. The homegrown nature of the scenes he unearths reflects an essence, suggesting they were put together lovingly, using whatever resources people had at hand.

The nativity scenes are gorgeous, some featuring almost life-sized outdoor plastic figurines of Jesus, Mary and baby Jesus under a spotlight. Vintage cars get a look in, there’s a bowls club complete with a portrait of the Queen covered by tinsel, handcrafted macrame elves and a fabulous handpainted sign offering a Christmas special on bikes. Each is a simple vignette, a peek into another world, another reality.

Sunshine WestCredit:Warren Kirk

Kirk has amassed an archive of 50,000 digital images. Lockdown last year allowed him time to edit his film archive down to about 3000. Next year, his book Westography will be reprinted. It is a gorgeous collection of photographs of people and their houses and gardens in the western suburbs, a reality that is fading and under threat thanks to rampant development.

St AlbansCredit:Warren Kirk

The postcards format of the book reflects the nature of Kirk’s photographs: old-school and charming. Beware though, it might prove tricky to part with them.

Christmas in Suburbia by Warren Kirk is out now, published by Scribe.

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