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Documentary photographer Fiona Wolf-Symeonides was drawn to the inner-city Sydney suburbs of Redfern and Waterloo — an area with a dense concentration of public housing.
In 2015 the NSW Government announced plans to redevelop the area, demolishing the existing public housing stock (including the twin towers Matavai and Turanga, imposing 30-storey blocks officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1977) and replacing it with a mix of public and private apartment buildings. The area will be served by the Waterloo underground station as part of the proposed Sydney metro line. While the government has assured public housing residents that they will be given new homes, the location is uncertain.
The recent ‘We Live Here’ campaign highlights the diversity of this community, the difficulties and pleasures of living in such proximity to each other.
Item 11: Lydia, Evgenia, Geny, Nina sitting outside James Cook apartment block, Waterloo, NSW, 09 June 2017
Item 18: Veronica Tavo outside apartment block, Waterloo, NSW, 21 June 2017
Item 19: Group photo of Wednesday community lunch organisers and volunteers Gerard, Russel, Linda, Maria, Veronica in kitchen, Waterloo, NSW, 21 June 2017
The community includes recent migrants, people on low incomes, and people with disability. Many of Waterloo’s elderly residents have lived in these buildings — sometimes in the same apartment — since they were constructed in the early 1970s.
Reaction to the proposal differs across the community. Some residents look forward to living in a modern apartment in a revitalised area with a new metro line. Others, from long-term residents to those who have moved there recently after sleeping rough on the streets, fear the disruption to their sense of security.
Wolf-Symeonides’ photographs capture residents inside their apartments, revealing the complexities of domestic life and how the residents have personalised their homes with family photographs, books and furnishings, handcrafted decorations and treasured pets. Her photographs show that these people have stories to tell — living so close to thousands of others, yet undeniably themselves.
Anna Corkhill, Curator, Research and Discovery, State Library of NSW
Photographs by Fiona Wolf-Symeonides’ are on display on Level 1 of the Macquarie Street Building, State Library of NSW, from 3 March to 17 June 2018.