Sunday, July 1, 2012

Ghost signs galore

Today I braved the inclement weather and headed out through the former working-class but now gentrifying north of Melbourne with bike and phone camera. I followed a roughly city-bound line along a couple of major arterial roads through Reservoir, where I live, Preston (once a centre for tanneries and wool stores, as some of the pix show), Thornbury, Northcote and Fitzroy, ending up the (thankfully warm) Old Bar, thoroughly soaked, and just in time to grab a BBQ sausage.

Here are the results. You'll notice the closer I got to the city, the older (and sometimes grander) the ghost signs. I snapped pretty well everything I could find: superseded shop fronts; writing on walls, old neon signs. And not only the pretty ones or the ones that evoke a romantic or nostalgic response - the utilitarian, plain and plain ugly ones too, the reminders of hard work and sometimes dirty work.

I took so many pix the phone battery died on the way back, just as I reached perhaps the most snapped ghost sign in town: a glorious old milk bar wall handily adjoining the Park St bike path. There are pix of it here:

So I didn't get to snap this one, or a couple of others I had my eye on. But plenty nonetheless (oh, and am also including a few from a previous city visit I haven't had time to upload yet).

Doing this today, enjoying myself despite being soaked and at times freezing, I wondered why it was so much fun. A few ideas: it creates a narrative for meandering, an ordering principle for a flaneur-like wandering (is that a contradiction?), a lens through which you can explore the ordinary world around you in new ways - a kind of archaeology of the stamping grounds you usually take for granted. In inner Melbourne, whose shopping strips are largely composed of two-storey terraces, it forces you to look up - at the walls, the ornate fronts, the history of occupancy and renovation - and it's like a whole other, hidden world... a book you can read that is there the whole time but you never see it. I've been traversing these streets for 23 years now, and I have never seen a lot of things I saw today, a level up, silent and removed from eye-level bustle and distractions.

Here are the pix:


see the insurance-related sign?

Preston: these are mainly small-scale shops, or old factories turned into apartments:

Added in 2014 - a pic from the Your memories of Preston group on Facebook

love this one

how long has it been since a $2k deposit buys a house?


my favourite of the day


North Fitzroy:


layers of ghost signs...

a gentrified sign treatment on a popular pub

And now for the previous CBD ones:

taken at night...

taken in North Melbourne

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