Photos That Capture the Beauty of Surburban Australia


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Photos That Capture the Beauty of Surburban Australia

Photographer Lee Grant spent seven years documenting his hometown of Belconnen.

All images by Lee Grant

The suburb of Belconnen through the eyes of photographer Lee Grant will feel familiar to anyone who grew up on the outskirts of their city. The Canberra district is the epitome of Australian suburbia: long driveways, wheelie bins in the creek, and a local RSL stuck in the 1980s. To celebrate the beauty of this averageness, Lee documented the community for a seven-year period. We talked with him about his photo work.


VICE: What's your connection to Belconnen?
Lee Grant: I grew up here from the age of eight to 18, when I left Canberra to live in Sydney and overseas. Then I came back when I was 28 and ended up moving back into my childhood home for a while. I just bought a house here a little while ago.

What made you want to turn the lens on your childhood suburb?
I was studying my masters in visual art and photographing all kinds of things that interested me, but it wasn't coming together in terms of a cohesive thesis. Then one day I drove past this big graffiti tag that said "Belco pride" (see "Belconnen") and had the light bulb moment for my thesis. I started shooting with the idea that this was me trying to find my way again as an adult in a familiar but kind of exotic environment.

Tell me about Belco's spirit.
I never really noticed it until I started shooting the series. Most of the people I've encountered for the most part love where they live, because that's where their friends and family are. It's quite a community minded area.

There's a fairly friendly sort of postcode war that goes on between the northern suburbs and southern suburbs of Canberra. It's rather funny. I just sort of watch it from a distance with a bit of interest I suppose. It seems to be quite real for some people who identify with being from that part of Canberra though, which I find fascinating given the globalized culture of the world at the moment.


Who are the people in the images?
They're a variety of people I met over the years. I know some—others are total strangers. There's a portrait of a woman called Cynthia whom I knew from childhood—she was my next-door neighbor and I grew up with her kids. There are always interesting people you meet in life and photography is an intimate means of getting to know someone. I suppose I very much equate my photographs with my own search for a place and belonging.

How as the area changed?
When I grew up, it was mostly an Anglo community and fairly working class. Now it's more working middle class and multicultural. There are so many different ethnic groups in this area compared to when I grew up here 30 odd years ago. Back then, some of the northern suburbs of Belco did have a reputation for being a bit of rough, but these days it's pretty genteel. It's funny though, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Lee Grant is represented by the Institute for Artist Management.

Words by Emma Do. Follow her on Twitter.