40yrs of Newtown in one man….an he doesn’t call himself local
James was a delight to meet and talk too. Its funny as much as I have enjoyed taking the photo the connection with the person though the story is what I am beginning to enjoy the most. Moving the interaction from just behind the camera, to a two way conversation is a whole new way for me to do photography. They say a picture is worth a thousand words well a few kind words between two people is worth a thousand pictures.
Back from digressing, James was a little unsure of what he could add when I asked him about collecting stories from Newtown, quote “I’m not originally from around here, I come from Wagga, currently living in Leichardt (part of the Inner West), but I do come her most days”. I asked James so how long have you been coming here then? “On a daily basis for, oh about 40yrs now”. James you’re a local.
Being able to talk to someone who has seen Newtown change over such a long time was easily my highlight. Here is someone who can contrast old Newtown (pardon the oxymoron) to new Newtown (pardon the confusing use of the words new). James saw the good in Newtown but he also has seen the changes and some of those changes he doesn’t think are as good.
The first change “yuppies have moved in”. Nightlife has increased which is fueling more alcohol and drug use and this is also making parts of Newtown feel much less safe than when James was first walking these streets.
40yrs ago people would leave their doors unlocked and invite people in for a cuppa tea. Today James doesn’t see people interacting in that way anymore. The friendly community is fast disappearing. Interestingly and this is the most interesting comment from James “people in Newtown display their sexuality for everyone to see, everyone is very open about being gay, but people aren’t as open or friendly with each other”. I found that quite profound and incredibly thought provoking.
Newtown has so many different groups of people, and while this diversity is interesting what is disappointing is that these groups only mix with each other, the interaction between groups is weak. James talks about a sense of community would see all these groups come together and discuss issues that face Newtown and look at ways in which people can support each other.
I got the sense that James life in part had been hard and he talked very fondly of his friends in Newtown who provide support for each other, he talked fondly of his friend the local Pastor and he sang the praises of Newtown Neighborhood House that provides support for those doing it rough. James talked about how Newtown has lost some of that which use to support people in tough times, gone are hostels and homes for the homeless replaced with newly renovated and converted apartments for the single and wealthy. And this has lead to more and more people having to sleep it rough in the park.
I noticed that James was enjoying a coffee and I asked him how has the coffee changed and he grinned a cheeky grin and said that the coffee is wonderful and he buys it from Janice’s Pie Shop. She is always friendly, up for a chat and very welcoming. Though when James was first buying coffee it was 80c a cup and now its $3.50, but I think he would say its worth it, if not just to have a chat with Janice.
Thanks James for sharing your Newtown