Author: James O'Brien

Forty-something from Sydney, Australia. My passions include: radio (my job), travel, genealogy, music, art, theatre, food, wine, and learning Swedish.

Australian Life

“At my funeral, can you take a photograph instead of having a guestbook?”, I asked my friend Sue on the weekend. “It’s always so hard thinking of what to say”, I added, noting it would be far more interesting and far easier just to take a photograph of everyone. The photograph of those attending the funeral of Martin Sharp was one of my favourites in this year’s “Art and About” “Australian Life” photographic competition.

Yes, “Australian Life” not “Sydney Life” as it has always been. The other addition this year was a separate photographic exhibition for children. “The composition of some of these photographs is really amazing”, Sue noted as we wandered around looking at the photographic work of children. “Most of my photographs from that time feature too much sky and lots of chopped off heads”, I noted.

Even with the changes this year, the photographic competition remains one of my favourite part of the annual “Art and About” project in Sydney. Although I thought there were a few photographic cliches this year, I still really loved the competition, and have shared with you, in situ, my favourites from this year’s competition.

School Photographs

As we stood and waited in line, we laughed about some of our own experiences from many years ago of school photographs. “Which of us will need to sit down in front with their legs crossed?” we wondered. “Have you worn the proper school knickers”, I asked Sue, reminding her to “cross her legs” if she had to sit down the front. The idea of sitting for a modern day “class photograph” was an enticing one, and why we could be bothered standing in line outside the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney on the weekend.

As part of Art and About in Sydney, there’s a photographer re-creating “school photographs” with a modern twist. The “modern twist” is that everyone’s much older, and there’s definitely a much larger level of cultural diversity in the photographs of modern day Sydney than you would find in the photographs of, for example, South Lismore Public School in the early to mid 1970s or Richmond River High School in the late 70s to early 1980s.

It was a really fun project to participate in. Best of all? You got a free photograph at the end.

All of the digital photographs will eventually turn up online.

In case you’re wondering, here’s one of my class photographs from the early 80s.

Surry Hills Festival

Yesterday was such a beautiful day. It was perfect weather for a lunchtime wander around the Surry Hills Festival. There were LOTS of other people who’d come to a similar conclusion. What I experienced this year was pretty good : still very community focussed, but with broader appeal. Much improved from the years when the festival had aspirations to be a “big rock festival” with (I thought) little connection to the community itself. Here are some photographs I snapped.


I spent some time this week visiting Governor Macquarie Tower, Sydney. I’ve been there a few times before and every time the view gives me a “wow” moment. I snapped a few photographs of the view this time. Unfortunately, the photographs aren’t that great (camera phone quality, window reflection), but still you can see those who normally work in this building have some damn fine views. It was nice to be a short-term visitor.

Second Hand Store

“Oh my goodness, that looks just like something I made in wordwork class thirty-something years ago” was my first reaction when I saw the shell-covered jewellery box in the second hand shop on Oxford Street late yesterday. On closer inspection, I noticed this one displayed a greater level of professionalism (you might say) than might have been evident in the craftsmanship of a 12 year old. Besides, I know THAT particular piece of child-craft (hipsters would love it) remains safely back home in Lismore. I haven’t looked closely at it in over twenty years, though I might do so when I head back home in a couple of weeks.

This particular second hand store on Oxford Street is quite an oddity. Located in the midst of a stretch of bars, restaurants and sex shops, it really stands out. As you enter the doorway, you never really knowing if you’re entering a legitimate shop or maybe the overcrowded house of someone with hoarding instincts. Like the famous overcrowded bookstore in Newtown, you’re never really able to walk very far in the shop without the need to excuse yourself as you pass by someone else. When I popped in there late yesterday for a look around there was just one other. As I left, two others were coming in.

The shop is a wonderful collection of items. Some of it is plain junk, of course. But as I looked around I saw some things I found genuinely very interesting. There’s a painting on the wall, for example, which I asked about, and told the bloke I would come back in over the weekend to purchase. There’s also some lovely old radios in good condition. If you’re ever on Oxford Street, it’s definitely worth a look.