The Princes Highway
The Princes Highway is one of the main arterial roads south of the city of Sydney. It begins at the end of King St, Newtown, passes through St Peters, then Tempe where it goes past the airport. The road then works its way through the southern suburbs and out of Sydney. Thousands of vehicles, primarily cars, use this road daily to get to and from the city.
The main function of the Princes Highway is as a route for motor vehicles. Along this route a peculiar environment has been built which is influenced in every way by the existence of the motor vehicle. The most obvious element is the road itself, which with three lanes in two directions, is a substantial thing in its own right. Along the road there is advertising and shop signage that is sufficiently large and bright to grab the attention of fast moving motorists. Also along the road all the secondary needs of car ownership are met for here is where we find petrol stations, mechanics, crash repair shops, second hand car yards, car washes, drive through food joints, tyre shops and spare parts shops. All of these elements combine to create a visual language, which has grown out of a desire to communicate with, and to service the needs of people in cars.
This environment seems to have grown out of years of no real planning. The result is a built environment where there are big crazy coloured signs next to other big crazy coloured signs. Crappy homemade signs are stuck to the front of old shops, which used to be houses, which before that were different shops. The signs all scream for attention creating a visual cacophony. Everything is run down and grimy. The houses either turn away from the road or get in on the act by being painted in competing loud colours.
What is really interesting to me is how this environment is part of the price we pay for the convenience of cars. We are inundated by images of shiny, new cars, however the reality of a world full of cars is actually quite different.
When I started making pictures along the Princes Highway several things struck me; how dirty everything is; how noisy it is; how strong the smell of the traffic fumes and jet fuel are. There is virtually no one on the street because it is such an unpleasant environment. Everyone is in cars. I was an oddity being a pedestrian in this area.
One day I was doing a picture and a car drove past me and pulled in just past where I was standing. The driver got out with a watering can, which he filled at a nearby tap and then walked back past me to water some sunflowers in a lone garden bed. I started to chat with him and he told me that he had driven past that spot all the time and one day just decided to plant some flowers along there. This is where IKEA now stands.
After going back to the same places several times I realised the whole area was beginning to change. Buildings were being renovated or demolished and signs were constantly changing. People used to go to the Princes Highway to get a second hand bonnet for their Datsun. Now they go out there to get a new cover for their couch or some timber venetian blinds. The whole area is changing fast and the pictures in this series provide a document of an environment that is undergoing significant change.