In 1965, Chris Lermanis was a schoolteacher from Brighton with a camera, access to a darkroom and a keen interest in documenting the real world. So he drove to Fitzroy.
It wasn’t the Fitzroy we know, with its boutique clothing stores, trendy bars and seven-figure real-estate. The suburb that Lermanis photographed was rough, raw and unfamiliar. “Brighton was all cream-brick veneers and nature strips. A half hour drive into the inner city was another world,” says Lermanis. “Going into a different suburb was like going into another country. I felt like a tourist.”
Fitzroy was undergoing a massive overhaul at the time, with run-down cottages being torn down and replaced with the towering council flats that now dominate the suburb’s skyline. “I don’t think I’d ever encountered poverty,” he says. “There were kids wandering around gathering firewood, people drinking from bottles in filthy alleyways.”
Lermanis inadvertently captured a rarely seen perspective on Fitzroy that just wasn’t considered worthy of documenting at the time, and is now hidden by decades of gentrification.
“I wasn’t on a mission. I had no social conscience about it,” says Lermanis. “I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I just strolled.”
Chris Lermanis’ Fitzroy Narrows 1965 is showing at the Colour Factory until June 27. Lermanis will be giving a talk about his work at the gallery at 2pm on Saturday June 13.