Expeditions to the corner store were a memorable feature of many Australian childhoods. It was a suburban adventure across melting bitumen under a blinding summer sun to a sugar-loaded bounty lying in wait. Musk sticks, milk bottles and bananas packed into hand-picked lolly bags, flavoured milk or cold cola, ice blocks and ice-creams. Over the years, however, this local icon has faded under the fluorescent glow of expanding all-in-one supermarkets and the American-style 7–11.
For more than five years, historian, archivist and photographer Eamon Donnelly has been capturing the fading, independent, one-stop shop, shooting boarded-up, closed and barely surviving corner stores across Australia. At this year’s Art & About Festival, a selection of Donnelly’s images will be displayed as the festival’s banner gallery. “There were just the old signs and I began to take pictures of them,” he says. “It made me realise that something was happening within our suburban landscape, an Australian icon was disappearing.”
Seven hundred street banners typically displaying the city’s cultural events and happenings, will instead show Donnelly’s bright, high-resolution, sun-soaked images of a fading suburbia. Donnelly’s nostalgic flags follow the festival’s theme of cherished but endangered icons and past times – peeling Streets Cornetto decals, sun-bleached, hand-painted signage and forgotten-era advertising.
The Milk Bar by Eamon Donnelly is showing from September 19–October 12 on the Banners on George Street, Martin Place, William Street, Oxford Street, Glebe Point Road and Redfern Street.