This is going to be a long one. Hotel Motel 101 was somewhat of the black sheep of Lost Collective. Everything else I’ve shot since 2011 is either abandoned or generally has some kind of historical significance (with the exception of my Landscapes).
Hotel Motel 101 came together faster than any other Lost Collective project I’ve worked on. It felt like the easiest as well even though realistically, it covered more kilometres and involved more work than any other gallery, it was just that creative flow in effect. Sometimes it comes sometimes it goes, but for these few weeks I was in the midst of it and I had all the time in the world, so I just rode it while I could.
I think a lot of people who have been following me for a while now are probably wondering what motivated me to create this collection. So, I thought I’d go through some of my inspirations, thought processes and learnings behind Hotel Motel 101 .
I’d had the idea to do a photography project with motels for some time. I can’t quite put my finger on where it began, but one recurring idea that has always been at the core of most of what I do is turning a seemingly mundane and boring scene into something you want to pay attention to. The bleaker, the better. So in that respect, it’s easy to see how a subject like motels would fit the brief.
I had this grand vision in my head that I was going to build a collection of motel signs, each one resembling something along the lines of the Holiday Inn Great Sign, which admittedly I didn’t even know existed before this collection, consciously at least anyway. When you look at it below, it somehow seems familiar doesn’t it?
Apart from the two beauties below, these kinds of signs, or anything even remotely resembling them, are rare in Australia in 2018.
Most of the road signs I found resemble something along the lines of the one below. I photographed this one from the first motel I visited of the entire series, but from this, I realised that this was going to add a lot of time for little benefit to what I was hoping to achieve.
It was at this point I decided what the series was going to look like, that being motel rooms themselves, shot directly front on.
So, going back to the beginnings of this project and where the idea came from, a lot of that came from watching the Netflix series Netflix series Mindhunter . It is what brought the idea to life.
The show follows two FBI agents who travel across the US in the late 1970s, staying in these all too familiar motels which somehow still look so recognisable almost 40 years later. The cinematography of the show makes you (well me anyway) somehow want to stay in a motel.
Watching Mindhunter was the catalyst for the creation of Hotel Motel 101. It’s what made me say “Alight! I am going to do this. I am going to make a collection of motels”.
It all started with a search on Google Maps for ‘motel’; then I made a list of every single one I could see from the beginning of the Hume Highway in Ashfield, to Casula.
Initially, the list was less than half a page long, I didn’t know how far I was going to go with this, and in all honesty, after the first night, I was questioning whether there really was even anything in this project worth pursuing. But not long after that first night, the list grew from half a page to almost four pages, roughly following runs from the Inner-West to South Western Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, The Southern Highlands and the Illawarra.
Our newborn son Jasper was less than one-month-old at the time of the first night I went out to start shooting this collection, and less than two months by the time the entire project had finished. We weren’t getting much sleep during the night, so I did what any good husband/father/sane person would do and decided to get out and be productive.
I had just purchased a new Nikon D850 which I hadn’t really had the chance to put through its paces so, in making this collection, it was also a chance to get to know my new camera.
I never really do much night photography, I’m not sure why, because I love it. I love the results it produces and there’s just something about being out at night time creating that spurs me on. Maybe it’s that change of routine in doing something completely different.
I wanted to try out a few other ideas I’d been sitting on for a while. That being a field light at night with a faint haze of light illuminating the air. And I managed to find this in the process of making Hotel Motel 101. I titled the image Nightlight .
I had this idea in my head ever since our trip to Japan in 2016, when one of our hosts showed me a photo book by his friend Dan Holdsworth . It contained one of his works titled Megalith . Admittedly mine is nothing like Dans but it is 100% the inspiration behind this photo and side by side, it’s not that hard to see where the similarities lie.
The second idea I had been thinking about was a lonely phone box at night. I really wanted to convey a sense of isolation in the image, and I think I found that when photographing the Lithgow Valley Motel . A photo titled, wait for it… Phone Booth .
The very first motel I photographed for Hotel Motel 101 was the Town & Country Motel in Strathfield. There was, in fact, two motels I had visited before this which were closer to my starting point on the Hume Highway, but there was just too many people around sitting outside their rooms smoking, drinking and what not. I can’t exactly pull out all my gear and set up a tripod in the middle of a motel carpark, direct it and someone’s room and start taking photos. So, I had to skip these motels at first and come back later at night.
This became a regular issue from the onset of the project and is the main reason why I ended up staying out so late taking photos, because I had to start late to find that happy medium where everyone was retired for the night, but the motel lights were still on, illuminated curtains made great shots. On average, I would stay out until about 3:00 AM shooting.
The two images below were taken at the Town & Country Motel. The first of any that I photographed someone drove into the carpark towards the end of the shot. I got spooked and grabbed the tripod mid-exposure, and this is the result.
The proper photo turned out like this.
Something that I’ve come to understand in the process of creating this collection is just how common it is for motels to be used as long term accommodation. The first night I went out shooting, it was evident that many had long-term tenants. Little giveaways like decorations in a room that would typically be reserved for home, like flags and posters. Mismatched furniture or household items out the front of rooms. Take Appin Motel for example –
Motels are also used as emergency accommodation for society’s most vulnerable by government agencies such as Housing NSW or the Department of Community Services. People might be fleeing domestic violence, or facing homelessness, dealing with substance abuse or other desperate situations including parolees. The NSW government spent $100 million on hotel rooms from 2000 to 2012 alone.
It’s an extremely complicated issue that probably stems from lack of foresight and willingness to address the problem over decades by successive governments.
Typically, motels that have long-term guests have a less welcoming appearance than ones whose primary guests are tourists or people on business, but I think it really hit home when I visited The Grandstand in Warwick Farm, arguably Australia’s worst hotel.
Here’s a look from the side during the day in case the last one wasn’t convincing enough.
Take note of the half day rate, although I can confirm the sign is outdated and a half day will now set you back $60.
The owner also owns the Fontainebleau not far down the road. Also used for emergency accommodation.
It’s hard not to look at the situation from the outside and get the sense that we are failing as a society when the best we can do is put people who are in these situations, including children, in motels, where they experience further traumatisation, and expect them to get back on their feet at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars a day. They don’t even have a kitchen in a motel room. They would be lucky to have a bar fridge in some. I’m not claiming to have the answers, but surely we can do better than this.
The Addison Project is a hotel in Kensington, Sydney which is set to be redeveloped, but in the interim, the developer has teamed up with a number of organisations to provide 42 fully-furnished rooms, each with their own bathroom and kitchenette, revenue-free for homeless youth.
Something like the Addison Project, while still not a solution, certainly seems like a much better option that benefits the owner of a motel more than anyone else involved.
OzHarvest has set up a ‘take what you need, pay what you can’ supermarket in the lobby, only stocking rescued food.
Clothing rescue service, Thread Together , operates next to the hotel and provides brand new clothing.
Orange Sky Laundry , the world’s first mobile laundry service, will visit The Addison once a week to offer its free services.
This is a wonderful initiative making a difference and given there is no shortage of buildings in Sydney currently awaiting redevelopment, it would be great to see more of this kind of thing by those who are able to make it possible.
There are some motels with long-term tenants who are actually helping people rather than trying to make a buck off the government, but I think these last couple of examples were worth calling out.
My favourite motel was Thirroul Beach Motel . It was also the only exception to the rule I set of not coming back for a better shot when fewer cars were around. The night that I took the first photo, it was a Friday, and all of the parking spaces were full, and I couldn’t get a full span of both levels with multiple doors and windows without cutting half off the height of one of the levels.
The different pastel coloured doors on the red brick walls were such an attractive feature of this motel, I thought. So, I felt compelled to come back midweek in the hope there’d be fewer guests, and the parking spaces would be empty. Luckily, the second time around there was only a couple of cars at the far end of the building. As a bonus, the night sky was clear and full of stars, as opposed to overcast on the night of the first visit, which I think helped to make this shot my favourite. I think this is the most appealing of all the motels I visited.
I had no idea until after I’d posted the image to Facebook and Instagram and people started commenting that it was the motel that Brett Whiteley died of a heroin overdose in 1992, which was kind of a sad realisation. The room, number four, appears in the photo.
Hotel Motel 101 was picked up by a number of publishers, and subsequently, I have covered quite a lot of this already. I had meant to do blog posts for these, but I figured that there isn’t really any point having half a dozen posts about the same thing, so instead, I decided to compile them all together here.
During the past couple of years running Lost Collective, I’ve received all kinds of correspondence, good and bad. One of the most rewarding things would have to be when people drop me a line to share their connection to the places I photograph. Not long after I shared the original Wangi Power Station gallery, a former worker named Cliff was kind enough to share some amazing pictures from his personal collection, taken around the late 70s and early 80s while the power station was still operational. If you have any pictures of your own prior to the closure of Wangi Power Station, please drop me a line.
The hydrogen-cooled 60 MW Parsons generator, viewed from above the operating level. This is the favourite photo from Cliff, the gentleman who was kind enough to supply almost all of the pictures you see in this blog post. This is turbine number 6, sitting just outside the “B” mechanical workshop, the supervisors’ office, and the meal room above that. If you look carefully, you can even see one of the supervisors in his office through the window. The metal stairway near the centre of the frame leads up to the meal room, where Cliff can remember sitting with his colleagues and listening to the radio as Australia II won the America’s Cup in 1983. You can clearly see the high-pressure, intermediate-pressure, and low-pressure manifolds on the drive end of the turbine. Modern designs would never plan to have a generator spinning at over 30000 RPM this close to a staff area. On Monday 9th December 1957, turbine number 2 burst from its housing, flying 25ft through the air, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and rendering the generator inoperable for about six months while repairs were carried out. It’s very lucky the office wasn’t next to that one.
Cooling water screens for the condensers in “B” Station filtered out the aquatic life and other solid objects which would otherwise interfere with the pumps. This screened salt water could then be pumped to the condensers to cool the steam after it had been spent in the turbines. Once the steam had been cooled back to a liquid state, it could then be returned to the system and reused in the boilers.
The image on the left is a view through the dividing area between the turbine and boiler house, during the construction of Wangi Power Station. Photographed by Sam Hood for the Newcastle Morning Herald. This image is from the Hood Collection part I in the State Library of NSW . The second is my own photograph taken from approximately the same spot December 2015, 61 years later and 30 years after closure.
A photograph from the coal stockpile beside the coal plant, looking towards the “B” Station lift tower. The openings on the right side of the frame are where the bulldozers would push coal onto a conveyor where it would begin its journey to the top of the power station and into bunkers. The building on the far was the main store of Wangi Power Station.
This was a steam driven feed pump used to supply boilers with the water required to generate the steam which drove the turbines (to the rear of where the photographer was standing). Rather than being electrically driven, this pump used steam bled from the turbine for energy. In the background is part of one of the pulverised fuel boilers, meaning this photo was taken somewhere inside “B” station.
The image on the left is looking from “B” Station over the length of the entire turbine hall to the far end of “A” Station. Wangi Power Station consisted of six turbines in total. “A” Station contained three 50 MW Parsons turbo-alternators, while “B” station had three 60 MW Parsons units, giving the power station a total generating capacity of 330 MW. Comparatively, Australia’s largest power stations, Eraring and Bayswater , are still operational at 2,880 MW and 2,640 MW respectively. You can see an operator and a supervisor (going by the uniform) to the far left of the frame, looking at a turbine control panel. The image on the right is my own, taken in 2015. When viewed against that on the left, it makes me think of a jaw with all of the teeth pulled out.
A shot from the “B” Station end of Wangi Power Station, looking over the switchyard. The outlet canal can be seen running from the power station into Lake Macquarie . You can see the main car park to the right of the frame, and a domed building on the furthest side of the switchyard, which was the new apprentice workshop. Before this had been built, apprentice training took place inside the power station itself, in a workshop, off from the main workshop area.
This was part of a trial feeding system that was being tested at the power station. I have limited information on this, so if you have a better understanding of what was happening here, please leave a comment. Supposedly, this trial was being developed to test the use a coal slurry to as fuel in the “B” Station boilers. The overall shot places the scene between the coal plant and the end of “B” Station. A large hopper looks to divert some of the coal being fed via the main coal feeding conveyor down to a green hopper. From this hopper, the coal feeds to a ball mill before passing through what appears to be some cleaning tanks. The top level of the furthest structure features what appears to be an orange centrifuge which might have been used to separate the water from the pulverised coal particles. Perhaps it was part of a trial to determine if washed coal had a higher efficiency rate than that of the dry, raw processed coal. As I mentioned, I’m hypothesising, but I’d quite like to know the story behind this, so please do get in touch if you know.
Boiler no 2A was one of the six spreader stoker Babcock and Wilcox cross drum boilers, used to heat steam to a temperature of 840ºF (449ºC) which drove the Parsons turbines. Rapidly rotating blades would fling coal, between the size of a marble and a fist, onto the grate via a gravimetric feeder. Coal fell onto the feeders via the four chutes seen on the front of the boiler. The coal would then pass through the boiler, over the grate, and then fall to waste removal at the end. On at least one occasion, this boiler was re-ignited after a shutdown by throwing an oily rag onto the coal already inside the boiler on the chain grate, with the hope of it catching alight. I’m not sure if this was standard practice, but hey, whatever gets the job done in an era where safety was still negotiable. The access hatches at the base near the floor were used to unjam the grates. You might also notice that one of the hatches has been left slightly ajar, showing the glow from inside the boiler. The specifications of the boiler were sign-posted on each unit, seen above the nameplate near the top centre of the frame.
Another shot of the high-pressure end of turbine number six. You can just see a couple of operators hiding in the far left of the frame.
What a classic shot. Taken just past the main car park with a Mini passing in front of the tennis courts, which lie between the roadside and the power station itself. This photo was taken looking towards the “A” Station end of Wangi Power Station.
The outlet canal took water recovered from the condensers and returned it to the outlet canal, which ran the length of the entire power station before returning to Lake Macquarie. You can see the roadway of Dobell Drive passing over the far end of the canal.
The “A” Station screens don’t look to have fared as well as their newer “B” Station counterparts. The same requirement for filtered salt water was needed for the “A” Station condensers, although the mechanism to filter the water for this side of the power station was of a completely different design. A series of buckets would be pulled up using a chain drive, and then passed over filter screens before being pumped back to the condensers. I’m told the cast iron rollers used in these screens were great material for making engine piston rings.
Looking down the main coal feeding conveyor and over the coal plant from the roof of “B” Station roof. You can just make out a coal delivery truck coming in at the far side of the stockpile. Coal would also be delivered from Awaba Colliery via the rail line you can see coming into the plant from a distance. The transfer towers in the middle of the frame were sets of conveyors which joined, allowing coal to be fed to the main conveyor up to the bunkers.
One of the Parsons Turbines that generated the electricity at Wangi Power Station. The blue, white and chrome colours are from a bygone era in the colour coordination of generating equipment. The generator sets of most modern power stations tend to be one solid colour (and much larger). All the valving and asbestos lagged pipework makes up part of the control system. On the left end of the generator set, you can see the turbine speed indicator on the governor.
The main entrance of the power station is at the bottom left. The ground floor consisted of the apprentice workshop on the left, with nurses station around the corner to the right. The first floor was an electrical workshop. Further up the building was the canteen, which had its own unique Wangi Power Station currency. Executive offices also occupied the higher levels of the building at the end of “A” Station.
Scanned documents from induction packs of the era, which were given to new starters. The first document is a brief overview of the history of Wangi Power Station as well as some technical details including the functions, equipment and generating capacity. The contents of the document are transcribed below.
Wangi Power Station was one of five major stations built on the coalfields by the N.S.W. Electricity Commission . It has a capacity of 330 000 kilowatts.
The station was originally designed, and its construction begun by the Railways Department and was completed for the Electricity Commission, formed in 1950 as the State’s major electricity generating and bulk supply authority.
Situated near Wangi township on the western side of Lake Macquarie, the power station is the fourth largest in operation on the northern coalfields and it provides power for the State supply system.
Experience shows that it is cheaper to transmit power considerable distances from a power station than to carry fuel to it. Wangi Power Station, therefore, is well situated, being only 7 kilometres from the Commission-owned Awaba Coal Mine. Cooling water, also, is readily available from the nearby lake. Wangi Power Station comprises three 50 000 kW and three 60 000 kW generating units installed at a cost of $60 million.
Like the other five main stations at Liddell (Hunter Valley), Munmorah (Central Coast), Vales Point (Lake Macquarie), Tallawarra (near Port Kembla) and Wallerawang (near Lithgow), Wangi station is part of the Commission’s interconnected generating system which supplies most of the electric power in N.S.W.
There are important economic advantages in such large-scale operations, one of them being that the Commission is able to supply all retailing Councils with electricity at a uniform tariff.
The three 50 000 kW units have two boilers per unit, each boiler having a steam-raising capacity of 113 500 kilograms per hour at a pressure of 4 478 kilopascals, and a temperature of 450°C.
These first units use the spreader-stoker system of firing, coal of the required grade being fed by chute to a mechanism which throws it across the furnace on to a travelling grate.
The second section of the station comprises three 60 000 kW turbine generators, each with a single 249 700 kilograms per hour boiler, 6 545 kilopascals at 500°C.
These boilers use pulverised fuel. No grate is required, the fuel being reduced to very fine particles, and fed into the furnaces as an airborne coal dust.
Operation of the older “A” section has declined in recent years. The more modern “B” section makes a substantial contribution to system requirements and consumes up to 1 500 tonnes of coal a day.
Water for cooling purposes is brought in through a horseshoe-shaped tunnel under the hill at the rear of the station and returned to the lake by a 3.5 metre deep open canal.
The chimney stacks are of reinforced concrete, 76 metres high, with an internal diameter at the top of 6 metres.
The station has exterior walls of red brick, rows of— glass windows, and a precast concrete roof.
The main power station building, 228 metres long, takes up the central portion of the site, with the control room and switchyard in front and a number of stores, workshops and office buildings nearby.
For the whole job, 76 500 cubic metres of concrete, 3 000 000 bricks and 10 000 tonnes of structural steel were required.
A general information document for new starters relating to the Electricity Commission of New South Wales, as it was in 1977.
The present day view from across the former switch yard of Wangi Power Station.
While on the subject of rail transport, I thought it would be appropriate to share this piece of rail heritage I came across when visiting Yubari. The Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari Station.
The Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari station was part of the Japan National Railway, which serviced Yubari during more prosperous times, and is one of the few remaining examples of the Mitsubishi mining empire in the Sorachi region.
Following the closure of the coal mines in the 1980’s, many of the residents left, and almost all of the surrounding hamlets became abandoned. You can learn more about this from my Streetscapes of Yubari gallery.
Due to debts exceeding ¥27 Trillion, in 1987, the Japanese National Railway was privatised, and the infrastructure divided between six railway companies and a freight service provider. The Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari railway ceased operation permanently.
The Japanese National Railway map above shows the areas which the Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari railway once operated, as well as the private lines which made up the network.
As well as Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari Station, there’s quite a lot of old stations and remaining infrastructure by the looks of things. I’d love to revisit one day and retrace some of these old train lines. You never know what you might find.
Pictured above is a snowplough engine known as Ki 1, built in February 1941 at the Naebo railway factory in Sapporo, under order from Mitsubishi Mining’s in-house engineering department.
I haven’t confirmed these measurements myself, but I’m told its dimensions are 11388mm L × 3985mm H × 2522mm W. There is no denying Japanese precision.
The carriage pictured above was the Suhani 6, a 3-axis bogey passenger car (plate number T R 70), constructed in 1912, the final year of the Meiji period in the Omiya rail factory.
This car had a carrying capacity of 68 persons in summer, and 64 in winter. I wonder if the reduced capacity during winter was to clear space around the stove heater which used to reside on the steel plate to the left of the frame.
Here’s a front on view of the snowplough. Check out that scoop! This is my vehicle of choice when the zombie apocalypse comes.
As it turns out, this snowplough wasn’t used to haul carriages; its sole purpose was destroying snow along the railway of the Oobayashi district, located at the foot of the Yubarigama mountain area.
The last remaining steam locomotive used to drive these carriages was relocated to a purpose built museum, inside “sekitan no rekishi mura”, a now defunct theme park located closer to the city centre of Yubari. Below is a picture of the entrance.
Following the financial collapse of Yubari, funds to keep the museum operational dried up and the exhibit fell into a state of disrepair. Unfortunately, there is neither enough money or an alternative location to store the Locomotive.
Given the current financial situation of Yubari, It’s unlikely the locomotive will be saved anytime soon.
The building attached to the side of the Locomotive makes up the museum and the landscape you can see in the background makes up the now defunct theme park.
The Oha 1 (Truck: TR 11) pictured below, was also a steel and timber constructed passenger car built in the Meiji period of 1906 by the Shinbashi railway workshop.
This car had a passenger carrying capacity of 104 persons in summer and 96 in winter. The seasonal difference is intriguing. I must get to the bottom of this reduced capacity during colder months.
The group undertakes regular restoration maintenance tasks at Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari Station, preserving infrastructure in original condition so future generations can learn about the past of Yubari’s forgotten rail heritage.
This is one of the more challenging blog posts I’ve created. The information about Mitsubishi Minami-Oyubari Station and the cars here was sourced using a PDF document made up of one single image, written entirely in Japanese (which I can’t read).
I used the Google Translate app to photograph each section of text, then pasted each part so that the photos on the document corresponded with my own. It took a while, but I got there in the end.
I guess it goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Yubari. Japanese culture is something I’ve had a huge fascination with for a long time now, and If you’ve followed Lost Collective for the last year, I shouldn’t need to explain how I feel about heritage and urban exploration.
This trip was something I’ll never forget. I don’t think I even scratched the surface and on a personal level, it was one of the most unexpected, unplanned and exciting things I’ve ever done.
I can only imagine how much I would have struggled to publish the content that I have over the past six months without the help of the Shimizusawa Project .
The work of heritage preservation groups is often challenging and thankless. These are are non-profit organisations relying on donations and the efforts of volunteers to make a difference.
If you are ever considering a trip to Yubari to see some of these places, please consider making a contribution to their cause.
For anyone who would like to try this adventure out for themselves, I should mention that Yubari is not a part of Japan where English is commonly spoken. As is always the case with Japanese people, they are warm and welcoming, but, unless you have someone in your group who can speak, read and write Japanese, you will likely encounter barriers which will be challenging for everyone involved.
In the event you can read Japanese, feel free to check out the main document I used as research for this article. I’d be interested to know how close (or far) to the mark my translation was.
A couple of photos even made the cut for the UrbanGrowth NSW Reception area.
Beyond the walls of the Victorian era building is a team of dedicated volunteers who contribute their time to the restoration of some of NSW past rolling stock.
You might have noticed this building yourself when making your way into the city on the train. It can be seen on your left (city bound) just before arriving at Redfern Station.
Some of the trains such as the iconic “Red Rattler” hail from the recent past, others date back over a century. The team volunteering here at the Eveleigh Paint Shop painstakingly restore these amazing examples of railway history back to their former glory.
They also build incredibly detailed scale models of former NSW rail sites, such as the old Punchbowl Maintenance Depot pictured below. Look at the attention to detail!
Anyway, back to the real trains. Seeing the vast changes in the design of public transport over the years, particularly the interiors was quite an eye opener.
When you can get close enough to see those hand carved, hand-turned pieces of wood of the armrests, decorative carving in the chair frames and the wooden shutter blinds, it gives you an appreciation for the level of craftsmanship that’s long since been lost in the design of modern public transport.
The trains are some that live in the memories of my childhood, others which ceased operation many decades before I was even born. The centurion pictured above is 103 years old!
Pictured below is the workshop where the team overseeing the restorations tinker away, bringing the rail cars back to their former glory.
This shoot was created over two initial visits for photography, then about three more visits for research by talking to some of the restoration crew. More about this later.
I’ll be publishing a new Lost Collective gallery in the near future with lots more photos and a detailed essay on the historical importance of the Paint Shop.
Eveleigh Stories is building an archive from the rich history of the locality, and presenting that through this great online resource. You can even submit your own story if you have something of your own that you’d like to contribute.
ATP’s heritage volunteers, both conservation volunteers and volunteer tour guides, play an invaluable role in conserving, enhancing and communicating our heritage to interested members of the public, ATP tenants and visitors.
If you’d like to get involved, you can register your interest here .
I’d like to give special thanks to Dave Fox (above) and Geoff Moss (below – Pic: UrbanGrowth NSW), both of whom helped immensly by taking the time to teach me about the background of the train cars and carriages, as well as the site itself. This gallery wouldn’t have been possible without them.
Dave and Geoff are part Historic Electric Traction , a group chaired with managing the preservation of the Railway’s suburban and interurban carriage collection
I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest blog post. If you’d like to stay updated on what’s coming, including the upcoming gallery of this site, make sure you sign up to the Lost Collective newsletter at the bottom of this page.
UrbanGrowth NSW leads the transformation of surplus or underutilised government-owned land to create vibrant and connected urban spaces, close to public transport.
As a state-owned corporation, they collaborate with government, industry and community to facilitate complex projects at different stages – from planning to place making, to deliver better outcomes for the city and its people.
Their work enables much needed new housing choices, community facilities, jobs in growing centres and facilitates a globally competitive and resilient state.
A day before we arrived in Sapporo , I had no idea what we were actually going to do to build content, other than heading to Nippon Rent-a-Car at Sapporo Station, and hiring something to drive from Sapporo to Yubari for the four days in the hope of finding something.
I guess we could have just stayed at Yubari’s Mount Racey Ski Resort instead of doing the drive, but it was a bit out of our budget, and I don’t think it’s really the experience we were after either.
While on our way to Hokkaido, I learned about the Shimizusawa Project . A group of historians, aficionados, advocates and volunteers who dedicate their efforts around the historical preservation of Yubari.
Yoko, our fantastic Air BnB host/translator, gave Shimizusawa Project a call and helped us arrange to meet Sato San in front of Shimizusawa Station the next day.
As it turned out, Sato San can speak much better English than I can speak Japanese.
After a short and friendly introduction, we all jumped into the same car, and Sato San showed us the sights, from the old mining infrastructure, abandoned hamlets, right up to being taken through the Shimizusawa Thermal Power Plant , which until a few years ago, had been scheduled for demolition..
Shimizusawa Project was able to halt the planned demolition of the remaining power plant and found it a new lease of life, through public through guided tours and art exhibitions.
The photograph below, courtesy of the Yubari City archives shows the Shimizusawa Power Plant still active in 1955, viewed more to the south-east.
Sato San asked if we’d like to come again the next day for a tour around the Shimizusawa slag piles which Shimizusawa Project built and maintains. How could we refuse?
These slag piles were built over decades from combustion byproduct of the power plant. There were mountains of it, and I mean such mountainous slag piles, that they have their own walking tracks!
One of the things I enjoyed most about this trip, was the opportunity to see some of the beautiful Japanese countrysides beyond Japans huge cities and sprawling urban areas.
I’d never seen the side of the country without all the neon lights and noise and pachinko parlours other than from a Shinkansen cruising through the countryside at 350KM per hour.
One of the highlights was definitely Blue Pond, in Biei which was pretty amazing to see.
I have to admit, I didn’t exactly expect what I saw in the outlying towns. I mean, it is certainly beautiful, even in places which have undergone massive declines, the scenery is still amazing. Snow capped mountain ranges and volcanoes, unlike any landforms we see in Australia.
But, the state of decay in parts is unmistakable. Villages with 90% of buildings either empty, boarded up or collapsed, some looked to have been that way for decades. Here’s Sally pictured below in an abandoned school in Yubari.
I didn’t expect there to be so much ruin. I’d always pictured Japan as this vibrant, techy society, but the further out you get from the cities the more you get to see the contrast of society.
Small villages and towns dotted all over the place, where the elderly generations are the only ones who remain. In some cases, you could be forgiven for thinking no one is there at all.
After what is easily the longest blog post I’ve done to date, I feel like there is so much I’m leaving out so I think I’ll wrap part one up for now and work towards more of the same as it comes to mind.
I’ve still got more galleries to share, more to shoot, more blog posts to publish and an evergrowing list of projects in the works, so, If you’d like to stay up to date, be sure to sign up to the newsletter.
When we visited Yubari in Japan, Family School Fureai was the first abandoned building we photographed.
It’s interesting to notice the difference of the condition of abandoned buildings in Japan to Australia. Mainly the fact that they have an acute absence of graffiti minus some kanji scrawled on a chalkboard.
Coincidentally, this was also Sal’s first time in an abandoned building. Exciting!
I don’t think the same affinity for actually going inside abandoned buildings is as prevalent with Sal, but she still makes good company.
There was also a massive seal in one of the Family School Fureai corridors. Probably one of the most terrifying things I have ever seen while shooting an abandoned building.
The scenario there with Sal having not seen this seal was to as gently as possible, saying “Hey Sal, there’s something in this next part you need to see. Now, just remember when you see this, it’s not real, but you gotta see it!”.
So technically it was real. But to be more specific it was really Taxidermy. In all honesty, I had no idea that seals are even capable of growing this big.
You see something new every day.
I have to admit that when I first turned the corner and saw this, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was seeing, but I think my internal panic response was suggesting a bear!
“These haunting photographs offer a glimpse into a once-bustling Japanese school building, left to crumble into ruin after being abandoned.
The derelict classrooms and corridors of Yubari’s Asahi Elementary School were once filled with children of all ages, but now they are left waterlogged, vandalised and riddled with decay.”
This gallery was the product of four days wandering the streets of Yubari, taking snippets of occupied and abandoned buildings from those and joining them into this gallery.
Before this trip, I always envisioned Japan as a sprawling tech hub where everything is illuminated and busy. It can even become an assault on the senses. I’ve been four times now. I won’t be surprised if we go four more. We love Japan. It’s an amazing culture to immerse yourself in.
So, as we travelled further from the city centres to the regional towns and rural areas found withing an hour or two of the city centres, I saw a very different Japan to what I’d seen before.
In smaller villages and hamlets, instead of continuations of the small family businesses, the younger generation abandon the store or farm in seek of better work opportunities found in more populated places.
The communities begin to fade away and the buildings that they lived and work from become abandoned.
Our excellent tour guide for a day in Yubari was Sato San.
Sato San is part of a group of volunteers, historians, aficionados and advocates called the Shimizusawa Project , who work to preserve the history of Yubari and its importance in the story of the Japans industrialisation.
It was Friday night, and we had just returned from Japan after three weeks in search of abandoned buildings. The car had broken down just outside the ABC studio right before our pre-arranged interview, so while my wife and daughter waited in the car for our friend to come and help, I spoke to Sarah Mashman of ABC Hobart about Lost Collective and the way the project reconnects the communities it engages.
It was out of regular hours, and when I got to the reception desk, there was confusion about whether I was even supposed to be there. Well, I knew I was supposed to be there but the guard manning the desk didn’t.
The interview almost didn’t go ahead, the security guard wasn’t going to let me in, but luckily, at the last minute we got through the name mix up and onward to the only studio (so it seemed) to still have anyone in it.
So, we got to talking about things and stuff, and it was all recorded with a link to the interview provided at the end of this post if anyone is keen to have a listen.
It’s funny to note that the interview was here in Sydney, but Sarah was in Hobart. Can you tell the distance in the conversation?
Anyway, in the end, it was a lovely chat with Sarah and we managed to get the car battery sorted, so the night turned out to be a fun little adventure in itself.
The Society had organised a reunion for the local dairy workers, past and present who dedicated their lives and in many cases still do, to the dairy industry of the region, including the Peters’ Ice Cream Factory.
The week before the event, I was sent a document outlining the history of my photos of the long abandoned buildings thanks to Jo Barlin of Barlin Milk.
I worked away frantically writing copy to fill the captions the 800mm square dining table in a tiny airbnb apartment in Maebashi, Japan.
It was a bit of a rush job, but by all accounts, the reunion went well.
The post itself became an announcement aimed towards of the former workers of the Manning River & Cundletown dairy industries.
Laura Polson of The Manning River Times got in touch to publish an article coinciding with the reunion. As it turns out, even Laura herself descends from a family of dairy farmers.
We did a good email interview, and the news article also got the word out of the day before the reunion.
I think even a few members of the general public went along to the reunion to see the ice cream and butter making demonstrations. I wish I could have made it for that!
The remnants of Peters Ice Cream Factory in Taree have been captured by a Sydney based photographer through his project ‘Lost Collective’.
He shares the photos online to engage everyday people by, “encouraging them to reconnect with former lives and sometimes former friends.”
If you’d like to see the article in the Manning River Times, click here .
The Manning River Times has been proudly serving the people of the Manning Region, on the Mid-North Coast of New South Wales, since 1869.
Last week at the National Trust Australia (NSW) Heritage Awards, Lost Collective was awarded highly commended in the multimedia category.
It’s amazing to see the project gaining the attention it has garnered over the last year.
I just wanted to thank everyone support I’ve received. Anyone who follows what I do, It’s all a little overwhelming. I pour my heart and soul into Lost Collective. So it’s always humbling to hear that people can take something away when they look at what I do.
The last year has been an absolute adventure for me and my family. We moved house, Lost Collective was born, I travelled through Japan, and I left my job.
It was a plunge into the unknown with very little idea what my next move is, and so far so good!
But hey, with great risks comes great reward, right?
Why not just take the chance and leave a job that had never truly satisfied me for 17 years. Why not just see if doing what I love works?
I’m looking forward to getting stuck into all the content I need to work through over the next couple of months. Most coming from the recent Japan trip but there is a bit of local stuff in the mix.