Sharing community stories

A new City Gallery exhibition, “City Songs”, captures the faces and voices of a single CBD block.

Photographer Zoe Ali and author Christos Tsiolkas used their six-month City of Melbourne arts residency to document the lives of people living, working and playing on the block bordered by Swanston, Bourke, Russell and Collins streets.

Ms Ali told CBD News there was no formal selection process when choosing their subjects. She and Mr Tsiolkas spent six months walking the streets of the block, approaching people who might be willing to share their story.

More than 50 people participated in the project, agreeing to have their black and white portrait put on display.

All text stories included in the exhibition are anonymous. Mr Tsiolkas transcribed some, but included his fictional works too.

Ms Ali and Mr Tsiolkas also worked alongside University of Melbourne social historian Professor Andrew May to provide a look into the block’s history.

Through their collaboration, they were able to include portraits of the city’s 1892 councillors and black and white photographs of the block itself.

City of Melbourne arts, culture and heritage chair, Cr Rohan Leppert, praised City Songs and its telling of the past and present CBD community.

“City Songs offers the visitor an opportunity to ‘hear’ the music of contemporary city as well as the voices that formed its songs of the past,” he said.

Ms Ali said that the relationship between city and community, in her opinion, was very important.

“The buildings and spaces of Melbourne and this block fascinates us but it is within the faces of those we photographed that the real vitality of our city comes alive,” she said.

Ms Ali said that capturing the multiculturalism of the CBD was not intentional but rather a natural progression during the photography phase of the project and was something to be celebrated.

"City Songs: A symphony of experiences" is available for viewing from now until Wednesday, April 19.

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