Observations & Photowalks / Street & candid / Tips and tutorials

Playing at being a tourist in Perth City. My personal history tour.

‘Poster blind’ is a term we use at work occasionally in reference to becoming so accustomed to our surroundings that we no longer notice the marketing material and messages we are presenting to our customers.

Pretending that you’re a tourist can be a great way to discover your city or suburb, because it forces you to look beyond the immediate scene in front of you that you may have become ‘poster blind’ to as a result of visiting a place numerous times. I really enjoy behaving like a tourist, because by getting myself into the mindset I get on holiday (ie I might only visit this place once, what do I want to remember?) I almost always discover something or somewhere new. Tourists look up, and drink in their surroundings where many others may walk past, unaffected.

The photos below are all snapshots taken on Saturday 15th February 2014 using my point and shoot camera, an Olympus Stylus VH-520. I bought this camera back in November for using in social situations where my dslr isn’t practical. To be honest, the more I use it, the more I loathe it. It makes some really ridiculous choices in regards to ISO and aperture, frequently choosing to shoot at f 3.3 (this gives a really shallow depth of field and renders a lot out of focus). As you’ll see from the photos below, the extremely wide angle lens also has some awful distortion, making all the buildings curve inwards.

Still, it’s a convenient little camera to have, and handy for snapping away fairly innocuously. I discovered some buildings and places I hadn’t explored before, and hope you enjoy the photos. This post took me at least 8 hours to prepare for you, so if you love it, please leave a comment and share it!


Pier street.

© Kell Rowe 2014  www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au

© Kell Rowe 2014  www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au

For many years I had a fear of Pier street, and in particular the Pier street multi-story carpark (at right). Besides carparks often making me feel sick and claustrophobic, when I was about 11 we stayed at Hotel Wentworth in the city. That night, a man was murdered in the car park. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve started to feel comfortable being in the area.

© Kell Rowe 2014  www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au The red brick building above left is the former Government printing office. You can learn more about it here. I’m pretty sure that the other building with the coloured square detail is the Pensione Hotel.


Murray street (east).

© Kell Rowe 2014  www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au

© Kell Rowe 2014  www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au

I always get really anxious walking down this stretch of road, because there are a couple of businesses that offer ‘personality tests’ and a friend of mine thinks it’s really amusing to give me a little push towards the door whenever we walk past. I’m not convinced that the door won’t lock behind me, so I always try to cross the street or run past.

The blue and grey building above was built in 1898 and is called the Boladeras building. I can’t find much about it besides this link to another photo and a few notes about the history of ownership.

© Kell Rowe 2014  www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au

I’m not sure of the current use or name of the white building on Murray street (opposite HBF House). I’m pretty sure that in the 1990s the bottom level was a bank but I could be wrong. It’s looking pretty run down and I’m not sure how much longer it will be around for. Cheryl Fletcher’s Flickr account says that the current building was built in the 1920s. I couldn’t find more information about it.

© Kell Rowe 2014  www.blackcurrantphotography.com.au


Barrack street.

The reason we’d made the trip into the city was that we were looking for a little laneway shop called Toastface Grillah. The information I had was that it was located in Grand Theatre lane. The only problem was that in my entire 3 decades living in Perth, I’d never heard of the Grand Theatre, let alone a laneway associated with it. So my first guess was to look for an old building that looked theatre-ish. Whilst my insinct told me it was between Murray and Wellington streets (and I was right), I thought we’d walk south along Barrack street, towards the river.

© Kell Rowe 2014
The above building is 87-93 Barrack street. All I’ve found is a State Library photo of it from the 1950s.To the left of it is a building that still bears the neon lights of Liberty Theatre. I don’t remember the Liberty at all (information here suggests it finally closed in 1997 when I was 16) but I think it must be the Barrack street cinema my Mother-in-Law says she used to visit to see Rocky Horror in the 70s. I remember there being a swimwear shop and I have hazy recollections of a basement music shop, but it’s possible that I’m getting confused with Dada’s record shop on Pier street (which much to my surprise, still exists… as far as I know).

© Kell Rowe 2014

The intersection below is of the Hay street mall and Barrack street. The white office tower in the background is 44 St George Terrace, aka St Martins Tower. My uncle Graeme worked in the old Duty Free shop here for many years before it relocated. The top floor is a revolving restaurant which I think is now called C lounge but was at one point, Hi-lite 33. The only photo I have of me with my very first camera was taken in this restaurant. I think that we were celebrating my brother’s 6th birthday on Christmas Eve.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014
Standing outside the McDonald’s on the corner of Hay street (vastly inferior to the wonderful basement Maccas that used to be next to Hoyts Cinema City), I noticed the red brick building in the middle of this photo. I don’t think I’ve ever really paid attention to it before. There is a wide opening, reminiscent of an arcade, but that currently houses a long and narrow newsagency. Dallas at Museum of Perth told me that this building is called the National Chambers. I particularly like the windows that jut out from the building.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014
I
t was exciting to see activity at the Treasury Building site. I am really looking forward to seeing this area restored! In a similar way to Brookfield Place, this area will have a heritage building at the front, with a large modern office tower behind it. These photos were taken on Barrack street. behind this site is the old Land Office, and St Georges Cathedral. I blogged pictures of both sites in one of my very first posts. I can’t wait to see the balconies restored. I think it’s always important to photograph sites being demolished and constructed upon, so we can reflect on the changes.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

The building above is the Perth Town Hall. The area under the arches is pretty fantastic and would make an interesting location for portraits. I haven’t been inside the building, but I’ve seen some lovely photos. My friends Jo and Nova had one of their wedding ceremonies here after returning from Canada.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014
The Greater Union Cinecentre on the corner of Murray and Barrack streets hasn’t been a cinema for many years now, but I used to visit it a fair bit in my teens. Hoyts Cinema City was better, in my opinion. From memory there also used to be a cinema in the Hay Street mall where Borders used to be. I went to see the reworked Star Wars there in 1997.

We kept walking down Barrack street, looking at the lovely old buildings. I particularly like the old facade of what I think was the Railway Hotel. It’s now a bar on the lower level with nothing behind the upstairs balconies.

We had trouble finding Grand Theatre lane, so I looked it up on Google maps. It’s just before the corner of Wellington street, and runs through to the Murray street mall. I’d never really noticed it before, though I’d taken this photo (below) at its entrance back in 2012.

1:19pm Murray Street.

1:19pm Murray Street. 19/10/2012.

The drain in the alleyway reminds me a little of the ones in Fitzroy (Victoria) that sometimes pop up on tv shows. Jason liked it because it had a fire escape that made him think of New York City. There are a few murals along the walls, making it interesting to explore. Toastface Grillah is a small, unassuming place at the end of the alleyway. You can easily forget you are in the city, just metres from the busy mall. The food is fabulous – we ate toasted sandwiches filled with brie, peanut butter, banana, honey, and bacon. It doesn’t sound like a winning combination, but I assure you it was! I can’t wait to go back.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014© Kell Rowe 2014


Murray street mall, and Forrest Place.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014
I don’t know if the girls above were Goths, Ravers, Cosplayers, or a mash-up of the three (although it’s been probably a decade since I saw a real goth). They had really cool shoes, whatever they were. This photo is from the Western end of the Murray Street mall, near the Swarovski shop. That shop was a Spotlight store in the late 1990s.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014
© Kell Rowe 2014
If you look carefully at a few of these photos, you’ll see a guy on a bike. That’s the infamous Mad Dog. He’s been riding the streets of Perth since before I was born, and is considered a bit of a local celebrity/legend. Nobody quite knows his story. I sat down here in the mall and chatted with him sometime back in 2008. He seemed pretty chuffed when I told him that I’d seen him around my whole life, and I’d miss him terribly if anything ever happened to him.

© Kell Rowe 2014
© Kell Rowe 2014
Jason and I sat outside Java Juice for ages, just watching people go by. I was watching this group of teenagers outside the train station and wondering when teenage boys started looking so damn little! Sometimes I wish I could impart advice on complete strangers. The first thing I would have told them was to photograph what was around them, rather than just themselves. Where we were sitting has changed so much in the 15-16 years since I was their age. I barely remember it and I have no photos. It’d be nice to have photos of where I used to hang out. I was sad to see the boys smoking, and the girls acting like it was cool. Part of me wanted to take the pretty brunette aside and tell her that she appears smart and confident and she could do far better than the hairless child that just blew cigarette smoke in her ear. Yes…. her ear. Not my idea of sexy, romantic, or cool but hey, what would I know?


Murray street (West).

© Kell Rowe 2014
Hotel Wentworth on the corner of William and Murray streets. Mum and Dad brought us here one weekend in the early 1990s. We stayed in a room to the left of the photo, near the Moon and Sixpence. I loved visiting the Moon and Six back when I was 18/19. Back then people still smoked in pubs so it wasn’t awfully pleasant, but back then I could actually drink alcohol without feeling sick, so I didn’t really care. The bar at the bottom of Hotel Wentworth is forever changing. I met my Parisian friend, Hilda here in 2007. She’d only been in Perth for a few days and asked to sit at my table.

Information about the Murray street West End buildings can be found here.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014
See that Bankwest shop (the orange building with the squiggly white logo)? That’s a new part of Raine Square. For longer than I can remember it was an old, two story building. It was an architectural firm or town planner’s office. I remember peeping through the window countless times to see a white plastic scale model of Perth city. Around the age of 9, that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up – someone who made architectural models.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014
Gingers has always captured my attention with their clever shoe display.

© Kell Rowe 2014© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014
T
he white building above is the heritage listed Hoffman building. More importantly to some, it’s where you’ll find both the Margaret River Chocolate Company, and Providore. To the right of it is Wolf Lane, an area I’m yet to visit. The building is circa 1910.

© Kell Rowe 2014

© Kell Rowe 2014

The above building is the Electric Light Sub Station built in 1914. I’ve never physically been inside it (I’m not sure you can go inside), but I once saw a photo of an amazing staircase inside it and I’d love to take portraits on it some time.

© Kell Rowe 2014

That’s all that I have time to show you today, but if you enjoyed looking through my snapshots, you will really love my professional street photographs. I’ve been working on a huge photo history project called My place in time. You’ll see a link to it right here on my website. You can also do a website search here for Perth and Fremantle to see countless photowalks I have blogged over the last three and a half years. Love this post? Please let me know, and add my blog feed to your favourite reader.

Thanks for visiting my site,

Kell =)

2 thoughts on “Playing at being a tourist in Perth City. My personal history tour.

  1. thats really cool – best set of photos for Perth I think I’ve seen in a long time. You know, I never realised there were so many old buildings still..well, I kinda did, but I guess I just never really *saw* them, if you know what I mean.

    • Thanks Charlie. That’s exactly how I felt. Once I started to research my city like somewhere I’d visit on holiday, I discovered so much I didn’t know and so many great places to eat.

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