Waypoints

Surry Hills, my suburb in Sydney, is a bit different to everywhere I've lived before.

The history of this area is much more visible, in the buildings and streets that surround me every day; and being so close to the centre of Sydney means I spend much more of my time walking from place to place, spotting little details that haven't changed in a hundred years or more.

So my mental map of this city, built up over the last five years of living here, is based on these markers, these waypoints - the old church, the loading dock, the grocer - that tell me how far it is home, where to turn, which block this is.

It's always interested me, the way cities evolve - often based on the disasters that have come before. In Toronto, it was a fire; so the old city was destroyed, and the new houses were built with bricks. In New Zealand, it was the earthquake that rained bricks down on the inhabitants of Napier; so new houses, around the country, were made primarily in wood.

But here - well, apart from the redevelopment booms over the years - the old worker's cottages have remained as they were when they were built, 100 or more years ago.

And that's what I find interesting - you could show these images to a local from that time, and they could retrace my steps, block by block, using only these few details to find their way. An iron gate; a doorframe; a stone wall.

The trees have grown, as has the city; but here, in the alleys and laneways of Surry Hills, the leaves still land in the same stone gutters.

Robert Catto

PO Box 806, Darlinghurst, NSW 1300, Australia

I'm a Canadian photographer now living in Sydney Australia, specialising in performing arts, live events, editorial and corporate / commercial work.