Tag Archives: childhood

I Am A Camera 17: Sydney

Vanessa Berry
I got mine at the OtherWorlds zine fair several months ago…
you can get yours for $7.50 from the zinemaker on etsy
or contact her directly
Po Box 1879
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012

This is the 17th issue of an ongoing personal zine series that started in 1999 and now comes out annually. #17 is a self contained zine of Sydney as an everchanging city according to the zinemaker’s childhood, teens and adulthood.

The danger with this zine is: everything can collapse in on itself under its own weight. There are so many words and descriptions and moments and careful articulation of old signs and house fronts and interconnecting landscapes and phone directories and doll parts in dirt and shadows and dreams that the whole experience of reading this zine strains the structural underpinnings of the writing. The documentation of everything can become overwhelming, and buries you under so many bricks and dust and interlocking eras and nostalgia.

The unspoken: Like other writing by the zinemaker, this issue is a collage of autobiographical moments and the small particulars of landscapes, where all details are impressed with great personal importance. Its the ideosyncratic style of the zinemaker’s creative concerns and means of communicating. And yet – she has an evasive way of being personal. For all the personal significance ascribed to things, there is little real personal ‘revelation’. Material descriptions stand in for deeper emotional tones not necessarily for public show, and the writing sometimes feels aloof and codified, like a private diary that’s been carefully censored.

Sometimes I find this frustrating: I find myself with little emotional investment in what I’m reading. Alternatively I’m motivated to press on because Just Occasionally something deeply personal is shared within this person’s zines. And when this happens, its articulated so effectively and with such impact, that such a segment of what is someone else’s life stays in my mind forever.

That captured my imagination: the description and mythology surrounding the iconic ‘tip house’ in St Peters, a two storey weatherboard on the edge of a local tip, located between the tip entrance itself and a yard of metal drums. Instant cinematic image right there. The zinemaker and her friends imagine the residence as the last frontier before civilisation crumbles. In a broader sense, this whole zine is about chronicling iconic landmarks and minor urban details in the landscape that seem both eternally vulnerable and yet are apparently fixed in the constructed environment forever – until one day they’re gone, as if they never existed at all.

Overall aesthetic: a perfectly presented zine with beautiful simple DIY line drawings of houses and architectural details. They delicately punctuate sections of text within the zine, illustrating landmarks mentioned, and collect on the warm beige cover in a dreamy risograph palette of reds, oranges and pinks. Some zines have a throwaway feel, never intended to be fetishised, bit here is a zine that requires dignified handling that you wont want to damage in any way.

Bonus: The zine comes with three A3 riso printed maps (not shown here), one for Dulwich Hills, one for Sydney as of the mid 80s and one as of the late 1990s. They are not annotated street maps, they are various important features loosely connected between vague lines for streets which join things such as fibro houses, greek sweet shops, the legendary tip house, fibreglass dinosaurs, powerlines, libraries and water towers. These maps are fantastic because they are mind drawings with icons, not overbearing in detail, with plenty of white space and the ability for your eyes to wander leisurely. They compliment the zine perfectly but they also work as stand-alone manuscripts. The tragedy is that because they are loose leaf and unattached to the zine, they are cumbersome and almost immediately losable. (I lost mine amongst other papers more than once). (Maybe this says more about me….). I don’t know how you reconcile large scale graphics with an A5 stapled zine, but surely there has to be a better way than handing someone a zine and a tall roll of loose papers with a rubber band. An open design challenge for everyone trying to do cool things with zines.

Coral Coogan

Chris Mikul
I received this zine as a lovely surprise in the post, you can get yours contacting the zinemaker
cathob (at) zip (dot) com.au
PO Box K546 Haymarket NSW 1240 Australia

A small memoir of the zinemaker’s aunt, an aspiring actress and one of the most interesting people he knew growing up.

You know you’re reading a family history when: The opening sentence of the zine reads ‘Coral Maureen Coogan was born in Sydney on 28 March, 1931…’

I have to admit: I wasn’t sure how personally invested I was going to be. And after reading the zine, I do remain largely ambivalent.

There are evocative moments: The description of the grandparents house gives you that sense of exploring someone’s family home from another era, with cabinets and trinkets and spooky parts of the house.

The most poignant aspects of the zine: Reading about how inconsolable Coral was the last night she shared with her sister in their childhood bedroom before her sister married the following day. Coral never went on to marry herself (or move out of the parental home). It was also sad reading how the family handles her diagnosis of (and experience with) cancer, something not spoken about and not discussed with children.

This zine reimagined: maybe this would appeal to me more if the dry autobiographical details were removed and the writing was condensed just into a few significant aspects or impressions. As it is, the zine has that local geneology centre desktop publishing feel to it and is conventionally presented.
However, the zinemaker has chosen to adopt this tradition to remember his aunt by, so that ‘something of her survives’, and now it does. I’m just not sure how it works for me as a zine.