Arts & Entertainment

Talking Through Your Arts – Newtown Shopkeepers

Bob Gould, photo: Nic Bezzzina

Newtown shopkeeper Bob Gould passed away aged 74 in 2011. His family were left to find ways to keep his accumulated 30-year legacy of book selling, open for business.

While the retail industry struggles to survive increasing rent, a shift in online consumerism and the economic binds of government policy, a photographer living in Newtown has pointed his lens on the people who work in his neighbourhood shops. Nic Bezzina’s portraits of a commercial community are a nostalgic testimony of the characters behind the counters of Newtown.

Newtown Shopkeepers is a 126-page book of 50 colour photographic portraits accompanied by 50 interviews. The collection is supported by the City of Sydney Archives Department and features an essay by city historian Lisa Murray.

Murray observes the photographs to have historical themes of migration and gentrification of the inner city.  She sees the significance of the shop interiors and the stories that these portraits convey as an album to be enjoyed now and into the future.

Bezzina’s project began in 2009 with an expected completion date of 2012 to coincide with Newtown’s 150th anniversary, but a shortfall in funding pushed back plans to 2013.

A recipient of the Marrickville Council Visual Arts Grant, Bezzina built up public momentum by exhibiting a series of selected works at the Chrissie Cotter Gallery in 2012. The growing support helped secure a successful crowdsourcing campaign through Pozible, raising $5,000 in November 2013.

The portraits are varied and are as vibrant as the shopkeepers themselves. Heather Marsh of Reactor Rubberwear shares a fondness for a stocked item, “the black rubber blow-up Michelin Man body suit with a blow-up hood and breathing hose was a fascinating piece.”

The shop names are also a wonderful exploration of Newtown’s cultural diversity and word play – Hawleywood Barber, Polka Dot Cookies, Caramba and Azzi Fruit.

Gould’s daughter Natalie speaks of her father’s passion for books when she relays, “to have Bob Carr say that Bob Gould was the most well-read man that he had known was not only truthful, but also a great compliment.”

The book is available for $60, as a limited edition print run of 1,000 copies, signed and numbered. (AS)

Newtown Shopkeepers launch, Mar 20, Gould’s Book Arcade, 32 King St, Newtown, free,