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From Canberra to New York, photographers take taste of capital life to Big Apple

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If Belco can make it there, it can make it anywhere – a taste of suburban life in Canberra is off to New York, New York.

Well, Brooklyn, New York to be more precise, where New Yorkers will have the opportunity to step inside a shipping container and be transported around the world to a microcosm of the Australian capital, complete with Canberra’s own coffee, culture, and art.

Architecture group Canberra Lab have sent the capital’s latest Centenary-sponsored pop-up to PhotoVille, a village of freight containers that will transform the banks of the East River into a pocket of art and culture for two weeks in September.

With Manhattan as its backdrop, CanberraVille will feature the work of local photographers, and plans to sell a special Centenary blend of coffee beans by Lonsdale Street Roasters, for an estimated 50,000 visitors or more.

Photographers for the mini gallery were chosen to present atypical views of Canberra, such as Lee Grant, whose book and works titled Belco Pride turned the lens away from the capital’s traditional icons and towards life in the northern suburbs.

“That was pretty exciting to have Belco represent a little bit in the Big Apple,” Ms Grant said.


While she won’t be there herself to see it, a handful of her 65 images will be pasted up inside the shipping container, and the book itself for sale. Despite the distance, Ms Grant is confident New Yorkers will connect with the images.

“I think everybody does relate to it on some strange level. And it’s not just about suburbia, it’s about community and the people that live in it. And we’re all social creatures and we live in communities,” she said.

Another local photographer, Stella-Rae Zelnik, said her photos of skateparks, house parties, and streetscapes are universal scenes, but she’s curious what New Yorkers might see in the pictures.

“It will be interesting to see what they think, because I think what they all see and what Canberra is is probably going to be quite different,” she said. “They probably won’t even really know too much about Canberra, and they’ll just see this thing and go this place looks pretty cool.”

The exhibition will also make use of images from the PhotoAccess book 100 Views of Canberra.

The pop-up was curated by Julian Hobba and Canberra Lab’s Ronan Moss, and Mr Moss said they were hopeful the American audience would see a different Canberra to the one they may have encountered in the media or tourism brochures.

I think everybody does relate to it on some strange level. And it’s not just about suburbia, it’s about community and the people that live in it

Lee Grant, photographer

“It’s like a microcosm of Canberra life in New York. And the idea is the pop-up, even though it’s a relatively small structure, will be engaging and represent Canberra in an unexpected and unique way,” he said.

The festival runs from September 19 to 29, during which time Canberra Lab will provide updates and photos via its website and Twitter.