If there's something that COVID-19 has given us it is a new appreciation for the things that we have. Not in the least, a new appreciation of the neighbourhoods we live in.
COVID-19 moved our entire lives indoors, with people forced to spend an unprecedented amount of time at home and daily walks around our suburb becoming one of the few reliefs. And as this daily ritual of walking around our suburbs progressed, the connection we have to the places we live and the people we share it with increased.
It was during this time that Craft ACT approached photographer Davey Barber to produce an exhibition for DESIGN Canberra festival that not only featured Canberra's suburbs but celebrated the capital's suburban identity. So off Barber went, on a bid to highlight the traits that make up a suburb's DNA.
And really, there are few better to take on the task of delving into the defining markers of a Canberra suburb than Barber.
While other photographers may use suburban streets to get to a photoshoot location, for Barber, the suburban streets are his photoshoot locations. The Canberra photographer has spent his career exploring suburbs and capturing the everyday life that others may overlook.
And that's exactly what This is Suburbia is all about.
Split over two locations - the Belconnen Arts Centre and East Space at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space - This is Suburbia is a collection of front facades, suburban streets and the people who inhabit it.
Or as Barber describes it, This is Suburbia shines a spotlight on the real Canberra.
"I'm not all about the sunsets at Lake Burley Griffin. I think there's more to Canberra," Barber says.
"It's also about nostalgia. It's where I grew up; it's everything I know about Canberra.
"I love that every street you turn down there's something different. It is very much the real Canberra.
"People that come from Sydney and stuff that say Canberra is boring, they haven't been in the suburbs to the house parties and the good fun stuff. I just love where I grew up".
So where did Barber grow up?
"The notorious Charnwood."
But Charnwood doesn't just make an appearance in This is Suburbia because it's the suburb that made Barber who he is today. It made the cut for the same reasons that every other suburb did - because of the unique characteristics that make the suburb instantly recognisable to those who live there and to people just passing through, from the type of dwellings, shops, laneways, parks and even the residents themselves.
"The northern suburbs are quite similar, like Ainslie, O'Connor and Turner, all of them kind of looked the same, but in Belco they definitely have a distinct look," Barber says.
"Maybe it's because I know the place so well and especially a place like Charnwood. Every house has a laneway that runs past it at either the front or the back. It's just a series of laneways so you can get anywhere in Charnwood without crossing a road.
"We ended up changing the whole thing. So, I shot 5000 images, and pretty much every suburb, apart from Tuggeranong. And then at the end when we were looking at the photos we just said let's make it all about Belco instead and East Space has other suburbs in it.
"For the other photos, I have just made an Instagram account called Canberra Suburbs and I just share them there so they see the light of day."
Running alongside This is Suburbia at Canberra Contemporary Art Space is Sweet Suburbia: 2020 Photography Competition, which Barber helped judge.
DESIGN Canberra put a call out earlier in the year for people to submit their own photos of their suburbs. Of those, the judges selected six finalists, to be shown alongside the 100 semi-finalists.
"The photos were quite different from what I thought they would be," Barber says.
"I think out of the 500 images submitted, there was maybe one of a local shop. And that just kind of blew me away because the local shop is the heart of the suburb. It's a pretty big part. Everybody gathers there.
"Mostly a lot of people did similar things, just houses or cool little moments in people's front yards. It didn't really have the impact I thought it would but it's always nice in different perspectives."
- This is Suburbia at Belconnen Arts Centre and Canberra Contemporary Art Space runs from November 9 to 29. Sweet Suburbia runs at Canberra Contemporary Art Space from November 9 to 29.