My father has been a jewel maker his entire working life. A “mestiere” he was self-taught and practiced for over 35 years. My dad wasn’t a jeweler, he never had to sell his creations and there was no shop front in my childhood memories. I remember him working at his forge, with his tarnished tools, in his short pants and his long denim shirt; the high temperatures coming from the machineries, the small fan blowing even hotter air, an FM radio broadcasting noisy songs and always that smile to reassure me, his only son, he had the best job in the world. My father learnt the craft of making things, jewellery, and that has been enough for him, at least until 2010.
When the great financial crisis kicked in, small businesses had to shut their doors, big corporations became bigger, artisans from the so called western countries had to reinvent their jobs while forced to teach others how to do theirs, with their traditions, their secrets and all of the trickeries learnt in hundreds and hundreds of years. My father had to shut his doors too, and he never had the chance to pass down his skills and knowledge.
When I started working on this project I had this scenario in mind. I pictured a struggle for survival amongst small businesses where traditional jobs aren’t applicable to our modern society, and yet the same serenity and reassurance that those places were like home for them as much as it was for my father back then. How could I have changed my pessimistic vision towards something positive, optimistic and hopeful? I just hope I wasn’t too late.
I found myself searching for the most respectable professions in town, and the marks of their longevity in our society. The older, the cooler. I began looking for the well- honed cutting tools of a barber or a butcher. The well-worn chair of a dentist or of a doctor. The aged charred wood- re oven of a baker or a pastry maker. The amazing sculpted prints of a shoemaker leather swatch or the ones of a fabric seller. This search for authenticity compelled me towards the lives of the Australian working- class; those who have been trading in the same locations for decades on end, with little regard to the transient nature of the outside world. With their skills, it came a show of personalities, a cast of characters and stories I was honoured to witness and document. Just like my father, no changes were applied, no differences in their trade, similar philosophy and an innate passion for their everyday living and working ethic.
My own pursuit in photography led me towards what I thought it would be a good story to tell, the preservation and documentation of traditions and craftsmanship for our future generations. Instead, this unrelenting path steered me towards a series of great stories of incredible men and women with their jobs and their passions. A series of images worthy of showing and which I am certainly more proud of.