Who are Streets of Perth?
Streets of Perth was created by local couple Duncan & Nikki Atack in June 2014. Their Facebook page had attracted over 200,000 followers and continues to grow each month.
What inspired you to start Streets of Perth?
Duncan is an amateur photographer and likes going into the city and surrounds, shooting photos of the details he sees on the streets such as architecture, street art, stickers, signage, that sort of thing. I’d never really paid attention to Perth’s growing street art scene until I started looking at his photographs, then suddenly my eyes were opened to all the amazing public art that our city has to offer. One day he visited the Wolf Lane car park in Perth which is wall-to-wall murals, and there was something about Anya Brock’s “Fierce” mural that just grabbed me. I told Dunc that we should really do something with his photos, just to show our family and friends what’s happening in Perth nowadays and so I started the Facebook page ‘Streets of Perth’. That was back in June last year and we were amazed when we reached 100 followers; but then those followers started sharing our photos, and more people joined the page, and more people shared out photos... Nine months later, we've now got 40,000+ page likes and have extended our photographs across Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Google+ too (all via @streetsofperth).
Why street art?
Originally Streets of Perth was going to focus on all the details Nikki mentioned above - stickers, signage, architecture - as I find beauty in the shapes, textures and colours that people walk past every day but don’t really pay any attention to as they’re too focused on getting to their destination. But the more street art we posted, the more we enjoyed that particular element and the page eventually evolved into an urban art appreciation blog – and the following we have now clearly reiterates that our audience loves murals just as much as we do.
How do you find new art to photograph? What research do you do?
Most of the time we just pick a new suburb to explore within the Perth metro area, and usually discover a few new pieces along the way. As the blog has grown though, we get people emailing in tips all the time which is brilliant – and we always ensure we credit them as the ‘finder’ when we eventually post a photo of the mural they alerted us to. We’ve also created an interactive urban art map of all the pieces we’ve posted so far (over 400 and counting -bitly.com/streetsofperthmap), which we add to every week. We’ve received such great feedback about that actually, it’s been covered by a couple of local newspapers and a travel blog, and we get some lovely emails about it too; for example we had a group of mums who took their kids on a ‘street art safari’ around Perth using our map, and a bunch of cyclists who used the map to plot a new cycle route so they could take in some art along the way. Things like that make me smile so much. :)
Nikki also keeps an eye on the Facebook and Instagram feeds of the artists we follow too, just to stay up to date on any new works they might be doing so that we can get out there and snap the occasional “in-progress” shot as well as the finished piece. We’re lucky that quite a few of the local artists we’ve met along the way will actually send us a message in advance now, so that we can pop along to their location for a chat and to take some shots for of them too. For example, we were recently invited to an apartment block where a local artist was painting a private commission inside the block (an incredible mural of the Andrews Sisters). By inviting us along, we were able to shoot some photos of the mural and share it with our followers, which was exciting for us because without that private access and the opportunity to publish it on SoP, only a handful of people who visited the apartment block in the future would have been lucky enough to see it.
What are your happiest moments since starting SoP?
There have been a couple of standout moments for me. The first was regarding a homeless man called Stephen. We’d been told about a new mural in a car park in the city so went to shoot it one weekend for the blog. There was a chap young man sat in the corner of the car park in front of the mural, and as Duncan was setting up the shot, he said “would you like me to move my bed?” It turned out that he was homeless after breaking his leg which led to him being unable to work, which then led to him being kicked out of his rental property. Our hearts broke for him so we gave him some money, bought him a meal from a nearby Subway store and asked his permission to post his photo on SoP in case any of our followers would like to do the same. Within an hour of sharing his photo, we had tons of comments from people wanting to take him food, and help him find shelter; a A local physio even offered free sessions to help rehabilitate his broken leg so he could get back on his feet. Even more astonishing was that a suggestion was made to setup a fundraising page, and by the end of the evening we’d raised $1300! That really helped to restore my faith in humanity. Later on the same evening, the Salvation Army found Stephen and worked with him and I over the following weeks to get the money to him and find him a room at a brand new men’s refuge in Perth. He’s moved on now and is hopefully in a better place, but it felt good to do something as a result of SoP. The other thing that moved me was on a particular day when a spiteful women kept trolling our photographs and complaining about “hideous murals” and “nasty street art”. We politely replied that it was a street art appreciation page and she was welcome to express that perhaps she preferred some artwork to others, but there were ways of doing that in a sense that was still respectful to the artists (and to us!). She became quite abusive though so in the end we blocked her from accessing the page, at which point she tried continued the debate by email but we just ignored her. The outcome of that experience though, was that we posted a note on SoP that evening explaining that we run the page as a hobby, not a business, and that our photographs were intended to make people happy; so we had no problem with banning rude or disrespectful people. We weren’t sure how our community would respond to such a message, but were delighted when we started to receive comment after comment from people congratulating us on taking a stand.
More importantly though, we started to get comments from art teachers telling us that they show our photos to their students each day, and a mother who told us that her teenage daughter was inspired to become an artist after seeing our posts. Obviously we can’t take credit for that as we just share other people’s amazing work, but the mum did say that by us aggregating the murals into one Facebook page, her daughter finally embraced her inner creativity and so she didn’t worry about her emotional wellbeing so much nowadays. That really touched me.
Other things that have made us smile include:
- Finding out that a colleague’s teenage son’s school told their students our page was “something they needed to look at daily”.
- Seeing a friend of Nikki’s sister in UK sharing the link to SoP on her sister’s wall because she knew we lived in Perth – and having no idea the page was actually ours. :)
- Being told by a page follower that her two favourite Facebook pages are Humans of New York and Streets of Perth. We’re MASSIVE massive fans of HONY so that was a huge honour to even be considered in the same dimension.
Have you considered extending your project to other Australian cities?
We would love to extend SoP to become a national blog, but at the moment it’s just a hobby that we run in our spare time. We both work full time during the week (Nikki is the Digital Marketing Manager for HIF, the Health Insurance Fund of Australia, and I’m the Channel Manager for Lotterywest), so we spend at least one day per weekend now lurking in car parks and laneways, then we spend hours after work processing the photos and researching each piece as much as possible so we have a good background story to tell. Maybe one day if we win the lottery we can establish Streets of Australia – that’s the dream anyway! Perth will always be our one true love though.
What's next for SoP?
While it’s just a hobby at the moment, one day we’d love to take it further by perhaps establishing the blog – and especially our urban art map – as some kind of tourism platform, for locals and visitors alike. We’ve met quite a lot of the artists we feature now and they’ve all been so encouraging about SoP, inviting us to conduct interviews and offering items for us to give away as prizes, so I think we have a lot of scope to take SoP to the next level.
There are countless opportunities out there for us through the blog, we just need the time and funding to make it bigger and better than ever. In the meantime though, local organisations such as FORM Gallery, The Little Wing Corner Gallery, Six Two Three Zero and the Laneway Collective Perth are doing extraordinary things for Perth through new mural commissions, urban art festivals and so on, so we’re not going to run out of content any time soon!