In 1973 and 1974, Robert Ashton, a young Melbourne photographer was commissioned to capture of the sites, streets and people of Fitzroy, for a book project that set out to document the dramatic cultural shift that was taking place.
While Ashton captured a Fitzroy that has all but disappeared from the neighbourhood today, the area was already a place of rapid change when these images were taken forty years ago. Postwar migration saw the arrival of scores of Greek and Italian families join the area, while late 1960s urban renewal and ‘slum’ clearance by the Housing Commission of Victoria saw the demolition of many blocks of terrace homes for the construction of housing commission tower blocks such, as Atherton Gardens on Gertrude and Brunswick Street.
As well as the book, which was published in 1974, Ashton’s collection of images also formed an exhibition, Into the Hollow Mountains: A Portrait of Fitzroy. First exhibited in Brummels, the photography gallery established by Ashton’s cousin Rennie Ellis in 1972, forty years later, the shots resurfaced in a recent exhibition at Fitzroy photography gallery, Colour Factory.
As with the works of Ellis, Ashton’s shots now serve as a rare documentation of day-to-day Melbourne and glimpse into an era that, while not actually all that distant, is most definitely a thing of the past.
Robert Ashton, Street Church, 1974
Builders Arms Hotel