In brief

I’m Louise Hawson and in 2012, I’m going to explore and photograph the ‘unfamous’ side of some of the world’s most famous cities – their suburbs/neighbourhoods – and share what I discover in weekly posts on this blog. My eight year old daughter, Coco, will be coming along for the ride, as will you I hope, in a virtual, vicarious kind of way.


The background

In 2009/2010 I realised I was a stranger in my own city of Sydney. So I spent a year exploring and photographing one new Sydney suburb a week in search of the beauty in the ‘burb, sharing what I found on a blog, 52suburbs.com.au

The blog developed a strong following and in 2011 evolved into a book and a major exhibition – and the inspiration for this second project, 52 Suburbs Around the World.

Why? Because having discovered how incredibly interesting it is to nose around the backyard of a big city, seeking beauty in both the built environment and people, I’m keen to do more of it – but this time on a global scale.

I’m motivated to explore the ‘unfamous’ side of a city by a child-like desire to be surprised and to make discoveries, rather than follow a well-worn trail where things have already been discovered a zillion times. I want to observe real life, so venturing into neighbourhoods where there’s normal life going on is much more satisfying to me. And I’m a crap tourist. I dislike following any crowd, especially one full of tourists. Of course I’ll be a tourist too but that doesn’t mean I have to act like one. They can have the grand monuments, the Top Ten Sights, the Must See’s, I’m off to the suburbs/neighbourhoods!

(A note about the word ‘suburb’: Technically this project should probably be called ‘52 Neighbourhoods Around the World’ because ‘suburb’ most often means those places way beyond the city centre – and most of my ‘suburbs’ are really neighbourhoods that are relatively close to the city. The only reason I have called the project ‘52 Suburbs’ is because it’s modelled on my first Sydney based project where neighbourhoods are called suburbs. Confusing I know. But whether they’re called suburbs, neighbourhoods, quartiers or whatever, it all boils down to the same thing – an area that’s not on the tourist trail.)


The details

We’ll spend January in Hong Kong, February in New Delhi, March in Istanbul. Then on to Paris, Rome and Berlin from April-August before heading to New York in September and October. From there we’ll visit one or two more cities in November or December that are yet to be decided on. (That is, if we have anything left in the tank by then; if not we’ll hunker down in NY for those last few months. There are worse things.)

Yes, they’re all famous ‘over-photographed’ cities; my mission is to paint a more imaginative, intimate picture of them than you normally see.

How? Well, not only will I ignore the postcard clichés and focus instead on finding ‘ordinary’ beauty in the places where ‘ordinary’ people live. I’ll also present many of my photographs as diptychs (fancy word for two images side by side) with a caption. It’s a playful way of presenting images that allows me to make connections between seemingly unrelated things and to tell ‘mini stories’. I often juxtapose people with the built environment, making a connection through a shared texture, colour or shape – anything that unites the images and creates a new meaning.


Will I be travelling solo?

No. My daughter, Coco, is coming with me. She’ll begin the project as an eight year old, used to the constant routine of school and friends. By the end of the year she’ll be nine and used to home schooling on the road and living out of a suitcase. Or will she? Doing this project at the same time as trying to look after and home school a child should be very interesting indeed.

And of course there are all our virtual travelling companions to keep us company – the followers of this blog. One of the loveliest things about my first project was how much people enjoyed seeing ordinary beauty celebrated and a city presented in an unusual way.

In a nutshell, explore + photograph + share = my idea of a good time.

Oh and speaking of share, if you have any suggestions for suburbs/neighbourhoods in the cities we’re visiting, do say – just shoot me an email at 52suburbs@gmail.com

So that’s it. I hope you can stick around and enjoy the journey.

Order my first book online

Buy the 52 Suburbs Book online

Find out more about the Sydney book here



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