I’ve always admired the way photographers can tell an entire story with just one picture. George Voulgaropoulos’ work not only tells a story about a person or a place, but his photos may be looked back on as part signposts of history.
They will be the photos that tell of the moments in time that ideas began to shift and change form.
Voulgaropoulos has only been working full-time as a photographer since 2006, yet he has already built an impressive body of work including his latest collection, Children of Auburn.
This project, he says, portrays “a side of Sydney that most people will never see.”
Auburn, in Sydney’s west, is a melting pot of cultures and religions, with over 150 cultural groups represented in the suburb.
Many of its residents are migrants or refugees who have fled from war in their home countries and are building a new life in Auburn.
Despite immigration being a decidedly politicized issue and is on the media’s radar thanks to the upcoming federal election, it seems that the faces behind the issue are invisible.
Voulgaropoulos hopes that his work will help to lift the veil surrounding immigration and remove some of the misconceptions people may have about migrants and refugees.
“Many people are scared of what they don’t know. [I want to] break down these barriers and interest people in other cultures.”
He understands the importance of keeping cultural traditions, language and faith alive. Voulgaropoulos’ grandparents migrated to Australia from Greece and as a product of migration he says, “I am able to communicate better with the subjects because I understand the situations they are in.
When I go to Greece I’m called a kangaroo or an Aussie and when I’m in Australia I’m called Greek, so there’s definitely that feeling of being alien.”
The feeling of cultural displacement Voulgaropoulos describes is most common amongst Australia’s newest arrivals and can be seen again in the Children of Auburn.
His subjects are found in familiar settings but in their eyes are stories of a life far removed from ours.
Voulgaropoulos makes their stories come to life as his camera captures those transitory moments that make someone’s life real, the same moments that are so often lost in the media’s coverage of immigration.
He provides a window into an often-overlooked aspect of Australian life, the life of the real refugee not the media’s two-dimensional characterization.
Auburn’s inhabitants are creating a world rich in diversity and they are writing the next chapters in their stories, adding to Australia’s cultural fabric.
In Voulgaropoulos’ black and white photos, the people are what matter the world sees a human story not just a political issue.
The work of photographers like Voulgaropoulos is vital and its importance will continue to grow as Australia’s newest generation sculpts the country’s future around their culture and belief systems.
“I think people really need to hold onto their culture and traditions. [My family] still cooks a big lamb and cracks eggs together and we pour out onto the street at Easter. In a way we are sharing our culture. The recently arrived migrants are just trying to share their stories as well.”
The Children of Auburn exhibition opens on Monday May 20 at the Gaffa Gallery, 281 Clarence Street Sydney, and runs for two weeks. Entry to the exhibition is free. For more information, please contact the Gaffa Gallery on (02) 9283 4273.