Self Help In The Suburbs

Words by C. Fields

Phone Photos & Street Poetry – CONTACT celebrates it’s first publication.

CONTACT’s first offline publication is set to release 28/11/2020 – “Self Help In The Suburbs” is a visual diary, documenting anonymous street messages and throwaway photos – By Perth Based artist and photographer J. Walker, the book catalogues images collected from 2015-2020. The images travel throughout Perth, Melbourne and Vietnam streets along side a passage of time growing up and experiencing life within suburbia. In essence, the project curates experiences captured in throwaway photos, re-evaluating their position in Walker’s life and his mass of photos spread across five years of iPhones, iPods, and cameras. A further interest explored is messages made by anonymous people, dubbed ‘civilian graffiti’ or ‘writing on walls’. These messages are photographed and republished in the book to be experienced and broadcasted again, subverting their original obscurity as the messages are often specific and private in context, but public and vague when viewed on the street or in an alley. 


To find this kind of writing you have to know where to look, and where to look is often places that are not often to be looked at. Every alley must be walked, every corner must be checked. Slowly a visual criteria is built wherein Walker is able to spot these writings everywhere within his world. Even if a message does not speak to anyone, it speaks to the location it is marked and to the day it is photographed and collected, much like the images of past moments.


Phone photos come and go like writing on walls, they are created then obscured by the visual information and volume of day to day life. Who do these messages speak to? Do these messages speak purely to the street, or to those who will listen, or read them, or write a message in return? Where then does the message speak when it is contained within a digital consciousness, do the messages speak to one another? Do the photos of lost times and past memories look at the messages written on walls? Do they long to exist again in the real world?

J.Walker [IG: selfh3lp] has joined #CO


Self Help in the Suburbs is a 76 page photo book of images 2015-2020. The book and images are a mix of anonymous scrawls, dubbed “Street Poetry” and throwaway snapshots from various iphones, ipods and cameras. The disposable nature of these images likens them to the short life of these messages. The act of anonymously writing one’s thoughts appears to function as a form of therapy for the individual. I found myself noticing these writings occasionally – I’d take a photo on my phone when I came across a message or scene that appeared to be asking of my attention, and as I began to take notice of them, more would present themselves to me. I found myself relating to many of these messages, as if by taking the time to digest a seemingly uninteresting scrawl I am connecting with the anonymous author. The words become detached from the individual and one with the urban environment – a space occupied and utilized by thousands of people, all with their own thoughts, fears and desires. As I furthered my study and documentation of these writings, I felt a certain similarity to one’s camera roll. These photos lived amongst thousands of other snapshots in the dysfunctional mess of my digital consciousness. One’s camera roll is ultimately private, and unintentionally this becomes a journal of thoughts, inspirations, and memories – all to be soon forgotten, washed away by thousands of other images. 


Self Help in the Suburbs is a collection of snapshots and moments to be forgotten.

J.Walker [IG: selfh3lp] has left #CO

To celebrate the launch of CONTACT’s first publication, an exhibition is being held at Pig Melon Gallery on Saturday 28 November in Perth. Limited Prints and Books are available for purchase on the night. Accompanying the exhibition, room 2’s install attempts to recreate the feeling and environment many of images were shot in. Inspired by the makeshift fences of old Perth alleys and the way they evolve via degradation, weathering, and the constant battle between vandal and the grey paint blobs called “buff”.


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