Barroul House | Kiama, NSW
When I teach photography to groups of kids, I start by showing them some examples of how diverse photography is, and how immersed it is in our lives that we hardly even notice its presence. I show them examples of breakfast cereal boxes, fashion magazines, realestate brochures, book covers, travel brochures, and even the home delivery menu from their favourite local restaurant. I love the idea that what I do each and every day has the potential to have lasting historical value, but in truth, most photography in our day and age is fleeting, looked at for mere moments, and then discarded for the next thing. Yes, this is different from beautiful family images, treasured prints, and photobooks, but they are just a drop in the ocean compared to photography as a whole.
I was recently asked to assist with the archival recording of beautiful Barroul House, a historic building making up part of the former Kiama District Hospital. The Hospital is being redeveloped as the Kiama Aged Care Centre of Excellence, and with this comes extensive work to this beautiful old home on the site. The building is set amongst a sea of other buildings. These slowly added additions to this lovely old home, that jutted out from each side, were in themselves historical markers of changes in architecture and design. I had a really interesting conversation with the Heritage Architect, who had commissioned my work, about selected preservation ... how we selectively preserve 'pretty' buildings of certain time periods, whilst allowing other less popular examples to be demolished or upgraded. It won't be until many years in the future that we may regret this choice, suddenly falling in love with a different style from the past that was previously of little value. I myself live in a quintessential 70's home, and oh how I struggle explaining to inbound tradies that I actually WANT to keep the character of my home and work with it, rather than try to create whatever is currently in fashion.
But, I digress. Back to Barroul House. The building itself had not been utilised for quite some time. It was as if it had been evacuated in a real hurry, with odd bits of furniture left exactly as it has been for quite some time. For fans of "The Walking Dead", you half expected some "Walkers" to come at you as you opened the door in to each room. Archival recording can be a requirement when undertaking work to a building such as this, as it is an accurate, and unadulterated recording of the building in the time just before any changes are made. It is kept on public record as a preservation of the buildings history. It is also a methodical and systematic process. All photographs were to be taken in a recorded sequence. We sat down and planned how we would move through the building, the natural flow. Then as we entered each common space or room, it was given a number, and an image was taken from all 4 sides, with a tripod, at the exact same height and focal length, in the same clockwise direction around the room. We worked in this fashion through each doorway, then went ahead and did the same for the exterior of both this and the surrounding buildings to give the recording context. There was no 'creative flair' applied to these images, apart from correcting the fisheye that occurs when shooting with a wide angle lens, all the photo's are left as taken. They have been documented, reported on, printed on archival paper, and now filed for future preservation. It's just a little humbling that in many many years to come, a history buff will go searching through the public archives and potentially pour over these images. Thank you to Tziallas Omeara Architects for engaging for such an interesting project. Take a look at a few images below and let me know what you think!