I have spent more time walking about Sydney and its inner suburbs than anywhere else I have lived, although somehow the feeling of being a visitor hasn’t passed. Often it has been in full sun on the hottest days of summer, so George Gissing’s evocative words have long struck a chord in me:
‘In this hot weather I like to walk at times in the full glow of the sun…there is a magnificence in the triumph of high summer which exalts one’s mind… Among streets it is hard to bear, yet even there, for those who have eyes to see it, the splendor of the sky lends beauty to things in themselves mean or hideous…the strange desertion of great streets…a charm in the vulgar vista.
Deep and clear-marked shadows, such as one sees on a few days of summer are in themselves very impressive and become more so when they fall on highways devoid of folk… I remember observing, as something new, the shape of familiar edifices, of spires, monuments. …I felt no weariness, and the sun, still pouring upon me its noontide radiance, seemed to fill my veins with life.’
George Gissing. The private papers of Henry Ryecroft (1903)
Unknown areas or streets present as many things of interest as those that are familiar – thought it is light, ever varying according to the season, time of day or year – that is the essential ingredient to the pleasure of looking. Noticing something – an arrangement or relationship of parts as highlighted or intensified by a particular play of light or contrast of light, darkness and shape – is what I find most stirring and memorable… The particularity of place or architecture has rarely been my concern, yet something of the intangible individual character of each city in which I have lived, can inadvertently be captured.