Melbourne, a city famous for its street art and graffiti scene, is a fascinating and bustling city by day dripping with fresh coats of spray paint. But I deciding to get a different perspective altogether by exploring Melbourne street art by night. The city seemed to transform when the sun set, in a bit of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde way. In no means bad, but personalities, artworks, people, and senses are all amplified in the neon lights of alleyways. It was as if the street art itself came to life after the city fell asleep.
Before I went off to explore Melbourne’s main street art areas, I began by doing what anyone should on a crisp autumn night — I coated my beard with dark beer.
High up on the Rooftop Cinema in Melbourne I grabbed a White Rabbit Dark Ale, a favorite local brew of mine, and watched the sun die and the sky bruise to reveal the near full moon past the glass and steel skyline.
There, I met my first character of the night, Jake Steele, whose name sounded more like a wannabe Hollywood (porn)star than an Aussie surfer. Past his cheap beer breath and drunken squinty eyes he divulged what he deemed profound life advice, “that’s what it’s about man. Life. That’s what it’s about.” He never did specify, but I believe it was something about surfing and Bondi Beach.
Chinatown was the next stop on the list, though Melbourne was still alive at this point and getting a decent shot proved difficult. Chinatown in any city is always a fascinating place, coated in gold and red and aromas of fried noodles. But, it isn’t great for finding street art, but street artists.
Here in Melbourne, it also has a mashup of hybrid Chinese-themed nightclubs and comedy clubs. It’s not a hot-spot for the street art scene visually, but there is always plenty to see from street performers nearby.
On this night, as I was trying to get a long exposure shot, a drunk stumbled over to me to pass on some photography knowledge. As he kneeled beside me, teetering on one foot or the other and ready to keel over, he slurred out “itch aboutha foe-cuss, ya foooecuss an yeel beetha best photographical person ever. Period.”
With that new-found photography advice, I packed up and moved on determined to put it to good use. and to flee from his whiskey-cigarette napalm breath. By the way, he’s the guy on the left.
The Chinatown Siren. This woman has been in Chinatown every time I’ve wandered Melbourne and ended up there. On that night, she sang the same high-pitched song I always heard, maybe it was a different one, but it is always sweet and sad and sung with an eternal smile.
Back alleys are good for reflection. As I wandered through, I also paused to wonder what NEPO meant. A great mystery. All jokes aside, I liked this composition because it was in a dark alley with this unique window dimly lit by a lamp and reflecting an OPEN sign of an empty bar across from it.
Day or night, when you explore Melbourne you always discover unique street artists from breakdancers to coffee ground painters to paint can drummers. This artist caught my eye after leaving Chinatown because number one, I’m a huge Marilyn Monroe fan. Number two, it seemed like such a strange scene to pass by where Marilyn gazes into the artists eyes and looked like she begged him to be brought back to life.
Another profound message only spotted at night. I’ve passed through this alley many times and I’ve never stopped to look at this, but the street light reflecting off of the back of this sign illuminated this important message. As two people, who were schnazzed up for a night out on the town passed by, presumably to a ritzy bar, I snapped this photo. “Humbled to be on Aboriginal land.”
By wandering the streets at night, I noticed various details in art and architecture I don’t during the day time. This mural was lit up at night displaying security cameras watching security cameras, and funny enough, it was in an intersection that had security cameras on each post. It was a piece of art I never noticed during the day, but had much more impact seen at night. Big Brother is watching.
Lost in the right direction I always say. Hosier Lane was what I aimed to end up on, but I found myself beneath a brick wall with trippy acid-like images projected on it. I had to stop and watch. The whole video was a montage of psychedelic chaos and destruction and animated skeleton horses. Little did I know, I was beside the creator herself.
“Can you please take a photo of my friend and I in front of this?”
“Of course, fascinating huh?” I said.
“Ha, yeah I made it!” She said, visibly stoked about having her work projected on the wall.
I took photos of Imogen the creator and Sally who modeled in the videos and listened to her describe what it was about.
“Apocalypse. It’s about apocalypse and destruction, I’m kind of obsessed with the topic.” she said, and with her infectious and giddy laugh, proceeded to try to climb a trash can for a photo.
Do hit her Instagram (@imo_hen) and show some love because her work is awesome.
HOSIER LANE //
My main goal when I set out to explore Melbourne at night was to try to find as much street art as possible. Instead, I spent most of the night meeting interesting characters of the night. In my last place I wanted to visit, I found an often overcrowded street near empty. Hosier Lane, the famous graffiti alley slathered in neon paint with shoe chandeliers during the day crawls with selfie sticks and is almost too frustrating to visit now. At night, it was quiet and deserted and the artwork had a ghostly feel to it, as if the murals watched you.
“I’ve never stopped loving you” seemed a prominent new piece of art donned by the brick walls of Hosier, and the cryptic message had my attention as well as these lads that passed by.
Good 2 Go was the first cafe I ever sipped Melbourne’s fine coffee at when I wandered here from the airport shuttle stop. And though I haven’t been in too long, I visited this most days in my first few months. This cafe is in the middle of Hosier Lane, and supports youth homeless with barista training and proceeds going back to the youth projects. Good coffee, good cause.
New World Order is forged with acrylic paint and stickers. Street art in Melbourne is often used to bring to light issues that often go overlooked, as well as express political or social views. Such as the sticker shown earlier about the aboriginal people. Just don’t listen to that second photo, because I would love if you Liked this post.
From street to sky, Hosier Lane is splashed with expression. It’s a place where street art is legal, and artists create mind-blowing murals and amateurs tag with bad art work. An art collision. One day you can come into this alley and see a new mural, and by night, it will be gone. Just like Melbourne itself, this alley changes with the setting sun and rising moon. But one thing has never changed in all the months I’ve been in Melbourne, and that is this heart mural.
The strangest part was, as I crouched in this alleyway and set up each shot, I didn’t feel threatened or scared at all. In any other alley in the United States, I wouldn’t dare hang out in it. But there was a feeling as though if you sat there long enough, the graffiti art would come to life.
With a rub of the gangster good luck buddha I decided to head home, taking the direct and more lit route to my tram stop.
Along the way, I came upon another random sight that wouldn’t have otherwise even interested me. I can’t explain why, but there was something that caught my eye and I had to take a photo even after packing up my gear. A prime example of when you explore Melbourne at night how something boring can become interesting.
Author’s Note //
I wanted to explore Melbourne at night for a couple of reasons. One of the main reasons was to try out some new glass I bought recently for my Canon T4i 650D which is the 24-105mm lens. I’ve taken it on a couple of trips so far to the Dandenong Ranges and to Warburton shooting in the mountains and forest, but I don’t have much experience in night photography or long exposure. So this night was to see the city in a new light (or lack thereof) and to test out some methods of photography new to me. I’d love to know your thoughts or feedback below.
It’s In Your Best PINTEREST to Share //
JOURNAL EXCERPT: Are we all just phantoms of the cities we live in? Our residual haunting in a labyrinth of glass and steel and expectation, floating aimlessly in the tide of time, wondering about the mystery of our existence. We all in fact do exist, that I know, but like a unknowing specter drifting between life and death, trapped to repeat the same day over and over, the real question is not if or why we exist, but whether we are in fact living?”