Faces of Yarra

Sarah, Collingwood

“I’m here to learn English because I need it back home in Colombia, and it’s cheaper to learn a language in a new country than to study it in a school. When I can speak and write well in English, I can study back home. But it’s hard to speak to people around here. When I’m working, people don’t speak to me a lot. They just take their food, say thank you, and that’s all. And I’m working a lot because we need the money. There’s very little time to go out to speak to people.”

Photography by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

Faces of Yarra

Jacob Hapeta, Fitzroy

“I’ve been playing on this spot for thirty years now, started in 1987 with a bunch of mates. We were in a group called The Fist – because there were five of us. I still see two of them, sometimes. One guy lives out in Warnambool. Last time I saw him was two years ago, back when I still had a car. Can’t bother with a car nowadays, not in this city. We got trams and buses and I don’t have to travel too far to get anywhere. I used to play all over the city, but now I’m mostly around here. People know me here. I’m out here every weekend, sometimes during the week too. I have a bit of free time now, which is good. Gotta take the dog out for walks!”

Photography by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

Faces of Yarra

Jules, Collingwood

“I’m just meeting a friend of mine for lunch, we haven’t seen each other in a while. We used to make music together; he’s a writer and singer and I play, mostly bass and electric guitar. We’ve had gigs all over the place, you know, Melbourne’s a pretty artistic city. It’s not like Brisbane or Sydney where everything’s a lot more straight. Like artists in Sydney do it for the love, but in Melbourne – because the creative industry is more stable – you can easily do it for the money. I have so many friends in Melbourne who make art professionally or write and have other jobs. Sometimes you have to think there’s an advantage in having a less stable artistic industry because there’s more to rebel against, because nobody’s ‘gonna’ look down on you here for saying, ‘Oh, I wrote a song!’. They might in Sydney. Those artists have that shared sense of purpose in their work. And that purpose can be really powerful.”

Photograph by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

Faces of Yarra

Wayne, Fitzroy

“I grew up in Tasmania and moved to Melbourne when I was in my early twenties. I came here never having had my hair cut in a shop, never having bought food at the supermarket; we cured our own meats… I came here to study fine arts and ended up getting into massage, which was a good field for me. I liked getting to work with my hands and having that opportunity to physically connect with people… A lot of people in this city put a wall up between themselves and other people, but that’s what happens in cities. I’ve seen a lot in my fifty years though, lived with a lot of people: the Bedouin in the Middle East, Native Americans in Canada and Central America, the Maoris in New Zealand. The values in tribal living, community living, are so much more inclusive than cities. Everywhere I went, I was accepted as one of their own. It was pure trust and openness, acceptance. You don’t see that here.”

Photography by Ruwanthi Wijetunga

Faces of Yarra

Linda, Abbotsford

“I opened Maison de Linda salon around 4 months ago on Victoria street. I was studying French at school and I am deeply into this culture; the films, history, design and art. The place itself has a little bit of Parisian sophistication mixed with vintage. I wanted to establish a place on Victoria street that not only speaks of me, but also becomes ‘home’ for some of my customers, where they will feel comfortable, free, relaxed and ready for new beauty adventures. We are all aware of the way we look. Sometimes we have days we dislike ourselves and feel down. My job is to bring out the best in people, make them feel more confident and special.”

Photography by Alexandra Gorbunova

Faces of Yarra

Anchana Muangil, Richmond

“I live in Richmond and my favorite and most visited place is Victoria street. The street with all its ‘Saigon lights’ signs in different Asian languages, busy market stalls, oriental cafes and restaurants remind me of my home in Thailand. There are also a lot of beauty salons where you can do your nails or hair for a very reasonable price. Moreover, the food choice is extremely diverse. For a chef it is [the] perfect place for food experiences and inspiration for creating new dishes. I like that Richmond is not too urban and on your day off you can enjoy beautiful nature in the park.”

Photograph: Alexandra Gorbunova