One of twenty images depicting the private lives of tram workers by photographer Sarah Pears. In 1992 Sarah undertook a documentary photographic project of tram workers in their home environments. During the course of the project Sarah, who was working as a tram driver herself, captured the private lives of 41 tram workers and collected a short statement from each participant about their life and work. Sarah was driven to expose the individuals behind the tram worker's uniform after discovering into the wealth of cultural diversity, lifestyles and opinions of her workmates. The images and statements were exhibited at the NGV Access Gallery in February 1993.
As a tram worker Sarah discovered their 'role entails more than meets the public's eye...we are also information officers, tourist guides, entertainers, targets, weight lifters, counsellors, pacifiers...my relationship with my fellow workers developed through admiration for the skills with which people negotiated this multitude of duties on a gruelling shift work timetable.'
Robert is a second generation Italian who worked as a tram conductor. He has an enormous knowledge and enthusiasm for tram history and tram culture. He even took photographs and materials to Calcutta where he set a up sister depot relationship between the South Melbourne Depot in Melbourne and the Belgadchia Depot in India.
Description of Content
Image of a man dressed in grey shorts and a white t-shirt standing in a doorway. There are numerous plants both in and outside the room. In his hands he holds a large poster advertising a public rally to keep tram conductors.
Framed colour photograph
This collection of 30 images of tram workers by photographer Sarah Pears, taken in two groups in 1992 and 1997, documents a group of culturally diverse workers in both their domestic and work environments. These images capture time of significant change in the working lives of these people as they faced the challenges of maintaining employment in a dying industry and the serious implications the privatisation of the public transport system had not just on users but on the working lives and material existence of the staff who worked in that system and their families. They document the workplace culture of the tramways and public transport industry more generally, as well as expressing the human experiences which underlie a key Melbourne icon ‘the tram’.
These images also represent the experiences of the many migrants who found work in Melbourne’s public transport system from the end of the 1970s. Many who arrived with professional qualifications but were unable to gain work due to their qualifications not being recognised or lack of English language skills. We see the contrast between their public and private lives, the experience of creating a home in a new country, and the mixed feelings associated with this, as hope for the future and a ‘new’ chance contrasts with issues surrounding racism and acceptance in the workplace and society.
Cultural Gifts Donation from Ms Sarah Pears, 17/02/1997
Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
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