The Boomer Legacy

Commerce

The doctrine of market infallibility

We lived during a magnificent time.

When growth was endless and everyone placed bets on black swans & grey rhinos & shiny tech unicorns. When societal choices could only be framed in economic terms. When private enterprise was trusted over the public sector to meet all of society's needs.

When everyone rose or fell solely according to their own efforts. When currency was democratised. When riches could only usually seldom never be acquired by inheritance, nepotism, hypergamy, corruption, rent-seeking or asset-bubbles.

When monetarism, globalised free trade, deregulation, shareholder value, small government, nimble competition, resilient optimism, flourishing foreign investment, robust micro-economic & productivity-enhancing reforms and — obviously — completely unfettered financial markets would never always determine the fair value of everything, and deliver significant benefits for oligarchs CEOs family-trusts investors stakeholders all.

Sample #2080
Forging a new deal    (Apr 2018)

Topic Images

There are currently 145 photographs in this section.

The carnival is over

The market faithfully rewarded those who took a long-term view

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Luna Park Hair Raiser ride, in the rain [Jan-2019 238KB]

Remarks

Night photography is difficult, especially in the rain. Here it was persistent enough for water to seep into my 35mm LUX (11337) lens, necessitating a round-the-world trip to have it disassembled, cleaned and recalibrated

The cranes were flying

At one stage there were more construction cranes along the Australian eastern seaboard than in all the major cities in the USA (ABC News, 2016)

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Tower crane jibs at Lewisham [Sep-2015 223KB]

Shaking the hidden hand

Everyone was free to choose their own circumstances

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Tents for the homeless unhoused at Wentworth Park, Sydney [Jul-2017 769KB]

Espresso Kultur

The al fresco revolution gave tantalising significance to our busy lives

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Outdoor café seating at Little Eveleigh street, Redfern [Sep-2020 563KB]

Depression in anything but name

Streets full of shuttered businesses; Rampant online gambling; Wholesale grocery theft. Yet gig-economy jobs & aggregate GDP kept growing

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Shuttered takeaway outlet, Regent Street Redfern [Jul-2023 102KB]

Exuberant expectations

Great success and performance created its own reality (Pfeffer, 2015)

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Church Street car dealership, Parramatta [Apr-2017 304KB]

Tulips in the rough

Tax laws were painstakingly rewritten to ensure the price of land-banked property could increase by more each day than most people could earn in a week

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Irelands Road in Blacktown, western Sydney [Dec-2012 771KB]

Too big to fail

It took a long time to establish a balanced equilibrium between collateralised debt and rising property values

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Barangaroo office construction, Millers Point [Aug-2016 486KB]

Trickle the wealth to make your heart sing

Our system endured for so long because enough of the electorate believed they still had some chance of getting rich (Citigroup, 2005)

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Begging for loose change near Sydney Town Hall [Sep-2016 687KB]

Tyburn revisited

Decades of infrastructure deals and back-room favours continued unabated

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Sydney Metro Project construction site, Martin Place [Jul-2019 381KB]

Potemkin Prosperity

The central irony of the financial crisis was that while it was caused by too much confidence, too much borrowing & lending and too much spending — it could only be resolved with more confidence, more borrowing & lending, and more spending (Summers, 2011)

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Fields of green shoots at the Westpac plaza in Sydney [Jan-2014 515KB]

Remarks

Although always fascinated by the glibness of the expression green shoots, it took a lot of searching to find a corporate environment which actually had them

Filled with delight

Non-inclusive apartment developments on the site of a former gasworks

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Breakfast Point apartments (formerly Mortlake Gasworks), Sydney [Jul-2014 340KB]

Dog-boxes in the sky

Positive toward the future, positive toward development, positive toward growth, free enterprise and robust competition

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Spacious and exclusively appointed apartments at Broadway, near Central [Jul-2016 300KB]

Cargo Culte

We lounged about in ill-fitting uniforms, languidly pressing buttons on small screens… waiting for the day He would return, bearing great gifts

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Palm tree outside the abandoned St Mary & St Mina's Coptic Orthodox Church at Sydenham. Five years later it was damaged by fire in May 2017 and subsequently demolished [Sep-2012 537KB]

Remarks

It took more than an hour to capture this image, mainly due to the timing and positioning of the aeroplane(s), which would often approach from different angles to spoil the composition. Otherwise you would get a small turboprop when what you really wanted was a thundering 747, or else there would be long periods when there weren't any planes at all. Either way, it isn't an issue with digital cameras with high FPS shutters, but with Hasselblad A12 film backs you only had a dozen shots to get it right

Tourism added value

Macro-economic growth models prove that tourism contributes towards complete growth and development of a country: one, by bringing numerous economic value & benefits; and, second, helping in build country's brand value, image & identity (Market Width Blog, 2018)

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Christmas Day tourists at the Sydney Opera House [Dec-2001 697KB]

Remarks

The “2001 Black Christmas Fires” had again flared in the Blue Mountains, turning the western sky dark red. At the SOH forecourt most people were staring at or photographing the smoke-obscured sun, except for this couple who were far more interested in themselves

A variable schedule of reinforcement

Anyhow…™ we Thought Different™, Opened Happiness™ and Flew the Friendly Skies™ because We Were Worth It™

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Wall advertising, Pitt Street Sydney [Mar-2021 362KB]

Consumer kaizen

A culture had to be developed in which our customers were driven to self-actualise

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High Street bus-stop, Penrith [Feb-2017 613KB]

Canyons of gold

The decision to pour billions of dollars into empty commercial property turned out to be spectacular

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Castlereagh Street buildings, Sydney [Jan-2019 197KB]

Absolutely pure Mellon

Liquidate labour, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate. Sell everything, take on more debt and cancel Christmas (NYTimes, 2011)

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McEvoy Street pop-up retailer, Alexandria [Mar-2018 480KB]

Structural Ugliness

Ironically regress the trend curve to make the feeds pop

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Orthopaedic sandals at the QVB Arcade, Sydney [Nov-2020 488KB]

The emporium struck back

Department stores battled heroically against an invisible enemy

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Storm-troopers at the David Jones lift-well [Jan-2019 110KB]

Defenestrate your livelihood

We mortgaged the future and bet it all on there not being one

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Waverton Coal Loader wharf [Feb-2022 897KB]

Remarks

Although ruin-porn is a photography cliché, there are times you cannot ignore it. Had to climb a barbed-wire topped security fence here to obtain the overhead shot. The 19mm ELMARIT (11329) lens appears to suffer from pincushion distortion, but the foreground planks and trusses show that everything is as straight as it should be

Bury the lede

What better way to house embattled railway-bureaucrats than in an anonymous four-storey bunker?

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NSW Rail Operations Centre, Mandible Street Alexandria [Jul-2023 378KB]

Everywhere the glint of gold

Vibrant cities crammed full of soaring casinos, buzzing with energy, innovation and excitement

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Microflite City Helipad, Yarra River Melbourne [Apr-2019 430KB]

Practise social distancing

So we stayed home, most of the time

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Townhall Arcade foot court [Jul-2021 231KB]

Stakeholder

One could either use General Relativity field-equations to derive the Schwarzschild metric in n-dimensions, or else go shopping

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Supermarket freezer aisle, Katoomba [Dec-2003 665KB]

Remarks

Again a custom Leica candid rig had to be used, with the added complication of having a supermarket employee discreetly following me around to ensure I wasn't photographing trade-secrets

Zero sum game

The link between free trade and rising global prosperity was self-evident: designed in the USA → marketed from the UK → incorporated in the British Virgin Islands → manufactured by Uyghur forced-labour → shipped via Panama → channelled through a Singaporean marketing-hub → transfer-priced through Luxembourg → laundered in a Melbourne casino → banked in the Cayman Islands → stashed in a Geneva Freeport vault → splurged on trophy homes, superyachts, private jets, racing cars, helicopters, independent school fees, offshore trusts, parties, mistresses, divorce lawyers, bribes and political favours… in New York, Beijing, Gstaad, Bucharest, Riyadh, Lagos, Monaco, Sydney and Londongrad

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Shipping container facility at Tempe, near Sydney Airport [Sep-2012 451KB]

Forging a new deal

The transition from manufacturing to a financialised economy was completely seamless

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Derelict Ford truck at The Grounds of Alexandria. Revisited in July 2023 and by then the Ford was mostly overgrown [Apr-2018 770KB]

Remarks

How do you depict the systematic dismantling of industries, with their associated high-quality jobs for working-class people, without being tediously didactic?

Extremely well serviced

Only the most desirable suburbs were serviced by regular bus, rail and ferry services

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The F5 Neutral Bay ferry leaves Kirribilli wharf [Nov-2020 355KB]

Keep doubling your money every 7–10 years

Dr Wilson said that Sydney was likely to have a $2 million median house price by 2030 and a $3 million median by 2038 (Daily Telegraph, 2018)

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Hopscotch squares at the Woodcroft housing estate, in Blacktown [Dec-2012 601KB]

The retail ziggurat

The ideological apex of our economy was the domestic-consumption model

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Shopping trolleys huddle beneath the mobile-phone towers on top of Marketplace Leichhardt [Sep-2010 640KB]

Look back in covfefe

Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away, and move on to something that's more productive (Trump, 1987)

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Trump impersonator on Broadway, NYC [Oct-2017 441KB]

Remarks

The election in 2016 of the 45th US President unleashed a torrent of invective from horrified activists, academics and news-workers. It was almost as if all the op-eds and impeachment attempts and special counsels and house select committees and pussyhats and politically-timed indictments could somehow reverse everything

Rent not Enterprise

[…] we here highly resolve that these mortgagors shall not have borrowed in vain — that this realm, under Banks, shall have a new birth of fiefdom — and that government of the landlords, by the landlords, for the landlords, shall not perish from the earth

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Vacant commercial land at Lawson in the Blue Mountains [Jan-2012 98KB]

This weight of calorific delights

Just a spoon full of HFCS helped the processed food go down (Hyman, 2014)

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Candle wax at a Kent Street wine-bar, near Town Hall [Jan-2014 500KB]

Frictionless intermediation

Because The Sharing Economy sounded so much nicer than Government Regulation Evading Neoliberal Extractive Capitalism (NYTimes, 2017)

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Subterranean ingress and egress aperture cover at Watsons Bay [Dec-2014 1233KB]

The road to zero

A globalist market where all tastes were equal and you could only vote with your dollars

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William Street beverage hoarding (since rebuilt) at Kings Cross [Oct-2012 465KB]

Jobs & Growth

Social cohesion was a luxury we could no longer afford

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Wall markings behind Parramatta Road, Strathfield [Jul-2014 800KB]

Learn to love your job

Part-time Tree-surfing Instructor; Diversity & Inclusion Officer; Thought Leader; Intimacy Co-ordinator; Trans-activist & Gender Consultant; Death Doula; Change Management Coach; Lecturer in Sports Management; Early Childhood Educator; Somatic Therapist; Waste Data Handler; Freelance Restaurant Critic; Jumping Castle Franchisee; Emerging Pastry Chef; Latte Artist; Chief Resilience Officer; Junior Communications Executive; Campaign Advancer; Senior Curatorial Assistant; Reflexologist; Eyebrow Sculptress; Unicorn Wrangler; Stunt Curator; Trainee Personal Trainer; Chief Brand and Impact Officer; Beauty Influencer; Innovation Sherpa; Product Placement Jedi; Experience Designer; Interim Social Media & Engagement Producer; Relieving Elation Officer

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Market Street escalators at Centrepoint, Sydney [Aug-2018 452KB]

The shadow workforce

Persistent mass unemployment was finally solved by redefining the meaning of “employed”

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Red flags at the Circular Quay promenade [Jul-1992 788KB]

Remarks

Taken from the Cahill Expressway, looking down onto the paving at Circular Quay. The huge “knife” was actually the shadow of a banner flapping in the wind

Roses of Picardy

The marriage industry flourished despite the cynicism and malaise

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Private wedding ceremony at St Marys Cathedral [Mar-2019 502KB]

Quality by design

Exclusively appointed apartments riddled with gross structural defects

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Nevada Apartments remediation at Darling Point [Dec-2018 369KB]

2020 visions

Restricted trading hours [✓] Patron number limits [✓] Temperature checks [✓] Sign-in attendance records [✓] Perspex table-shields [✓] 1.5m social distancing [ ]

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The Celsius Café at Kirribilli Wharf adapts to business conditions under COVID-19 [Nov-2020 570KB]

Easily within reach

Affordable mortgages were flying out the door (ABC News, 2023)

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Art Gallery of NSW window looking east, Sydney [Mar-2019 429KB]

Back-to-back meetings

Corporate officers were paid vast sums to assess risk envelopes, evaluate keynote guidelines, speculate about draft legislation, form ad hoc committees, prepare for conferences, fly business class to London seminars, outline broad AI objectives, revise KPIs, argue over Hors d'Oeuvers, curate compliance indicia, monitor DPO teams, summarise executive summaries, have #productive conversations, agree on check-lists for future negotiations, review presentation slides, action talking-points, mitigate critical reports, endorse vision-statements, refresh earning-projections and plan substantive frameworks for upcoming roundtables

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Queen Street office building after hours, Melbourne [Apr-2019 201KB]

The Moneyland luxe vibe

Prestigious brands rode out the pandemic rather well

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Luxury goods store entrance, George Street Sydney [Nov-2020 436KB]

Practical streetwise living

Stretch out in hygge comfort and swaddle beneath an extra layer of bureaucracy

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Pitt Street Mall food-court entrance, Sydney [Jan-2019 613KB]

Fierce, Wonderful & Closed

What little trade there was bled out slowly

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Café shop-front during a level-four lockdown, Katoomba NSW. Eighteen months later it went out of business during another extended lockdown [Apr-2020 455KB]

This engine of growth

It became obvious that markets could remain irrational for longer than investors could stay solvent

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The window-display for Central Autohaus in Alexandria [Jun-2015 238KB]

Agile entrepreneurs

Surveillance cameras [✓]  Motion-activated floodlights [✓]  Canvas-covered windows [✓]  3m high fencing [✓]  Steel chained front gates [✓]  Threatening no-trespass signs [✓]  Resourceful SMEs servicing a niche-market [✓]

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Domestic security on Neville Street in Marrickville [Sep-2012 648KB]

Ghosts of the CBD

The C-Suite resorted to upbeat-slogans, pleading, threats, mandates and compulsion to get WFH employees back to their city offices

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Commuters at the new Central station northern concourse [Jul-2023 428KB]

Remarks

Candid people photography became a much riskier proposition than it was last century. Luckily people became so accustomed to mobile phones being used for photographs that when they saw an actual camera, they assumed it must only be for mundane things like birds or flowers or stand-up-straight grandchildren

Curate your educational passport

There was strong evidence to suggest that the uncapping of university places accomplished exactly what it set out to achieve

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University of Sydney main quadrangle [Oct-2017 788KB]

Α Ω

Every last particle of our faith was poured into equities & real-estate

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Birrell Street front yard, Bondi Junction [Oct-2018 628KB]

The customer was king

Everything you could ever possibly want, at your fingertips

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Supermarket checkout, Nepean Village Penrith [Apr-2003 637KB]

Remarks

Taking candid photographs inside supermarkets was not easy. You were constantly monitored by employees, who were worried about their pricing and product display designs being stolen. Consequently, a special candid rig had to be developed which, although it had my camera clearly visible, appeared to be merely carrying the camera instead of actually using it to take photographs

Segregation now, tomorrow & forever

Only the most privileged could afford to live in their own city (SMH, 2023)

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Distillery Drive cutting at Jacksons Landing, in Pyrmont [Jan-2013 506KB]

Remarks

Had to dodge at least a dozen cars while taking this shot. The final car contained a private security guard, who told me there had been complaints I was infringing people's privacy. See that big triangular thing at the end of the street? I asked, Would you like to explain how privacy legislation applies to a cable-stayed reinforced concrete bridge?… At least he had the good grace to smile before driving off

Twilight's last gleaming

We slid down the Phillips Curve until we reached the Minsky Moment

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Construction hoarding at Barangaroo, Sydney [Sep-2016 256KB]

Incentives to succeed

It was self-evident that the Rich were job creators and property booms the most efficient way to redistribute wealth

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The rear of a Korean restaurant, in a Pitt Street Lane near Town Hall [Oct-2012 492KB]

Wow your clients

The 3.6-million starting guide may seem a little pricey, but it actually represents good value for money. Four metres of absolute frontage, a 112m² level block with rear access, and tastefully renovated throughout with careful attention to period detail and exquisite magazine-worthy modern touches

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Terraced houses for rent or sale, Redfern [Jul-2023 646KB]

No map and a broken compass

Cheap goods and MTV proved more effective than détente and ICBMs

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Bric-a-brac stall on Tverskaya St, Moscow, beneath a memorial plaque to the soviet artist Pyotr Vasilyev [Dec-1991 733KB]

Remarks

Moscow December 1991, a few days before the end of the Soviet Union. The command-economy had collapsed, while early attempts at market capitalism stalled because there wasn't enough investment capital or disposable consumer income

A licence to kill

There was nothing on your dinner table that wasn't put there by hard-working professionals from the road-freight industry

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The “roo bar” of a prime-mover at Kings Langley, near Blacktown [Aug-2015 605KB]

What this little black rock could do

We have to make sure this economy works. We have to export dollars. We have to realise we have a moral responsibility to other people in other nations to keep their lights on (Joyce, 2017)

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The Steelworks and Coal Loader at Port Kembla harbour [Sep-2014 101KB]

Remarks

Port Kembla featured some of the largest coal handling facilities in the world. Unfortunately these generally ugly industrial locations provided few opportunities to capture interesting images. Sunsets helped, as did telephoto lenses, silhouettes and a photomontage

Forget your past

Architectural awards counted for little when it came to prime development sites

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Darling Harbour Conference Centre demolition, Sydney [Apr-2014 302KB]

Remarks

It was ironic that these Darling Harbour buildings, which were lauded in the 1980s for their innovative design, should thirty years later become yet more fodder for redevelopment

The golden hoard

Our cities filled with empty apartments for quick-flippers

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The construction boom at Wentworth Point [Sep-2016 463KB]

Consumer karoshi

A culture had to be created in which self-sacrifice was essential

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Market Street escalators at Centrepoint, Sydney [Jan-2016 407KB]

Remarks

A side-benefit of being treated for amblyopia as a child was learning to look at things critically. For example, these escalators bore an uncanny resemblance to a Japanese Samurai Kabuto

A million jobs Mr Speaker

Decades of financialisation provided tremendous benefits for all to share

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Shepherd Street factory yard, at Marrickville [Sep-2012 436KB]

Business service industries

The only way to counter economic headwinds was by being more nimble than the rest of the market

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Finance workers at Australia Square [Dec-2004 480KB]

Living in a film-set

Months spent wandering through a terrain filled with shuttered restaurants and disoriented diners

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Deserted food court, Centrepoint Sydney [Apr-2020 290KB]

The user-pays model

We rejected the “generational bargain” because it was foolish to pay for things we would never live to use

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Government hoarding at Westpac Plaza, Barangaroo [Aug-2016 754KB]

Borderline conundrum

Self-service was self-defeating when there was no service to serve

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Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, unused self-service check-in and baggage drop facilities at Sydney Airport's T1 International Terminal, Friday afternoon 12:30 pm [Oct-2020 324KB]

Unearthing the past

The house is gone and the yard excavated so deep that every childhood trace was obliterated

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What was once 12 Kensington Street, Kogarah [Apr-2011 512KB]

Back to the Futuregate

Needless to say, everyone was talking about staring down the barrel of a perfect storm, while waiting for an ultimate fairytale ending for the history books

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Media-workers at the Sydney Opera House [Jul-2014 500KB]

Bubble watch

Rising property prices were carefully manipulated to create more economic winners than losers

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Spectators on the steps of the former CBC Bank, Martin Place [Apr-2006 577KB]

Remarks

This image was taken during the 2006 Anzac Day march, at the moment when everyone looked up to watch planes fly over. What made the shot difficult was getting the timing right when using a film-based Hasselblad, mounted on a monopod and triggered by a mechanical cable release

Dutch disease done right

Not to worry. If the economy works the way the textbook says, the gain to miners should flow through to the economy, causing higher wages and tax receipts (Gittins, 2017)

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Remnants of the 2000's resources boom at Lithgow [Aug-2012 498KB]

A touch of Bucharest

All that was gained, all that was lost

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Rose Street terraces, Chippendale [May-2023 666KB]

Go for growth mate

We'll get an army of casuals to collect our night-soil, just like a hundred years ago

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Outdoor toilet and “dunny lane”, Lithgow NSW [Jun-2019 777KB]

Retail was your future

Optimism and nostalgia were the only things which kept Newsagents going

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South Sydney newsagent, Redfern [Jul-2023 641KB]

City of Yes

Shuttered shop-fronts guaranteed a larger tax write-off

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The Cadbury store in Mid City Shopping Centre, Sydney [Dec-2023 961KB]

Not a house of cards then

People's jobs depend on confidence and trust in the financial and banking system. And I can assure [everyone] that, despite the very disturbing and, indeed, shocking revelations we have seen in the Royal Commission, particularly of late, that these issues, while as abhorrent as they are, are completely separate from any question about the stability and strength of [our] banking and financial system. (Morrison, 2018)

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Pedestrian footbridge at Barangaroo [Apr-2016 335KB]

Strength through joy

Everyone denounced the enemies of growth

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Suburban Toorak, Melbourne [Apr-2019 357KB]

Rocks & Crops

Diggers and drillers drew heartfelt inspiration from the island paradise of Naru

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The Port Kembla coal terminal (PKCT) [Sep-2014 377KB]

Have a go to get a go

Our financial success was entirely self-made and the result of a lifetime of love and labour. We married poor, worked hard, scrimped & saved, spent wisely and made prudent investments. So we deserved to keep more of our own hard-earned money

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Hopetoun Road Toorak, Melbourne [Apr-2019 298KB]

Rust belt potential

Our suburbs were rife with agility, propagation and replacement

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Lett Lane, Lithgow [Jun-2019 658KB]

City of forgotten men

There's class warfare all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war and we're winning (Buffet, 2006)

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Unhoused on George Street, Sydney [Aug-2014 653KB]

More people makes everyone richer

Keep doubling the population every 35 years → boosted aggregate demand → vigorous GDP growth → buoyant budget outcomes → more apartment blocks & people to build them → snowballing property values → windfall capital gains → wealthier property-investors → more zest, vibrancy & bustling streets → more toll-roads → more construction & business services → more bathhouses, nail-salons & shisha lounges → more mortgages → more prosperous banks → more stamp-duties → more negative gearing on residential property → more wealth-effects → more tourism & international students → more university & independent college enrolments → more elderly relatives to care for children → more low-paid independent contractors in precarious jobs → more migration agents, NGOs, community-liaison officers, refugee support advocates & human-rights lawyers → more arranged child-marriages & dowries; more subclass-482 & spousal visas → potentially higher rates of workforce participation → projected supply-side potential → likely productivity benefits → forecast greater aggregate income → increasing remittances to overseas family & sponsors → more money in everyone's hip pocket

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Front-yard garden gnomes in Summer Hill, Sydney [Oct-2016 825KB]

Thrusting for yield

The ubiquity of synchronised growth led social experiments imposed from above

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Construction cranes at Australian Technology Park [Mar-2018 267KB]

The best that money can buy

Of particular interest to ICAC has been the planning decisions along Canterbury Road and Charles Street, which saw some Liberal and Labor councillors voting together to approve developments which council's planning staff had previously rejected due to non compliance (SMH, 2017)

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Apartment construction at Charles Str, Canterbury [Oct-2015 527KB]

Creative Destruction

The most efficient way to boost productivity was by reducing the number of employees

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The abandoned White Bay Power Station at Rozelle [Jan-2013 319KB]

Volunteer for service

Charity was he only thing that separated us from the abyss

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Anzac Day Red Cross volunteers, Hyde Park Sydney [Apr-2023 939KB]

Both feet on the ladder

Everyone became multi-millionaires by flipping inherited properties bought decades ago for pennies

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Renovations in suburban Stanmore [Sep-2012 259KB]

Custodians of the status quo

Stand on principle on the way up and you miss the stampede; stand on principle on the way down and you would be run over

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Even the pigeons lived in style at the St George Private Hospital Annex in Hogben Street, Kogarah [Apr-2011 171KB]

Domain awareness gap

Runaway house prices were regarded as being not only acceptable, but necessary

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Toorak Road for-sale sign, Melbourne [Apr-2019 738KB]

In the circle of FIRE

There were such vast sums of money to be made from rent-seeking rents & fees & short-stay leases & collateralised debt & asset bubbles growth & asset stripping recycling & short-selling & bear-raids & related-party transactions & trading commercial acceptance bills & prediction markets & spoofing & layering & democratising currency & crypto-mining & spot crypto-ETFs & Hummingbots & whale-trades & mergers & demergers & gambling wagering & grey-rhinos & black-swans & shiny tech unicorns & central bank stimulus & beanie babies & 1000% bearbricks & profit shifting consolidation & overcooked ambitious profit projections & 300-year visions & peer-to-peer lending & off-balance-sheet funding & liar sub-prime loans & narco-state money-laundering emerging markets & terrorism financing emerging markets & government consultancies & flipping cities to ride-share & tax evasion planning & wealth concealment consolidation & tax shelters family trusts & tax shelters anonymous offshore trusts & Shanghai aged-care schemes & German cum-ex trading schemes & St. Kitts and Nevis Golden Visas & concealing reinvesting petrostate billions & cloud mining tokens & golden moons & Worldcoin iris scanning & cash-for-visas & child-pornography adult entertainment & coal mining leases & insurance fraud optimisation & lying factual misstatements to corporate regulators & rewriting updating independent reports & unenforced enforceable-undertakings & NAIRU-based inflation targeting & dismantling reforming Bretton Woods & quashing reforming Glass-Steagall & hiring ex-ministers as senior regional advisers & hiring the premier's son and vice-chancellor's daughter as summer-interns & influence peddling lobbying & door-opening lobbying & impunity spells lobbying & moral-hazard exceptions lobbying & guaranteed bailouts lobbying & suspending customer withdrawals bank holidays & using courts to reject insurance claims & friendly Wagyu-beef-washed-down-with-finest-shiraz judgements & swaps & options & swaptions & binary options & unregulated crypto-loans & coaxing suckers small-investors to “buy the dips then hold” & “growth phase” IPOs & CDOs & CMOs & CDFs & LDIs & FICCs & REITs & FAANGs & SPACs & BATs & ELPs & PGUCs & P2Es & NFTs & BAYCs & BNPL & NFSC & FOMO & FONGO & concocting developing ever more arcane sophisticated financial instruments to conjure “assets” out of nothing to ensure money kept raining in torrents from the sky build wealth, that there was little point in doing anything else

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The Elizabeth street facade of the Commonwealth Bank Building [Oct-2020 660KB]

Investment vehicle

Many argued housing affordability wasn't the real problem

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Tiny House” on wheels, Enmore Park [May-2023 823KB]

Reflating the economy

Old debt could be easily retired by taking on new debt

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Tumbalong Park attractions, Darling Harbour [Jul-2014 374KB]

Braving the abyss

Despite challenging market conditions, and a negative return for your superannuation this year, we continue to deliver strong long-term returns. […] Significant market falls can be worrying, but staying invested remains vitally important. […] When we invest your super, our approach is focussed on the long term, to help maximise your retirement savings. But it also manages short-term risks in times like these. I want to reassure you, our members, that we remain committed to investing to help you achieve your best retirement outcomes. Bulk email from the CEO of Aware Super, 2022-07-08

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Waterrun cliff-side, RNP [Aug-2020 842KB]

Remarks

Waterrun is a dramatic rock-shelf in the Royal National Park. The narrow river valley is surrounded by 50m cliffs, the tops of which provide an overhead view. Unfortunately you have to climb out to the very edge of these things to get the best shots. Have done it twice, won't risk a third time…

All snakes, no ladders

We stuck to the plan, even though we kept changing it

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Subterranean utilities footpath markings outside the QVB [Apr-2015 967KB]

Knowledge-based economy

If you could no longer make a profit by making things, then you could profitably spend your time making things up

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The interior of the Queen Victoria Building, near Sydney Town Hall [Jan-2012 404KB]

Unyielding positivity

On a moonless night the captain raced the ship into an unseen ice-field → While acknowledging there may be evidence of poor optics and regrettable client experiences, it's crucial to remember that there are substantial long-term benefits compared to these temporary challenges; The ship then collided with an iceberg → This is a complex and contentious matter that is going to cause a number of people some confusion but, going forward, even our harshest critics admit there are faint glimmers of hope and signs of optimism; The ship rapidly took on water and listed dangerously → As part of our vision to create a non-zero-sum paradigm, it may sometimes be necessary to relinquish ground to guarantee future success; Some passengers ran about screaming → Team members were pro-actively incentivised to facilitate collaborative eminence; Many passengers had to fight their way topside to escape → Partners scaled peak-less mountains to cultivate growth mindsets; There weren't anywhere near enough lifeboats → While focusing on one particular deficiency is unfair, the final number was an on-balance judgement and we are comfortable with where the settings lay; Only a wealthy few could secure a place in the half-empty lifeboats → It is our understanding that personal on-boarding of inexperienced users may have meant there were misaligned, or perhaps even flawed, metrics to evaluate success; The ship sank, no-one came the rescue, hundreds drowned in the freezing water → We take this incident extremely seriously and can assure everyone that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved-ones of those who failed to return. Nevertheless, there have always been rare and anomalous events, where unforeseen technical and systems failures may cause processes to fall a little short of expectations

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Boutique shop-front redevelopment, Leura [Aug-2021 167KB]

North to Avoska

Before mobile phones, perhaps-bags accompanied us everywhere

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Totes diptych at Hornsby and Town Hall, Sydney [Apr-2005 443KB]

Remarks

Behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, people always carried shopping bags in case goods become available. In the west there were rarely shortages, but similar bags were carried around nevertheless

Click and collect

Socially responsible trading during yet another level-four lockdown

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George Street boutique, Sydney — which closed within a year [Jul-2021 217KB]

Delivery apps were so convenient

HungryPanda, Foodora, Uber Eats, DoorDash, EASI, Menulog, Deliveroo, Hey You, GrubHub, goPuff, EatNow, Yelp… We imported an underclass of temporary-visa holding self-employed contractors to zip around and deliver perfect Laksa, authentic pad thai, bubble-tea and gluten-free dumplings

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Food delivery rider at Broadway, Sydney [Apr-2020 259KB]

Remarks

In 2020 food delivery riders were suddenly everywhere. Most were foreign “students”, who would zip along footpaths and through plazas at breakneck speeds. During peak-lockdown these riders multiplied to such an extent that there were more of them hurtling through CBD streets than there were pedestrians trying not to get hit (ABC News, 2020)

Scaffolding to pierce the sky

To better embrace necessary change, our cities were framed within a matrix of sidewalk sheds

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One Circular Quay construction site, Sydney [Jan-2018 502KB]

Ford to city: Drop Dead

The acolytes of Moses & Le Corbusier enjoyed the fruits of Socialism In One Class

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The southern ramp to the Anzac Bridge expressway, at Pyrmont in Sydney [Jan-2013 264KB]

From blue to fluoro collar

Vast sums were borrowed to create a cornucopia of employment opportunities

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Re-tiling the Sydney Opera House forecourt [Jul-2014 370KB]

In Goldman Sachs We Trust

The financial sector was the bedrock of our entire social structure and facilitated massive cultural progression. Whereas the 1960s were misspent on engineering, aerospace and NASA, the 2010s had financialisation, asset value growth and the ISDA

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The financial district in eastern Sydney, with the rocket-shaped 1 O'Connell Street in the middle background [Jul-2011 244KB]

Good sports with your money

Dragon boat races in the afternoon, Thursday night drinks in the firm with the lads; City lights twinkle on the harbour far below; Fetch whole legs of ham from the kitchen to hang in the partners' dining room, then stash the original artworks in the ladies toilet a few floors down; Ollie laughed so much he threw up; Piggyback steeplechase around the associates' floor, with upended desks as hurdles; Loot an old jockey cap from a senior-partner's office and use our neck-ties as whips; And then whooping and hollering and running and falling all over the place and pissing ourselves like it was the best night of our lives

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The ghosts of corporate lawyering at Martin Place [Oct-2014 1155KB]

Down from the mountain

… and into the markdowns

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Leura antique store [Oct-2018 341KB]

Life in the Bunkercene

Harsh economic times forced everyone to cocoon just that little bit extra

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Martin Place hoardings, Sydney [Mar-2019 438KB]

The one sure bet

One of the interesting things about the years 1982—2024 was that despite the occasional setback, markets always boomed

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Financial reporter at the Sydney ASX [Oct-2018 264KB]

Remarks

Had originally planned to get shots of the predicted stock-market collapse on that day — presumably the same reason the financial reporter was there. Unsurprisingly the crash didn't happen and the market surged to new heights, again

Better balance the value exchange

With rates at five-thousand-year lows (until 2022), cheap debt could not be blamed

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Used-car yard at Parramatta Road Granville [Apr-2017 335KB]

Remarks

Global interest rates were kept artificially low for decades to encourage economic growth. Finding metaphors for the corresponding deterioration in lending standards + mountain of consumer-debt turned out to be surprisingly easy

In a fugue world

Feel the love through the acquisition of merchandise

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St Collins Lane shopping arcade, Melbourne [Apr-2019 309KB]

The shadow state

Our top-down globalist system will endure forever

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North from the Empire State Building [Oct-2017 596KB]

Happy Hour

Paul Strand took a walk down Collins Street and discovered a rich harvest for publicans to reap

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Devonshire Street, Surry Hills [Jul-2023 355KB]

Stake your claim

Neighbourhood micro-businesses flourished when manufacturing moved offshore, creating ample employment opportunities for non-employees

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Small business badge window display, Wentworth Street Port Kembla [Sep-2014 901KB]

Ponzimonium

Jeffrey Keith Skilling (Enron Corp); Walter Forbes (Cendant Corp); Richard Fuld (Lehman Brothers); Bernard Lawrence Madoff (Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC); Satoshi Nakamoto (Bitcoin); Ruja Ignatova (OneCoin); Markus Braun (Wirecard); Sam Bankman-Fried (FTX); Kwon Do-Hyung (Terraform Labs); Changpeng Zhao (Binance); Sergei Panteleevich Mavrodi (MMM Global); Elizabeth Anne Holmes (Theranos Inc.); Hui Ka Yan (Evergrande Group)

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Wedding Cake Rock, RNP [Jul-2019 291KB]

Remarks

Wedding Cake Rock was a social-media hotspot at the northern end of the Royal National Park. A fence had been erected to not only prevent people from plunging to their deaths (there had been a few), but also to preserve the fragile geological structure. The irony was that despite the fence, many selfie-lovers still clambered over it to get their snaps at the rock's edge (as shown in the photo). A few months later a taller, reinforced, cliff-edge to cliff-edge impenetrable mesh barrier was finally installed

The next big thing

Stuff all your fiat-money into the slot to enjoy a lifetime of passive income (Investopedia, 2023)

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Bitcoin ATM, Katoomba [Jun-2023 160KB]

Forever in Golconda

This time it really was different

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Charging bull statue, NYC [Oct-2017 361KB]

Creating value in Shadowlands

From warehouses to office blocks to strategically empty short-stay accommodation

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Motorways and the former Caltex building, Sydney [Sep-2016 172KB]

Driven by unceasing mobility

Remember the physical-distancing rule and only travel when essential

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Waiting for the Cronulla Ferry at Bundeena Wharf [Aug-2020 422KB]

Remarks

During the 2020 lockdowns we were subjected to frequent messaging about social isolation and avoiding “unnecessary” travel. This image was taken at the end of a 28km Royal Coast Track walk, and the commuters' weariness mirrored the photographer's fatigue

Unintended consequences

Our intellectual pursuits reflected our deepest convictions

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Edgecliff Railway station newsagent [Nov-2017 417KB]

Non-pharmaceutical interventions

A command economy emerged in everything but name

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Taped off seating, Sydney Centrepoint [Apr-2020 309KB]

An intricate system of inefficiency

Our elites focused more upon growing the economic pie than dividing it

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Darling Harbour Marina [Jan-2017 227KB]

Financial ouroboros

Australian banks are very exposed to the housing market. Around 60 per cent of their lending is for housing. And housing is also common collateral for loans to small and medium businesses. A decline in housing prices impacts the value of that collateral but of itself does not necessarily lead to losses. (RBA, 2021)

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Ex-bank branch waiting to be re-purposed, Newtown [Jan-2022 306KB]

From backpacks to chuggers

Street fundraising earned a poor reputation due to worker exploitation, dishonest begging techniques, and the realisation that most of the money was diverted for “administration”

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Australian Red Cross charity collectors at Martin Place, Sydney [Jan-2002 505KB]

From jobs to careers to callings

The entire nature of employment changed. We didn't know where the new jobs would come from, but we knew they would surely come

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Food franchise cart on 37th Street, NYC [Oct-2017 526KB]

Positive growth model

A modern 24-hour economy filled with bloggers, interns and cash-in-hand hospitality workers painting nails & pouring espresso

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Lower Baldwin Street, Dunedin NZ [Nov-2017 395KB]

Surrogate activities

The illusion of robust growth was maintained by creating an archipelago of empty construction sites

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Construction hoardings at Green Square [Nov-2018 438KB]

Hard economic tithes

[…] “excuse-flation” was the practice of using general inflation as a camouflage for bumping up prices. It was closely related to “greed-flation” and consumers put up with it because the cover story sounded legitimate, with blame usually attributed to the pandemic, Ukraine conflict, or the most opaque reason of all — supply chain disruptions (The Guardian, 2024)

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Light rail payment station, Wynyard [Jan-2024 809KB]

One country, two systems

There was endless argument about Income Inequality, but careful silence about Wealth Redistribution

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Woodcroft housing estate versus Harris Street Ultimo [Jan-2013 306KB]

Practising our future

There was always plenty of money for whatever appealed to our sense of adventure

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Abandoned front yard yacht, Kirribilli [Jan-2020 760KB]

Flags of convenience

Our vision was to create a better everyday life, by getting our customers to do all the work

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The united nations of IKEA, at Tempe [Sep-2012 161KB]

Crisis misdirection

Much hand-wringing about the “rental crisis” ignored the plight of mum & dad investors, who not only had pastoral care of their tenants, but also had to juggle property manager fees, council rates, water rates, landlord insurance, punitive land taxes, repairs, maintenance, capital gains, inflation and sky-rocketing interest rates

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Elizabeth Street block of flats, Surry Hills [Jul-2023 404KB]

Exit strategy

A golden transit through the ages, with better things yet to come

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Fig Street tunnel, Ultimo [Jul-2017 667KB]

Back in the CCCP

The centralised command economy disintegrated almost immediately

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Street vendors on the day the Belavezha Accords were signed, Tverskaya St Moscow [Dec-1991 509KB]

Remarks

Dozens of people were milling around in front of the vendors, checking out the items being offered. Had to wait a long time (45 minutes in the freezing cold) for the crowd to part just enough to reveal the sellers behind. Found out later that most vendors like these had become unemployed in the post-communist dislocation, and were attempting to hawk their valuables to get some money to live on

Financial kinesiology

Despite the underlying momentum and near-zero interest rates (until 2022), it appeared we didn't survive the crash

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Outside the Sydney branch of the Deutsche Bank in Hunter Street.

A security guard tried to prevent this photograph from being taken “due to copyright reasons”. A detailed and patient lecture on photography-rights disabused him [Jan-2012 332KB]

Handshake protocol

Contract for a knock-down-rebuild and then endure years of excuses as to why it took so long to construct a simple suburban house

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Debris removal at Warrimoo. The original house was demolished in April 2020 and the replacement was still unfinished two years later… [Apr-2020 790KB]

Mega-dollar slums

Disintegrating verandahs + thumb-wide cracks + Aspergillus from foundations to eaves = A bit of a fixer-upper for sure, but the bones of the property seem pretty decent and it's got a fair bit of character. With some elbow-grease and a fresh lick of paint, this diamond of a home, buried deep in the rough, could be turned into the envy of all your friends!

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Ex seminary on Forbes Street, Newtown [May-2022 723KB]

Clip service

Media-workers could always revert to nostalgia for a past brimming with future promise

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Elbon Arcade Testarossa Sammy-Santino men's hairstylist (since relocated), Double Bay [Jan-2019 616KB]

Taming animal spirits

There is something more systematic about the way people behave irrationally, especially during periods of economic stress (Greenspan, 2013)

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Lunchtime in a George Street amusement arcade, demolished a few years later [Sep-2003 543KB]

Remarks

Having worked in high-pressure corporate environments in the 1990s, it proved difficult to find suitable metaphors outside. But then sometimes you got lucky

Conjectures & hearsay

Focus on your own future and how you can provide a good luxurious life for yourselves, your wives, children and your loved ones … (Nassif, 2019)

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The defect-riddled Vicinity Apartment block in Canterbury [Oct-2015 383KB]

Waiting for the great leap forward

From blue-collar heroes to the Kings of Kowloon, the third-world was just around the corner

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Central Park development, at Broadway in Sydney [Jul-2012 272KB]

Faceless ramparts

The city filled with empty offices, yet few had the courage to admit why

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Liberty Place, Castlereagh Street Sydney [Jul-2023 579KB]

Attainder by process

The most efficient way to neutralise dissent was by levelling the playing-field

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Philip Lodge Motel demolition at Haberfield [Jun-2016 589KB]

Epistemic insouciance

Full speed ahead for transient high-rollers from the sky (ABC News, 2020)

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Crown casino construction, Barangaroo [Jan-2020 278KB]

Remarks

Taken during the erection of Packer's Pecker. It's difficult to exaggerate the thrall in which gambling wagering was held by politicians, the advertising-revenue-hungry media and most of the general public

Well-oiled plans

There was big money to be made in eating vast amounts of nutriment

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Winter Magic Festival doughnut stall, Katoomba [Jun-2023 305KB]

A pattern of abundance

Generative AI was the next stage in our collaborative journey

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NTP Forklifts (since relocated), at Woodville Road Granville [Apr-2017 358KB]

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