A THOUSAND WORDS | PRESTON LIVES
The Northsider is proud to present a new A Thousand Words photo essay. In ‘Preston Lives’ photographer Filomena Rizzo interviews three residents of the popular northern suburb.
Melbourne is growing. With new suburbs on its fringes, and taller buildings in its center, the city which has been awarded the title of ‘most liveable’ for six years now, is rapidly changing.
The effects of this change ripple through the inner suburbs with every new building permit, every street modification, and every new café providing a new place to go. Preston is a perfect example of this as a suburb trying for that delicate balance between modernisation and preserving local history. The people interviewed for this photo essay tell us about their time here, the opportunities Preston has presented them throughout the years, and their vision for the suburbs’ future.
Adriana Agricola is the owner of Sartoria, a boutique cafe rich in history, passion and great food. Originally from Italy, in the 60’s her parents bought 3 properties in Preston, which they knocked down to create their home and a downstairs factory. In this space Adriana’s mother would start her own seamstress business ‘J & C Agricola & Co.’ while her dad would be in charge of administration. Adriana and her brother were raised upstairs, and attended the local primary and high schools. Her aunties were also seamstresses and all had businesses in Preston.
The business traded until the late 80’s when it was turned into a furniture store for 15 years. Adriana left for New York where she worked in hospitality for some ten years. When she returned to Preston two years ago, she was surprised at how much the area had changed. Prior to leaving Adriana would describe Preston as old school; her father had suggested she start a cafe years ago, but the area wasn’t right for the type of space she wanted to create. However, upon her return the hipster, fashionable, business and family demographic Adriana was aiming for was now in Preston.
Sartoria was a project of passion and love for Adriana and her family. Everything that is in the Cafe was inspired by her mother, from the lights’ hanging lace, to old sewing machines scattered around the café; the scissors, dress patterns on the tables, thread rolls, buttons and sequins, all belonged to her mother. The ceiling lights continue to be the original lights from the factory.
Adriana has vivid childhood memories of Preston; her family would always visit the local market on weekends and the pool on hot summer days. She says Preston is heading in the right direction, claiming it will be similar to the old Fitzroy. With all the apartments going up in the past couple of years Preston is now one of Melbourne’s most developed suburbs, and whilst Adriana is saddened some landmark factories must go, she’s pleased to see modern infrastructure revitalising her suburb.
Susie Gorgovski had been playing with the idea of starting a unique store; one with products to decorate the home as well as nostalgic toys and gifts. With her history as a stylist, she was confident in her ability to source and style products, hence in 2013 she started Ox & Fox as a temporary stall in local markets. At first Susie would fill a car boot with her products, but soon needed a trailer and then a van. It wasn’t long before she knew it was time to find a permanent place where she wouldn’t need to load and unload.
Having grown up in the Preston area and now with two children attending local schools, Susie has seen Preston demographics changed a lot over the years. So when a space became available at Preston Market she knew setting up a boutique there would work. Eventually she’d outgrow the market too; having proven her business idea and garnered a great following, she felt the need for a bigger creative space. Susie would find this in Regent Street.
Susie loves the community feel of Preston. She has many local customers as well as people from other areas visiting her store. She has seen house prices in the area rise and welcomes the new families calling Preston home. It’s clear to her that Preston is growing and changing, and believes there is a real need for more retail in the area. She believes the suburb is moving forward and wouldn’t be surprised if in five years we saw a whole new face of Preston.
Like many others in the area, Antonio Angerame came to Preston as an Italian migrant in 1951 with his wife and a young son. He and his family lived in Preston with a cousin for nine years; he says his cousin had a factory making ladies dresses on Bell Street in those days. Antonio has owned and operated Tony’s Barber Shop at 542 High Street, Preston for 54 years. The now 89 year old, trained as a Barber in Italy where he also had a barber shop. Antonio recalls how back in 1962 he used to charge five shillings for a haircut – he clarifies that back then that was money.
Antonio likes Preston. He and his wife were married in Sacred Heart Church, and both his sons went to Sacred Heart Primary School. Antonio says Preston was much better when he first came to Australia; there were many local shops open. Now, he says, people go to shopping centres instead. Pedestrian traffic has also diminished; Antonio observes that people aren’t walking to their local shops anymore; most get into their cars and shop elsewhere. He says Preston has changed a lot; he remembers bread maker Tip-Top having once been located a few doors down from his shop, but it is one of the many manufacturers that have moved out of the area.
Preston, Antonio believes, has given him plenty of opportunities which he is grateful for. He still loves what he does and wants to continue for as long as he can. Well past retirement age, he says he now works to pass the time. Over the years Antonio has seen his customers grow old with him, and still has some who have been with him since the beginning. Antonio says some clients have moved away from the area yet continue to visit Preston to get their hair cut by him.
Antonio loves talking about the old times, weaving between stories of his family, his business and his street. In the end all his stories merge, becoming part of a single narrative that speaks of people, family and how life changes; a single image with Preston as its frame.
Filomena Rizzo is a professional photographer who contributes to the Northsider. Her work focuses on people and the stories their portraits can tell. To see more of her work please press this link.