Melbourne by Numbers is Lots of Number’s first offering.
A visual train of 365 home-grown numbers, the numbers in this film are from commercial and residential properties in metropolitan Melbourne. From the ordinary to the compelling, the modest to the spectacular, the curious to the impetuous, this film captures the style, substance and spirit of Melbourne.
All images are photographs taken in the public domain. To protect the privacy of home & business owners/occupants, only numbers without street names and commercial branding have been used.
It was November 2004. A friend had decided to upgrade his digital camera and wanted to offload it. So I ended up with a 6 month old Casio Exilim, my first digital camera. Being a recent émigré, having moved to Melbourne the year before, I was motivated to explore the city and its suburbs. It was spring, shaping up into summer. Good weather does wonders for a sense of adventure.
So I started taking pictures. Random pictures. Of everything and nothing. I can’t remember the first number I took though I suspect it was a nine. I must have taken about 30 numbers before I thought about going the whole hog and taking 365 of them. Then it just evolved. I kept taking pictures, on and off and on and on. And now I was determined to take it to everyone out there. I took my last number in April 2007.
Why numbers? Aesthetically, I was interested in the choice of typeface, materials, the design, the style, the colours, how these were combined in a context, and placed in a landscape.
This got me thinking (and wondering) about the people behind the numbers. What does a number (in its final manifestation) say about someone’s personality, proclivities, his or her sense of industry. Many opt for a pre-fab cookie cutter number, some people make their own signs, sketch, carve them. Some numbers are no frills number, some are enterprising, some are special, some were just …curious. I thought it was interesting to see how Melburnians present and represent themselves.
I picked 365 because it represents a journey that is as linear as it is circular. My parameters were to only take numbers from commercial and residential properties without disclosing the street name and/or business name.
What’s next? I would love for other people to do the same thing in their cities and let their cities speak in a different way, so we can have Istanbul by numbers, London or Hong Kong by numbers, black and white numbers or neon numbers or numbers in different languages. How cool would that be?
Ian Row, Melbourne, Victoria
Ian lives in an old Inner city apartment with Baboo the elephant and Oogie, the Mandrill.
Melbourne by Numbers is his first visual media venture.
He also writes for and maintains a haiku blog called Hot Cross Haiku.
In his spare time, he has a full time job.
Shout outs to Chris O’Neil and Tim Blundell for making it beautiful and making it happen.
Chris, thank you for saying ‘yeah, let’s do it’. Thanks for your time, your honesty, the unwavering support and for showing me how. Remember, Jesus loves you!
Tim, I’m really grateful you jumped on board. Thanks for your advice, direction, for putting in the hours, and for accommodating me. The Hoff loves YOU!
I couldn’t have done this without the two of you. Looking back, I wouldn’t have done this with anyone else.
And big love to my friends (you know who you are) for your support and for having faith.
NB: No thanks to the tetchy owner (and wife) of that pizza restaurant in Elsternswick for getting dramatic on me and to the old man in the city who shoved me (I know where you live!)