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Lunch Bars

3 June - 30 June


Photographs by Brett Leigh Dicks


Gemma Ben-Ary

From cream buns and vanilla slices to cheese-filled sausages and salad sandwiches, lunch bars are a staple of local working-class culinary culture. 


Typically tucked away in the city’s suburban, industrial, and commercial areas, lunch bars have been sustaining the work force with an array of no-frills fast food since the 1950s. For the past two years Brett Leigh Dicks has been tracking down examples of this quirky and vibrant slice of Western Australiana with the results being exhibited in June.


Lunch Bars was subject matter that echoed cultural similarities to that of California, where the American/Australian photographer lived and worked for the past two decades. It was the parallels between the hole-in-the-wall taquerias - eateries offering Mexican street food - and lunch bars here in the west that inspired the series.


“Western Australia’s lunch bars are probably as far away geographically from California’s taquerias as you can get,” the photographer observed. “But workers would pour into their local taqueria at lunchtime just like they do with lunch bars here, emerging with something fast, filling, and hot.”


The Fremantle-based photographer also saw an opportunity to bring a unique perspective to his lunch bar expose.


“The New Topographic photographic movement is very popular in the States and has informed the way I work,” he said.  “Photographers like Stephen Shore, Lewis Baltz, and Grant Mudford inspire me greatly and lunch bars are precisely the type of urban landscape with a societal quirk they would cast an ironic eye upon.”


Guided by the movement’s ethos, Brett approached his subjects with a stark yet poetic austerity. That approach allowed the character of each lunch bar to come shining through, unveiling a collection of dystopian eateries buried within the industrial parks of Perth, all brimming with character, flavour, and Western Australian flair.


“They weren’t hard to find,” the photographer said with a laugh. “The majority of lunch bars are so overstated that you can’t miss them and for others, that were a little more out of way, there were no shortage of whacky hand painted signs to point you in their direction. Ultimately each lunch bar has its own character, but all are fuelled by a devoted passion for sustaining the local workforce.”


Lunch Bars will be exhibited at Ellenbrook Arts in Ellenbrook, Western Australia from 3 - 30 June, 2022. Featuring 40 colour photographic prints, the exhibition brings to the fore an under celebrated aspect of WA's culinary scene. 

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