What began as a walking tour of his new home town ended with British photographer Toks Ojo binding his happy snaps of West End street art in a published two volume set, Brisbane Walls.
Taking the plunge to move to Australia almost four years ago, Toks took to the streets to explore his new Brisbane backyard, instead stumbling upon vibrant graffiti and street murals more vibrant than its akin in UK suburbia. Exploring the backstreets of the 4101 became an enjoyable way to learn the culture of the neighbourhood. “It was a natural sort of starting point,” mused Toks in his smooth English accent. “A lot of people said, ‘If you want to see graffiti, if you want to see street art, take a look around West End and Fortitude Valley’.”
His photography has led him to discover the artistic flair snaking through South Brisbane’s back streets, leading him to Fortitude Valley and other painted parts of Brisbane. Toks makes special note of West End’s sitting Buddha by Lucks in Russell Street, watching over the Boundary Street Market, and an innovative Mollison Street mural, created by Lux and Graeme Hare.
Tok’s passion for photography was ignited by persistent encouragement from friends and an undying enthusiasm to share his adventures. In fact, these motives perfectly summarise the purpose behind his one-year trip across the globe in 2008.
An adventurous spirit drove Tok’s travels from Nepal to India, China to Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Macau, and Vietnam, giving him the opportunity to learn and improve his photography skills. “You look at your photographs and you think you have something amazing, but then three months later you look and you go, ‘this isn’t quite so good’. You see other people’s photographs and you try to figure out how make your stuff better, so it’s a fairly slow and measured process of trying to get better by taking as many photos as you can and assessing what makes them good or not.”
From globetrotter to author, Toks explained the immense effort behind creating Brisbane Walls stemmed not just from the act of photography itself. “Half of it is about finding places and also the effort you have to go to finding these places. It became a really good way to get to meet people, to get to know the town a lot better, find lots of really cool places and meet lots of really cool people.”
Toks’ urge to publish his snapshots was driven by the realisation Brisbane locals were missing the creativity, eccentricity and allure of the city that they frequented every day. “I was amazed by what I found. What I’m hoping is people will appreciate the amount of raw talent that Brisbane actually has in terms of its writers and its artists, and there is stuff out there if you choose to go look for it.”
Toks hopes Brisbane Walls encourages locals to put down their phones long enough to realise that photography is about more than selecting the perfect filter, but about appreciating the beauty of one’s surroundings.
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