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The Legacy of a Secret Garden

By Siriol Dafydd on May 3, 2018 in News

Le Jardin, by Maclay Heriot.

Most residents of Hall Street, Bondi Beach, would be completely unaware of the incredible enchanting garden that’s nestled behind a cheap and cheerful nail salon on the popular strip. But for the lucky few, a private oasis looms once you walk through the hallway of an otherwise unimpressive block of flats.
Home to an eclectic mix of locals and travellers over the years, this wild and ever-blooming garden has seen babies, backpackers, hippies and hipsters enjoy its leafy surrounds. It’s also seen its fair share of famous faces.
For years the garden was loved and tended to by photographer Stuart Campbell. Those of you who have been around Bondi long enough may have known him as a man and a friend, but more likely as the lunatic hanging out of his window barking barbed jibes at passing backpackers.
Stuart was renowned not only for his acerbic wit but also his remarkable photography. Although trained as an actor, throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s he made his living predominantly by photographing actors for their head-shots, capturing an endless list of Australian greats including Mel Gibson, John Bell, Jacki Weaver and Colin Friels. He also photographed male nudes and centrefolds for magazines like Cleo and Vogue.
Over the years, numerous actors, musicians, writers and artists visited his Bondi home and many were photographed by Stuart in the modest studio of his top floor flat. His routine notoriously consisted of catching his subjects at their most vulnerable upon their arrival by greeting them with, “Come in and take all your clothes off.”
Actor Simon Burke, directors Gillian Armstrong and Richard Wherrett, producer Jane Scott, and world class violinist, composer and conductor, Richard Tognetti are a few of the many that graced the grounds of this hidden Hall Street treasure. But perhaps the most interesting of all was a young Irish traveller who stayed with Stuart for a few months as a favour to a friend of a friend. A fresh-faced nineteen year-old aspiring actor at the time, he agreed to be photographed by Stuart in his underwear. Years later, Stuart sold these photographs for a pretty penny. As it turns out, people will pay quite a bit for half-naked photos of a young Colin Farrell!
Now, nine years after his death, and with half of his ashes scattered amongst the soil, plants and trees he loved so much, the photographic tradition of the garden continues in the form of Maclay Heriot. Originally from Wollongong, Maclay spends half his time touring the world with bands like Portugal. The Man, and the other half in Bondi. He’s covered endless festivals such as Coachella, Groovin’ The Moo, Big Day Out, Lollapalooza Chicago, Austin City Limits and Primavera Sound.
He too uses his flat and garden as a backdrop for some of his work, with artists like Atlas Franklin Alexander, Odette and Peking Duk all being shot there recently. When he’s not working, he’s often surrounded by musicians who visit the garden from time to time. Bands including Gang of Youths, The Ruminaters, Grouplove and Delta Riggs have all sat around the large table in the backyard of an evening.
Maclay, who has his first solo exhibition in Sydney on April 30, aspires to one day bring all the local Bondi bands together in the garden for a portrait session followed by a few cold ones. Perhaps Stuart – who eventually became disenchanted with Bondi thanks to its over-development and the influx of backpackers – would be happy to know that creative, arty types still reside in our midst and the legacy of his secret garden prevails.
Maclay Heriot’s exhibition, showcasing his work and touring adventures over the last few years, will take place at Monster Children Gallery, 6 Australia Street, Camperdown from 6.00-9.00pm on April 30.