In a modest garage in the heart of Blacktown, men come to have their hair cut, faded and shaved by self-taught barber Charles Lomu and his 5 apprentices. This humble space is not just somewhere to go and get a haircut; it is a hub where men can congregate and converse without feeling judged or out of place.
These encounters are captured in Garage Barbershop, a new exhibition presented at Blacktown Art Centre produced in partnership with Parramatta-based Information and Cultural Exchange – a series of photographic portraits by international fashion photographer Harold David that depict modern masculinity; and candid video interviews with men from Western Sydney.
“Over 10 weeks, we had the pleasure of witnessing 5 young men mature as they thrived on learning the art of barbering,” said Mr Lomu. “This project recognises that manhood is not determined by age, but by a mature way of life. Our communities, now and in the future, can only benefit from the development of young men today.’‘
When cherished trips to the barber with his youngest son became too expensive, Charles Lomu invested in a pair of clippers and set about teaching himself to become a serious barber through YouTube. With donated furniture, Charles began providing a ‘check up from the neck up’ for men from his Pacific Islander and church community.
His humble garage setup quickly became a destination for men who wanted more from their barbershop experience. In addition to his skills as a barber, Charles is a youth worker and a recording artist. With 15 years experience, he specialises in developing and facilitating mentorship and leadership programs and hip hop music workshops for young people in juvenile detention centres, youth organisations, and schools.
American-born photographer Harold David is one of Australia’s premier fashion and portraiture photographers. whose work has been featured in some of Australia’s leading magazines and international editorial clients. His portrait commissions include Daniel Johns, Hugo Weaving, Tori Amos, Claudia Karvan, Roy & HG, Grant Hackett, Alex Dimitriades, Abbie Cornish and Joel Edgerton.
“Large scale photographs depict the camaraderie between the men of Garage Barbershop, as well as moments of quiet tension, as they trace razor straight lines with blade to skin,” says photographer Harold David. “Charles and his boys are all larger than life characters. I knew I had to take a back seat and do my job as they presented the most profound moments of my career.”
As part of Garage Barbershop, visitors can make an appointment for a cut, fade or shave by Charles Lomu and the ‘Original 5’ every Thursday during the exhibition.
Blacktown Arts Centre, 78 Flushcombe Road, Blacktown
Exhibition: 11 May – 3 June 2017
Image: Sione Ika in Garage Barbershop – photo by Harold David