I’m walking into The Steyne. The magnitude of this place is hard to comprehend as its nooks and 66 different beers on tap are easy to get lost in. When venturing through the various bends you transport to an old village on a European hillside somewhere. Then you walk upstairs, and again up more stairs. All the while the walls grow more dizzily plastered with imagery that should be the arms of tatted up seaman. The mood changes. You’ve left the village and you’re off to sign your life away to a journey on the high seas…You’re in Moonshine. The candles melt over the old bottles holding them up, the lanterns are strung around the dark ambiance, the fishnets and barrels finish the storyline, but today, something is intensely different. You’re no longer a voyeur, you’re in their territory…and they are watching you.
81 square meters of canvas prints now bow from the ceilings. They sag a bit, as if the old ghosts of the sea still live in the sails that bellow off your ship. They are printed on silver fabric so when you’re privy to nothing but lanterns, their eyes not only watch you…they judge you.
I was meeting with Simon Barret and Myles Pritchard, creative madmen behind the new presence at Moonshine. My neck is kinked as I can’t seem to take my eyes away from what glares down at me.
Tats: This is what it must feel like to be small.
Myles & Baz: Gulliver!
Tats: What was there before?
Baz: An illustration of a ‘Salty Sea Dog’. The guy’s beard turned into the ocean. He was the ‘spirit of the sea’. The entire theme continues.”
Myles: The project is still ongoing…
Tats: This ongoing exploration isn’t just an everyday project. It’s got that unique edge. You’ve brought the resident drinkers from The Steyne’s Round Bar into the mix…
Baz: We were going to cast for this project, then the conversation came about that the Round Bar is full of them.
Myles: Some of these guys have been drinking here for about 35-40 years.
Tat: And how do they feel about this display of their picture?
Baz: They don’t know exactly what we’ve done with them. We did explain it to them…
Myles: But they had been drinking… The Steyne but on beers and a BBQ so they were having a good time, but I don’t think they grasped exactly how big they were going to be”
Tats: Any characters stand out from that shoot?
Myles: YES! One of the guys wore a hat. He found it outside the Steyne one night on his way home. He had been wearing it for about 7 years. A beautiful old leather hat. He never takes it off in public. It was a cowboy hat, we were going for a nautical look, so we asked him if he could remove his hat… He said ‘never, no way’. Then a little way in the shoot, he was smoking and relaxing and getting into it. You could see his face change, he was contemplating it. You could see him thinking, should I do it? Shouldn’t I do it… Then he took his hat off for about 6 shots and put it right back on.
Tats: Is he one of the guys that has gone up?
Baz: Yeah. The thinking behind these were that they were the crew of a ship. Which originally was a rum smuggling ship. We then came to the conclusion that there is only one guy on there that is the rum smuggler while the rest of them are just normal merchant sailor types.
Tats: Are they sailors of pirates?
Baz & Myles: SAILORS.
Baz: So we’ve got one bad bastard out of the crop.
Tats: And which one is he?
Baz: That’s for you to decide…
Tats: Have you decided?
Baz: Yeah, They’ve all got roles. There is the captain, the deckhand, the navigator, the chef, the smuggler… he’s the bad bastard. Ha! We went to this place that was ‘smugglers cove’. They used to smuggle all the rum in the wooden boats and up the rickety stairs…
Myles: But the whole crew used to be into it. Its kind of nice that there’s just one here.
Baz: Its apt for a rum bar.
Tats: Is a project like this welcomed in this area because of the creative community that’s in the Northern Beaches, or do you find it’s just happening all over?
Myles: A bit of both. I think they [The Steyne] are very open to creativity and they see the value in it and in letting people be a part of the bar, as opposed to just a customer, or a punter. But I think a lot of bars are doing it worldwide, it’s a blank canvas.
Baz: Companies want experimental design now a days. Its not about putting an ad in someone’s face. Its more about getting someone to react.
Myles: To provoke.
Baz: Here, the only way to do that was to create this overwhelming size so you feel small, rather then just a portrait on a wall.
Tats: Why did you want people to feel small?
Baz: Cause it’s all about the Spirit. The ocean is such a big thing. And this bar, with the best view in town I reckon, looking out over the ocean, we get to make a connection with it here. That was part of it, to create this ghostly effect where you feel overpowered.
Myles: It puts you in a different perspective. When you walk up to a small portrait, you’re looking at it. But when you walk in here, the art is looking at you. You’re the ghost on the ship and they are seeing you. It twists it a bit. Every time I look up there, I’m like woah, they are watching me.
Baz: That is the point of difference. It is overwhelming. Making things big…to make you feel small. Or tiny…to make you feel big. We have had many a conversation about perception…
Baz: Perception, no it’s perspective.
Baz & Myles: Ha!
Tats: So whats next for the project?
Baz: The idea is to do much smaller portraits downstairs but with volume. The Round Bar is the last bar in the Steyne that is the locals bar. You don’t want to fuck with that bar…
Myles: And they haven’t. Everything about this place has changed apart from that one bar, they’ve kept it the same.
Tat: What did you learn from the bar in doing this?
Baz: The heritage of drinking.
Baz: Manly has changed so much over the last 50 years, the drinking culture, and all the bars going in…But there is only that that bar that’s maintained.
Myles: And it just shows, even in Manly, where’s its growing up and cleaning up you can always find that. They are there on a Friday or Monday, religiously. They have their own seats… Its getting harder to find something like that. Its quite special. Quite nice to see.”
Myles: During the shoot it was hard to get them not to smile. We wanted a bit of seriousness. They were all jolly. They wanted to just have a good time. It was a good night.
Tats: Best part about the project?
Myles: It’s passion driven.
Baz: It’s great when a place says, go to town…and we come back with 81 Sqr meters of photography on their roof. Totally free reign. The beautiful part is there is not a single endorsements. It’s nice that they [The Steyne] respected that.
Myles: That is the most beautiful part.
Interview by Tatianna K Alpert
Local Focus is lovingly produced in collaboration with Little Hobo Project