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Sydney’s ‘Wild West’ suburbs

In Sydney’s “Wild West” suburbs live immigrants from all over the world. Some escaped wars, others poverty, others repression. When George Voulgaropoulos moved to the area, he fell in love with it.

He didn’t have a goal when he began photographing the western outer edges of Australia’s largest city, and he doesn’t want the project to be political. It’s a personal story of getting to know the immigrants and learning about their cultures.

“My camera is such an excuse to experience life,” he said. “That’s why I love photography. Without my camera, I wouldn’t have a way to quench my curiosity.”

It took time for Voulgaropoulos to earn the trust of people in the communities, but as he built relationships they would invite him to cultural events. Being a local newspaper photographer provides rapport and legitimacy for his work. Looking ethnic helps, too, he added; Voulgaropoulos is of Greek descent.

In 2006, 53% of the residents of Auburn, one of the places he’s turned his camera, were from overseas.

He sees the first generation holding tightly to traditions as their children dress more Western and drift from their parents’ culture.

Voulgaropoulos can relate; his parents wanted him to maintain their heritage and sent him to a Greek school as a child to learn the language and customs. He didn’t see the need for it until he visited the country and was able to communicate with locals.

Even with the evolving way of life, places like shops feel like they’re located in another country, he said.

“It’s like traveling to the Middle East without having to buy a plane ticket,” he said.

Voulgaropoulos is drawn to the immigrants and feels that he can relate particularly well to the Arabs’ culture. Their food, words and values are similar to the ones he grew up with.

He wants to show the other side of cultures objectively because media attention tends to center on violent crime, he said. He includes portraiture so people can see the subjects eye-to-eye.

He hopes his imagery inspires compassion for the communities.

- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN

Related: New passion, same desire: Changing life for Aboriginal Australians