CRA I G W E TJE N
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Photographs and text ÂŠ Craig Wetjen, 2016 Foreword ÂŠ Jeff Kennett, 2016 All rights reserved. Echo Publishing thank you for buying an authorised edition of this book. In doing so, you are supporting writers and enabling Echo Publishing to publish more books and foster new talent. Thank you for complying with copyright laws by not using any part of this book without our prior written permission, including reproducing, storing in a retrieval system, transmitting in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning or distributing.
Foreword by Jeff Kennett
Foreword by Barry Golding
First published 2016
Printed in China
Cover and internal design by Philip Campbell Design
National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry Creator: Wetjen, Craig, author, photographer. Title: Men and their sheds / author, photographer Craig Wetjen; foreword by Jeff Kennett. ISBN: 9781760403034 (hardback) Subjects: Men. Men--Pictorial works. Human behaviour. Other Creators/Contributors: Kennett, Jeff, writer of foreword. Dewey Number: 305.31 Twitter/Instagram: @echo_publishing Facebook: facebook.com/echopublishingAU
FOREWORD I write this foreword to salute the thousands of men around Australia – and overseas – who have contributed to the establishment of almost one thousand Men’s Sheds in Australia.
Turn to page 76 to see Jeff ’s shed.
To the many thousand more who make up the memberships of Men’s Sheds Association – and in doing so have given men of all ages a place to congregate. A place where they can be active, useful and support each other. The men’s health movement has exploded on to the Australian landscape and Men’s Sheds are a major contributor to that awakening. A place to gather, to share stories, to work on projects, support each other, making a great contribution to the mental well-being of those who attend. This publication of Men and Their Sheds by Craig Wetjen celebrates some of these sheds and people. It represents the tip of the iceberg of the very good work associated with Men’s Sheds. Craig has dedicated much time and energy to the photography and production of this work of art. We are all indebted to him as we continue to work towards eliminating isolation, loneliness and depressive illness that is so rampant throughout our society – particularly among men. Hon. Jeff Kennett AC Founding Chairman Beyond Blue 6
FOREWORD I am delighted to see this important book in print. As an academic who works mainly with evidence and words, I admire Craig Wetjen’s wonderful knack of capturing the essential essence of both the shed and the man in a beautiful photographic image. The images combine perfectly with the sparse words to tell the fascinating back story of each man and his shed. Men and Their Sheds illustrates the diversity of the backyard shed and the equally diverse reasons why they are important to so many men. Craig’s book is a timely, accessible and unique addition to this now international field, two decades after Mark Thomson published Blokes and Sheds in 1995, just as the first community sheds were starting up. While undertaking research for my book I became aware of the important role images have played in shaping the Men’s Shed Movement. I anticipate that Craig’s book will inspire others within and beyond Australia to acknowledge the importance and potential of both the personal Men’s Shed and the rapidly expanding Men’s Shed Movement. Adjunct Professor Barry Golding, Federation University Australia Author of The Men’s Shed Movement: The Company of Men, the definitive story of the birth, development and international spread of the community Men’s Shed
INTRODUCTION The ‘Men and Their Sheds’ photographic project started when my wife Jo asked me to take a photo of her dad Gordon in his shed. She has grown up with the country shed culture and if there was ever the perfect location for a portrait of Gordon, the shed was going to be it. His shed defines him in many ways. It is the one place he loves to relax and just potter. There is no pressure of time, conversation is easy, and the stories that are shared are wonderful. I was so happy with the image that I began to think how great it would be to photograph other blokes in their sheds. I put the word out for men who might be interested. No obligation. No charge. Just their time. I was excited to own every part of crafting the images – from who to photograph and where, lighting and image selection, right down to the tiny detailed decisions made in the post production of each image. This process took me back to the grassroots of what makes a great photograph – the whole reason why I took up photography in the first place. It’s having a vision, a feeling of getting lost in your own world of creating imagery.
I ended up travelling thousands of kilometres to photograph men and their sheds. On average, I spent one to two hours getting to know each gentleman before the camera gear was even taken out of the car. In their shed we would chat over cups of tea and coffee with cookies and cakes. It was through this basic human interaction of conversation, and showing genuine interest in their lives and their sheds, that enabled the fellas to feel comfortable enough in front of my camera. I was connecting with these men. I soon realised that I was much more than a photographer. I was a sounding board. A confidant. Soon enough I found that this project was connecting the men, their sheds, my art and me. I recognised it was helping me with my own problems, as well as helping others and bringing more awareness to the men about their mental and physical health. The idea of this project was to showcase the very private relationship between a man and his shed. Generally speaking a shed is a structure with a roof on top that is used as storage space or a workshop. What I discovered was far more unique. The type of sheds the
I’m a firm believer that you need to understand someone before you can take an authentic portrait of them. Showing genuine interest in them is the cornerstone to all portraiture and people photography. I approach each and every photograph with the sole purpose of ensuring the subject is comfortable in front of the camera. 10
It is through my own experiences of mental and physical health concerns that I feel it important to help other men realise that help, if needed, is only a phone call away. men own are diverse. This diversity happens because it really is the owner who defines the shed’s true sense and purpose. And because no two people are alike, I found that no two sheds were alike. Among the discord of chaos – the expanse of screws, nuts, bolts and other miscellaneous things – the men found order. One of the most unique items I spotted were parts from a 1960s aluminium lawn chair, which was used as a gutter cleaning scoop. I saw woodcarvings from scrap timber used to make rocking horses. Some of the sheds are museum pieces in their own right. And the cars! From 1965 Buicks, 1955 Chevys and 1928 Model A Fords, as well as Volkswagen drag cars and the ultimate sign and petrol pump collections. Sharing the passion of my craft with the passion the men have for their craft – tinkering, inventing, building and re-purposing in the shed – I have been able to highlight the positive effects a shed or man cave can have on a man’s health and life. I had no idea where this project would end up. I could not have comprehended the depth of conversations I would have with each person and the friendships I would make. That has been such a gift.
A significant percentage of royalties from this book will be donated to the Australian Men’s Shed Association. The concept of the communal shed plays a significant role in Australia, where there are almost one thousand Men’s Sheds, as well as internationally, particularly in Ireland and New Zealand. These sheds reach out to those men who may or may not have their own shed, offering a place for men to work with other men, picking up new skills, learning about themselves and others and, most importantly, connecting men with others in their community. Community involvement gives these men the opportunity to be a part of something meaningful and make a positive contribution while providing a safe, friendly and inclusive environment to gather and work. In my travels for this project I visited 102 men in their own personal sheds, several who were also involved with the Men’s Sheds.
This project also acts as a method of therapeutic health for me. Through the use of photography I was able to provide a visual narrative into my life, the life of my project and the life of a man’s shed.
ROSS WATSON My shed is a place where I can go to find some solitude, to think and plan my projects. It is where I am the master of my own space. My hobbies are working on vintage stationary engines and, more recently, restoring a classic muscle car. I can do just about all I need to do in my shed, from fabricating trolleys for my engines to full-blown restorations including spray painting. It’s a place where I know if I have put something down, like a tool, I can always find it. A couple of years ago I had an accident in my shed and sustained severe burns to my legs. While in hospital I thought long and hard about how we become complacent and take things for granted. It took a little time after the accident to get back into my shed. But the healing has now been done and I am back doing what I love, tinkering in my shed. So a lesson learned. I am now a little older and wiser, and try and be a little safer. I don’t know what I would do without my space. After a day’s work, it is my place to go to relax in my own way
I can do just about all I need to do in my shed, from fabricating trolleys for my engines to full-blown restorations including spray painting.
PAUL DAVIS I was 70 years old. I had spent 46 years of my life working in the building industry. Sure, I was still in good shape. I had done a lot of other different things and experienced a lot of life. I had even played the drums in different rock bands for around 20 years. Even so, I decided it was time to down the tools and put my feet up. But I found retirement to be a crashing bore. I needed something to do. So I decided to build an old style biplane, loosely based on a Tiger Moth, for my grandson. It turned out a little more interesting to build than I first thought. He thought it was great. I decided to build another one for myself. A friend saw it and asked if he could buy it for his den. This got me thinking some more. I cleaned out the storage shed. It was housing all sorts of assorted junk that I couldn’t bear to throw away. It was time to clear the way. I got rid of anything I didn’t think I would use in the next year. And although it felt quite ruthless at the time, this purging enabled me to transform the space into my very own man shed and workshop. Then the fun really began. I worked out a pattern for an old-style three-piece train and built it. This was followed by a T-model truck. I started selling them through craft markets around Melbourne, and have since added to my range. A sports car based on an MG TF model. A tractor, army tank, fire engine, ambulance and police van. All built in old style. Recently I added an articulated truck to the fleet.
out of one type of vehicle at the market, I can make a new one rather quickly. I’ll certainly never become rich through the sales, even though they do sell well. But that’s not why I do it. I love making the toys. It certainly fills my day with a huge amount of personal enjoyment and satisfaction. My market stall is popular with children. I love seeing their eyes light up when they notice my modest little line. It’s also nice to hear great comments from the parents and other market-goers. I love my life. Every day is a bonus and I try to enjoy and be thankful for each day. My body will eventually tell me when to stop, but I hope that’s many years away. At least I know that with my toys I’ll be leaving my footprint behind.
I’ll certainly never become rich through the sales, even though they do sell well. But that’s not why I do it. I love making the toys. It certainly fills my day with a huge amount of personal enjoyment and satisfaction.
Wherever I go I find scrap metal I can use to build the toys. Having a stockpile of parts is important. If I sell 14
ADRIAN AND LIAM FORD Adrian: I’ve always liked working with my hands and have worked as a fabricator of stainless steel and aluminium equipment for 28 years. As a child I loved playing with cars and as I got older this progressed to woodworking, building and metal fabrication. I even built my own house. I love working with my son Liam and racing his gokarts. I also manufacture any parts needed for the karts. You’ve got to have fun and this is my fun. It gives me an outlet and time with my son. Liam: I love being in the shed working on my gokarts. It gives me time with my dad. I enjoy the connection we have and travelling around Australia’s east coast from race to race.
As a child I loved playing with cars and as I got older this progressed to woodworking, building and metal fabrication. I even built my own house.
BARRY WARD I love going to my shed in Newtown. I go there at least six days a week. I bought some cars to help occupy my time when I retired. Most days someone pops in for a chat and coffee. The comradeship is great. I am very lucky that so many friends come in. Bill (see p. 20-21) comes in most days and helps work on my cars. Alan (see p. 22-23) is in Tuesdays and Fridays to work on his car and has helped me many times with panel beating and paint jobs. Friday is our big day when sometimes up to 10 men come in. We often have lunch in the shed and we solve the problems of the world. It is a shed where we can relax and talk and have a laugh.
Friday is our big day when sometimes up to 10 men come in. We often have lunch in the shed and we solve the problems of the world.
BILL EVANS After I retired from my own business in Brighton, I moved down to Hordern Vale in the Otways. I found life very relaxing and was kept busy with all the locals who brought their variety of vehicles to me to be serviced or fixed. After a few years there, I decided l had enough so I sold my property and moved to Leopold, only to be told I had lung cancer. Threeand-a-half years ago I had one lung totally removed. It hasn’t stopped me doing things, even though I do find some things quite difficult at times. I’m just a lot slower than I was. I caught up with my old friend Barry (see p. 18-20), who invited me to his Men’s Shed. Well, what can I say? I go there most days and we all have a good laugh. We all help each other in some way. I can work at my own pace or not at all. After all these years I still like playing with motor cars. I have travelled all over the world racing in some form or another, so cars are in my blood and always will be. Thank you Barry for inviting me to the Men’s Shed. Thank you also to Alan (see p. 22-23) and everyone else for being part of my retirement. (Wild) Bill Evans
After all these years I still like playing with motor cars. I have travelled all over the world racing in some form or another, so cars are in my blood and always will be.