Mirror Sydney

Vanessa Berry



‘These places were like resistors on a circuit board. My thoughts stuck to them. They had auras: each gave me a strong feeling that there was, embedded amid the everyday, an order of unpredictable things.’

In her delicately wrought essays and hand-drawn maps, Vanessa Berry describes her encounters with unusual, forgotten or abandoned places in the city in which she was born and raised, using their details to open up repositories of significance, and to create an alternative city, a Mirror Sydney, illuminated by memory and imagination. She writes at a time when Sydney is being disassembled and rebuilt at an alarming rate. Her determined observation of the over-looked and the odd, the hidden and the enigmatic – precisely those details whose existence is most threatened by development – is an act of preservation in its own right, a testament to what she calls ‘the radical potential of taking notice’.

Berry’s work combines a low-fi DIY approach with an awareness of the tradition of philosophical urban investigation. Her unique style of map illustration was developed through the making of zines and artworks, collaging detailed line drawings with text from typewriters and Letraset.

‘Conjuring up a shadow city of forgotten fantasies and dreams, Mirror Sydney offers similar pleasures to David Ulin’s walker’s Los Angeles or Iain Sinclair’s dispatches from a rapidly changing London. I found my heart jumping with joy as it brought parts of my lost city back to life.’ Delia Falconer

Paperback with flaps / illustrations and maps

High-res cover image

ISBN : 978-1-925336-25-2
Epdf ISBN : 978-1-925336-27-6
Epub ISBN : 978-1-925336-26-9
pp : 320
Published : October 2017
Categories: ,

About the Author

Vanessa Berry is a Sydney writer and artist who works with history, memory and archives. She is the author of the memoir Ninety9 (Giramondo 2013), the 'autobiographical almanac' Strawberry Hills Forever (Local Consumption 2007) and Mirror Sydney (Giramondo 2017), an essayistic atlas exploring the city’s marginal places and undercurrents, and which won the 2018 Mascara Review's Avant-garde Award for nonfiction, and was longlisted for the 2018 ABIAs and Waverly NIB Award. Her zines and hand-drawn maps have been exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Art, the National Gallery of Australia and the Museum of Sydney. Her longest-running zine, I Am a Camera, was first issued in 1999. Mirror Sydney, which grew out of a blog of the same name she began in 2012, was launched as a podcast in 2020 hosted by Berry.


Winner, Mascara Avant-garde Award for Non-Fiction 2018
Longlisted, Waverly NIB Awards 2018
Longlisted, ABIA Small Publisher’s Adult Book of the Year 2018


The Australian: review by Louis Nowra
Books and Publishing
The Lifted Brow: a review in hypertext
2SER: Tuesday Book Club
Overland review
The Saturday Paper: Best Books of 2017
Sydney Review of Books
Plumwood Mountain
Coburg Review of Books

Interviews and articles

Mirror Sydney: Artist Finds Beauty in City’s Overlooked Landmarks (ABC Arts)
Vanessa Berry on ABC Radio National’s Blueprint for Living
Counter Narratives: Vanessa Berry on ‘Mirror Sydney’ (Books and Publishing)
Vanessa Berry discusses Mirror Sydney’s cover images
Neighbourhood: video interview
Neighbourhood Paper: interview
The Guardian: Vanessa Berry on Mirror Sydney and the books she’s reading
NSW Writers’ Centre: interview about capturing sense of place in writing
ABC: ‘Forget nostalgia, these analog artists are looking to the future’
SMH: ‘Delving into Sydney’s forgotten gems: Five secret histories in the city’s suburbs’
Interview on Eastside FM