My secret Melbourne: Kate Forster

What artwork has best captured your sense of the city?

I've always had something in my heart for Bruce Armstrong's work and I love the Eagle at Docklands. He also did the guardians of the National Gallery of Victoria - those huge, red gum dogs that used to sit near the water wall. At 16, I used to go to the gallery with my best friend. Armstrong's work symbolises Melbourne for me because it was my first experience of the city. The dogs were the guardians of the NGV but, in some respects, they were the guardians of me entering the city as a young adult.

Which doorway would you most like to go through?

I managed to talk my way through many doors in the city when I did my photography for VCE and my camera became my pass. There's a door on Russell Street that I'm obsessed with now. It's red and it has a very ornate carved number on it and within the carving is an owl and peacock. Underneath that there is a pair of embedded glasses in the door, like a peephole. I've taken photos of it, lurked outside it, researched it - this door never opens. The Daphne (from Scooby-Doo) inside me really wants to know what's going on.

Your favourite childhood haunt?

I loved the Fairy Tree at Fitzroy Gardens when I was little. It's a big tree with fairies carved into it. I was big into whimsy from ages seven to 13. Every Sunday we would have a family trip to the city. My parents were quite urbane and we had a lot of family history in the city. We'd have Chinese at the Rickshaw Inn or a doughnut at the Vic Market.

What place most surprised you?

I got a real surprise when I went to the Ian Potter Centre at the NGV for the first time and saw all the Australian art. I felt really proud. It was the beginning of the end of the cultural cringe for me.

What's your favourite sign?

I feel really smug when I see the hook-turn signs in the city because I know how to do them. When I learnt to drive, I had a very intense driving instructor who made me drive around the city and Carlton, even though I was living in St Kilda. They kind of don't make any sense to anyone except to Melburnians, sort of like the AFL. I know people who will do anything to avoid hook turns.

Your favourite escape?

The Mornington Peninsula because I spent the second part of my childhood there. I really love Heronswood - it's my fantasy house, view and garden. I have dreams of being the chatelaine of Heronswood but so far no luck. We had a day trip down there as a family recently and went to Sorrento and had vanilla slices, hung out at Shelley Beach, had a playlist on iTunes for the trip down.

The place that sums up your sense of Melbourne?

It's hard to choose one place but, for me, it's probably the Reading Room at the State Library. That's where I studied in year 12. Because we went to school in the city and came from different postcodes, we would meet at a general place to study - I don't know how much study we got done. I think we felt infused with knowledge, sitting in such a grand room.

When did you begin to feel like a true Melburnian?

My friend, Kyra, and I did art together at school - I did photography and she did sculpture and we went to all the art galleries together. It was 1987 and the beginning of my journey into photography. The photo is of us in the laneways around Prahran near our school discussing my photography pieces. I was very arty, already a true Melburnian, wearing only black. It was the beginning of my love affair with the arts. My daughter is in the same school and I drive past the lane now and think that's where I used to wag year 11 maths.

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