How the Hills Hoist became an Aussie icon

A childhood memory inspired a decades-long obsession for Western Australian photographer Frances Andrijich.

Suburban swingset - Adam and Elliot Sollis in their backyard with Baxter the dog.
  • Krysia Bonkowski
  • February 2018

For Frances Andrijich, the image of her aunts and grandmother hanging laundry on the Hills Hoist defined childhood summers in Perth. Recreating the scene for an assignment, with a relative in a bra and petticoat pegging up unmentionables, sparked a photographic collection that culminated over 20 years later in Consider the Clothesline, Frances’ ode to an unexpected icon.

The silhouette of the Hills Hoist is ingrained in Australia’s collective subconscious as a symbol of suburban life. “The Hills Hoist became a signature for Australia, both the environment and the invention,” Frances says. “But people were just as quirky with their homemade ones."

The joys of air-dried laundry are taken for granted in a country with ample sun and space, so her collection evolved to take in clotheslines of all shapes. “They were always reflective of the people who were a bit quirky,” Frances says. “It became this telltale sign of people’s personalities.”

Once a common sight around Australia, the clothesline is a casualty of urban density. Many of Frances’ most picturesque lines were spied in rural areas, where “time just seems to move more slowly” (Margaret River she describes as “an amazingly rich place full of clotheslines”).

Frances’ collection grew thanks to chance encounters. “A lot of the time I was sent to places to photograph people, so I’d photograph them then check out their clothesline,” she says. Soon, friends were calling her to report great lines.

People were, if not a little bemused, very open to letting Frances into their homes and yards. “If you are passionate about anything, people get really excited with you. If you let them be who they are, they take such a pride in that because you are taking an interest in what they’re about.”

After the book launch, Frances received a flood of emails from strangers. “They wanted to express their story and nostalgia about their clotheslines... and what it always meant to them,” she says.

“I guess this book is a slice of Australian culture.”

About the photographer: Perth-based photographer Frances Andrijich has an eye for the human element and unexpected humour of a scene. Over the course of a busy career, she has regularly shot for top publications and published 11 books. Consider the Clothesline is out now with Echo Publishing, RRP AUD $24.95.

More photographs from the series

Sunset at the Naval Base Shacks
Margaret River chooks next to a bath tub