Kate Berry is a Wonder Woman.
Photographer, designer and founder of Lunch Lady Blog and Magazine, Kate Berry documents her family's life in Daylesford and on the road through a raw, sun kissed lens that catches the beauty in the daily rituals we repeat too often to appreciate.
Sun spills across the crumb-ridden kitchen table or creeps into forgotten corners of the house in photographs that remind us of the ephemeral moments we overlook every day. Leaving her post as Lunch Lady's Editor in June this year, Kate's focus has turned to the dated, 'crappy' motels encountered on the road. Dripping with nostalgia and shabby charm, Kate took our Saturn Returns in Tomato and Dharma Elevated in Gold on her recent visit to the Wimmera. We also took a moment to speak with her about the story behind Lunch Lady, her love of the roadside pitstop and life in Daylesford.
Words by Alex Birch, Images by Kate Berry
Lunch Lady was a phenomenal concept that’s revealed a significant space in Australia’s independent publishing industry. Can you give us a little insight into the story that brought the blog and print magazine to life?
Yes! Lunch Lady definitely filled a gaping hole that I am so surprised wasn’t being filled. No parent likes being told they’re doing it wrong or feeling inadequate. So, Lunch Lady is a magazine for parents, rather than a parenting magazine. It’s also just a bit of fun, life is way too serious most of the time.
The blog started way back in 2013 when my, then 9 year old (now a teenager!!), was being bullied for the lunches I sent her to school with. They weren’t anything crazy, just simple homemade food. But it was different enough for her to stand out. I asked her if she wanted me to make lunches more like the other kids, but she actually thought they were the ones missing out and was a little insulted by my offer.
We approached the school and asked if perhaps we could teach kids how to make healthy snacks. But they weren’t interested so instead we started the Lunch Lady blog. We were pretty surprised by how successful it was. Maya was buzzing.
A couple of years later I was approached by Louise Bannister and Lara Burke, of We Print Nice Things and co-founders of Frankie magazine, asking if I’d considered turning the blog into a mag. And it just so happens that I had.
I spent two years working as the editor of Lunch Lady, but the commitment took me away from my family, and my work life balance was so heavily weighted in the wrong side. I decided to hand over the reigns to Lou and Lara. I’m really excited to see issue 9, the first since I left.
Featuring Dharma Elevated in Gold
We’re really excited about this photo series, shot in some of your favourite crappy motels. What is it about these roadside beds that you find so attractive? Can you talk us through your favourite images?
It’s funny how obsessed I’ve become with them. But they have such a sense of nostalgia, it’s the closest I can get to stepping into a time machine.
I’m so fascinated by these places though. Who chooses to run them? What kind of people are they? Soon I’ll start getting a reputation as the guest who asks too many questions.
The places I find most interesting are the motels in towns that were obviously once thriving, but are now shells of their former glorious self. But the motel still ticks along.
I do have one stand out motel that’s my all time fave, it’s the Auto Cabins in Gundagai (the whole town is incredible). It’s run by a lady called Margie, who I’m guessing is in her 70s. We’ve stayed there a few times on our drives to Sydney, she’s as much of a gem as the totally untouched motel. It looks just as it did in the 1950s (a little shabbier) but it’s freaking awesome. She is still baffle by my absolute love affair with her motel. The first time I met her she thought I was taking the Mickey.
We visited the Wimmera on the weekend, which has now become my new fascination. It’s a place that’s full of ghost towns and some pretty ace motels. The one with the empty pool and palms was in Dimboola. This motel also scored bonus points for having the breakfast tray doors still in tact.
I spent a lot of time travelling around these motels as a kid and there was nothing more exciting than hearing that little breakfast door open and hear your soggy toast and cold baked beans slide on in.
Featuring Saturn Returns in Tomato
Describe your home in Daylesford. How does the area inspire you? Do you have any daily rituals or practices that you follow?
I really do love the area we live. The connectedness of the community is what buoys my life.
Going to the market on a Sunday takes way longer than it should because you run into neighbours, your kid’s friends and people you know you know but you can’t remember how. I love it.
I am constantly in awe of the generosity of our town. Without the help of our community, I wouldn’t be able to get to work each day. Being around good people pushes me to be a good person too. I mean, who wants to be the town asshole?
My current daily ritual is getting up at 4:45am for a run. It’s insane, I know. Who knows how long this ritual will actually last?
We love the daily photo journal you’ve developed on Instagram; beautifully composed, magically lit windows into your day-to-day. Can you share any of your tricks for capturing such striking vignettes?
Thank you, that’s so nice! I LOVE that the most uninteresting object or scene can turn into an absolute cracker just by being hit with light at a certain angle. It’s unreal. I’ve got most of the house hooked on finding pretty light now.
Having recently parted ways with Lunch Lady magazine, we’re really looking forward to seeing what’s next for Kate Berry. Can you give us any insight into future projects?
My love affair with motels will definitely be at the centre of my next project. I plan to make a big dint into an idea I have over the summer holidays and plan to pitch it to any interested people in the new year. It’ll be a ripper!
What are three things you always say ‘yes’ to?