Congratulations to Janie Barrett, winner of the 2021 Australian Photography Awards Documentary Category.
When we think of documentary photography we often conjure up imagery of high tension and drama. Janie’s image reminds us that importance can also be found within the quieter moments, the scenes less celebrated. As we move throughout the photograph we recognise a testament to contemporary Australia, all contained within a single frame. Each interaction between the individuals provides us another layer and story. The plethora of expression and gesture leaves us with a sense of joy, a breath of fresh air amidst two long years of tribulation.
As organisers, we feel that images like this can often be overlooked. The candid and restrained way that Janie has approached making this photograph brings us into the picture authentically. Our 2021 committee felt there was a genuine and non-exploitative approach to Janie’s photograph which deserves to be recognised. It’s a photograph which promotes connection on many levels and leaves us with a sense of optimism.
We would also like to congratulate Katelyn Slyer and Mia Forrest, recipients of Second and Third place respectively, as well as the other 20 finalists in this year’s Documentary category.
Finally, our deepest gratitude to Nikon Australia, Momento Pro, Urth and Format Framing for supporting the Documentary category in 2021. It is through these organisation’s generous support that we are able to continue highlighting the most exciting Australian photography year after year.
Saying goodbye to GiGi | Matriarch of the family. At 92 years young, this woman had style and a smile that lit up a room. Sent home from palliative care. Surrounded by four generations of loved ones, GiGi says her final goodbyes as her grandsons sit tentatively by her side.
AFTERNOON RITUAL | These are my children in the bath at home; water is scarce, the days are long, patience is thin, so I hide next to the toilet and watch the chaos unfold, as the little water that we have, drizzles away; which is worth the entertainment as we can't leave the home due to COVID restrictions.
Taking stock | On February 1st a bushfire moved North-West and surrounded the home my parents built. Mum takes a box through our burnt out house, trying to save any relic of our past. The box remains quite empty.
Free | It’s been two years since I took this image of my dad swimming. He has Parkinson’s Disease and swimming was the only thing that kept him moving before Covid forced the world into lockdown. The pool was a place where he felt able bodied again - free from the constrains of Parkinsons, which has robbed him of his mobility.
4:31pm On February 1st a bushfire moved North-West towards the home my parents had built. Dad races forward to protect us, to protect the house with his steady jet of water. To protect us against the wall of flames heading toward us. Hundreds of embers fly over the trees, jumping up and over, leaping forward starting fires everywhere they touch. I don’t have my hat I realise, as small spots of burning debris rain down around us, melting my hair into small clumps as they hit. I take a photo and run back inside to shelter from the fire.
Strawberry Eye | What do we do now, it has been 250 days of lockdown in Melbourne. Eat strawberries. Everything is boring he says. My son Kai feeling frustrated with remote learning. Lying on the verandah he plays with strawberries, wondering if he will see his classroom soon.
Spotted harrier or smoke hawk caught up in a fence | This bird perished in the fencing of a dairy farm. Besides being one of the major causes for global warming, animal agriculture causes a myriad of issues which all lead to biodiversity loss. Mismanaged land, soil depletion and fencing increase migration and habitat issues for wildlife. Such transformations can eliminate 30-90% of biodiversity, depending on the local ecosystem and intensity of destruction. Rivers and lakes are sucked dry of water for farm animals and fertilizer runoff poisons groundwater. Humanity has wiped out 68% of animal populations since the 1970s.
Increasing temperatures and long-term social containment, the obvious and immediate childhood effect is palpable. Hesitant and anxious, back in the wild it takes time to re-adjust. Reluctantly prying fingers from small screens, to reclaim what is rightfully theirs — a childhood of nature exploration, wildness, and the simple joy of being outside. From the ongoing series 'Rewilding'.
Migrant Workers | Migrant workers stop for breakfast after working overnight replacing the board walk at Marina Bay in Singapore. Work done at night to minimise the inconvenience to pedestrian traffic during the day. Migrant workers from nearby countries like Bangladesh and China make up most of the labour force in Singapore. Most are housed in dormitories tucked away from the rest of society.
Tick Everett Tick Everett, rests the hat of 13 year old daughter Dolly who succumbed to death by suicide after enduring months of bullying at boarding school and online, pictured at home on his family property outside Katherine in the Northern Territory.
Breastfeeding is monotonous, exhausting and time-consuming. At the time I shot this, my daughter Florence was nine weeks old and motherhood was all-consuming. This photo is a reflection of baby Florence through the passenger side sun-visor mirror whilst on a weekend getaway to Litchfield National Park, located just outside of Darwin. While my partner and our son were off chasing waterfalls, Florence’s view was of an engorged boob, and mine was this empty car park. The image reflects the isolation and boredom of waiting for the new-born feeding frenzy to end.
Feeling Alive | This image is part of a series exploring identity, memory, what is real and what we want to be real. My son Beau playing in our front yard in the middle of Winter 2021, during our sixth lockdown in Melbourne. It is 7 degrees and he has been our there for half an hour, he tells me he just wants to feel alive.
Avocado Farmer and Foster mother Donna Duncan reflects on the 20th anniversary of the Childers Backpackers Fire which claimed 15 lives from her lounge room. Donna took in the survivors of the Childers Backpackers fire and hid them from the media as well as feeding and providing a place to sleep for weeks while they dealt with the trauma and fallout of the deliberately lit blaze. She still gets chills when she hears helicopters and sirens and suffers ongoing PTSD.
My son Frankie swims in our pool. Him being out-of-depth in the water was an apt metaphor for how I was feeling at the time having birthed his little sister a few month earlier. He was learning to keep his head above water unassisted, just as I was in motherhood, adjusting to caring for two children. The water is dark and unpredictable, the diagonal line of the water’s surface and the dark negative spaces of the pool walls reflect Frankie’s own uncertainty. His headless body and the space around it has me asking if the kid is OK.
The Lone Fisherman | All of Harry's fishing buddies have passed away over the years, now his weekly fishing excursions are strictly solo trips.
A Good Drying Day | My grandfather’s picture of his sectional pole invention. Designed for telephone poles but used on farms to support tanks and make clothes lines and swings as a bonus.
The Grill | The beach was inviting but the water was cool. Cool enough to steal your breath and sting your skin just a little. Covered in salt and sand, the kids raced back from a morning swim and found a warm spot on the back stairs. As the warmth soaks through their towels, I’m reminded of one of my favourite childhood poolside, beachside, riverside rituals. Do you recall it? The feeling of pressing one’s wet, shivering body against a radiating warm surface. Pure bliss.
In alphabetical order
Trucking Cattle Outback Queensland | When Mother Nature doesn’t provide the Rangelands of Central Australia its normal, infrequent rain, we must manage the soil of the Channel Country by removing stock from it. The cattle were mustered, put in the now empty yard, and then loaded on the “triple” roadtrains pulled by 600 horsepowered trucks. These cattle were sold to where there is enough grass to sustain them. We will restock these paddocks when the rains come, one year, and the grasses seed and the herbage is lush. Allowing the soil to revive.
Babushka | This image was part of a series i was working on studying at psc, on my grandma's life during covid lockdowns as she is dealing with diabetes, vertigo & arthritis, and also taking care of her husband who has stage 4 cancer. with this series i looked into how these dark lockdowns compare to the many things she lived through growing up in soviet Ukraine i.e. Chernobyl, ww2, The Terror Famine Holodomor, and much much more.
A photo documentation series of my time throughout self isolation. Finding the light in what felt like a dark time across the globe. Some days spent sun bathing on the balcony and really taking the time to enjoy the sunshine all day, reading books that sit dusty on my shelf and feeding my brain with podcast episodes from a large list. Other days spent looking after my plant babies, frequently napping and spending too much time scrolling tiktok for the next trend.
Essential Exercise, Garage Trampoline | This image is from a series I photographed during the 6 Melbourne lockdowns called 'Portal'. The playgrounds are closed, many people in my area of Melbourne live in apartments and have no backyard for play. Here, a trampoline has been set up between the front of a town house and the street, a busy, public space for automobiles and never intended for play equipment.
Silent Swing | This image is from a series I photographed during the 6 Melbourne lockdowns called 'Portal'. The photo is my local park, Alma Park, early in the morning on the first day Victoria sadly closed playgrounds.
The Yarrick Family Of Kunhanhaa | Mornington Island - also known as Kunhanhaa - is an indigenous community in the Gulf of Carpentaria in remote northern Australia. Many of the approximately 1000 Lardil, Kaiadilt and Yangkaal residents on the island live in sub-standard vastly overcrowded houses. Frequently over 20 people will live in a single 2 bedroom home leading to social and psychological problems. In this image Mother Shaylene Yarrick beds down five of the children that sleep in the lounge of her 2 bedroom Mornington Island house that regularly sleeps more than 20 of her extended family members.
Tears For George Floyd - 8 Minutes and 46 Seconds | Hermela Bealfan sheds tears as she lies prostrate on the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds - the time it took for Police Officer Derek Chauvin to kill black man George Floyd by kneeling on his neck. Hermela - a US citizen - was attending the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Indigenous Deaths in Custody’ protest in Cairns. Floyds death at the hands of the Minneapolis police officer sparked massive demonstrations World wide.
Winter Bonfires, Lake Jindabyne, NSW | This image is part of an ongoing, long-term series concerning the Snowy Hydro Scheme and the broader Snowy Mountains region in NSW. The series is primarily an exploration of the balance between nature and our intervention upon it - vast structures amongst epic landscapes, re-shaped waterways, and newly created ones - but it’s also an exploration of various aspects of life in the region. Here, several bonfires burn on cleared farmland outside Jindabyne. Notably, this was just a few months before parts of the Snowy Mountains were devastated during the 2019/20 Black Summer bushfires.
Last Farewell | The husband of a good friend of mine was dying of cancer. His best friend dying of Parkinsons was visiting him in hospital. We dediced to give them precious one on one time together. When we returned both men were asleep holding hands. To me the photo is very sad but also beautiful memory of how to say farewell to a dear friend.
Howard Springs, a place burnt into my memory for a lifetime. Our home for 14 long days and nights. Many Australians’ trying to return to Australia have to overcome a logistical nightmare, then we undergo two weeks of torture, to be a little dramatic. The accommodation was an individual cabin with basic amenities. I wouldn’t wish the quarantine experience on any parent or child. Doing it with a toddler was a blessing and a curse. I didn’t get bored like many others. But it was also non-stop hard work keeping her entertained and stimulated in such small quarters.
Lee and Nat (Natalie) Guest fighting back tears, stand in the ruins of their home in Kalorama on June 20, 2021, Melbourne, Australia. The Kalorama couple and their 13-year-old daughter were among those who bore the brunt of the storms. A combination of the winds and the earth, soft from rain, brought down tall trees, which missed many homes but took out others. The Guests had four big ones fall on their house, as well as on the van that Nat, who runs a curtains and blinds business, works from.
Every week, warriors from every corner of the Kingdom of Thailand come to Bangkok to fight for the prestige of holding the title of “Muay Thai Champion of Rajadamnern”. This warrior’s dream is on hold, for the moment, as he is stretchered to the medical room after a brutal knockout inside the ring.
The fires that burn | even at the beach there was no respite from the bush fires. Manly NSW
A protester is covered by Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) foam as he gets arrested after a confrontation with members of Victoria Police on September 18, 2021, in Melbourne, Australia. Anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine mandate protesters descended through the streets of Richmond, causing violent clashes with the police which ended in 235 arrests and ten police officers injured. At the time, Metropolitan Melbourne was subject to lockdown restrictions as health authorities tried to contain the spread of the highly contagious Delta COVID-19 variant, large outdoor gatherings were prohibited.
Gloria Salgado Gispert
It's been a beautiful summer | I photograph those things that happen everyday, ordinary frames that I would like to store in a box below my bed for my grandchildren to find one day. I want them to be able to enter those moments when I was there and feel my emotions and the essence of the time I was living. I want them to realize that ordinary life is not ordinary, it is extraordinary. Summer 2021, fragments of life and light, simple everyday scenes that happen all the time around us. That’s the beauty of it, that they are so simple.
Justine Brown at the Invasion Day protest, Parliament House Canberra, 26th January 2021.
Plastic Crown of Thorns | Despite WIRES and SES volunteers’ tremendous effort in their attempts to rescue it, the Australasian Grebe lost its life within a week since my notice and report of its condition (plastic net tangling around its neck and in its beak) to WIRES. The net around its neck got tangled in the reeds, likely resulting in immobilising the grebe and subsequently causing its death. Wildlife are extremely resilient yet fragile, and we, humans, seem to have sometimes made life even more difficult for them. I feel truly sorry and responsible for the pain the grebe suffered.
The PM Departs | This image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison departing a press conference swiftly, came at a time when he had been keeping a relatively low profile, while the NSW Premier fronted the media daily. The NSW Covid-19 outbreak drew focus to the lack of vaccination access in Australia, compared with other developed nations, and the Federal Government was facing mounting criticism. Knowing this, meant I was looking for the photo which would capture this perfectly.The image resonated with people and was shared widely on different platforms, and was used by well known political commentators and other publications.
Day 107 | From July to October 2021, Sydney has been in Covid lockdown. My son Mackenzie on day 107 and a week later back on the road. I wanted to document that last day and, just as significantly, the positive that is the beginning of some form of normality.
Commemoration | One of the first things I noticed when capturing this image, was the beautiful textures and subtle colours of the landscape. On closer inspection you can see two recent additions to the graveyard. Having grown up in the outback, for me this optimises the Australian bush, a beauty and peacefulness which contrast with loss and harshness.
Dead joey | I found this joey on a dirt track in the outback. According to an indigenous wildlife protector, this joey was bashed to death by a kangaroo shooter. The government's quota for the commercial slaughter industry is about 1.6 million adult animals per year. Joeys, who are killed by blunt force, decapitated, or left to die alone, are not included in that number, but it's estimated that 500,000-800,000 are killed within the industry only. The "private" shootings equal or are even greater than the industry's quotas. Currently, the killing rates put kangaroos on a path to extinction.
Being born and raised in a village on a small island in Greece gave me certain experiences that shaped my childhood. Migrating to Australia in 2012 when I was eighteen years old shook me and my understanding of everything but most importantly the understanding of what is home. In this project I am looking into how I can use memories from my childhood and adulthood in a way to connect the two different Me’s. The Me growing up in Greece and the Me becoming an adult in Australia, through my relationship with the people that link those two worlds.
Till we meet again | I had thought about what this moment would be like for a very long time. I wondered how it would feel, what it would look like and the words that would be said. It had been a long journey caring for my mother. It seemed like an eternity and an instant and all was left was goodbye.
Old Havana, Cuba | Restaurant linen hanging out to dry. Modern day Cuba living in the 19th century. Photographed with a 4x5 Chamonix film camera and tripod.
I'm just a suburban fashionista | Michelle, a 63-year-old fashion influencer stands shyly with one of her many creations; she is almost lost amongst her eclectic collection. Usually never photographed without sunglasses or a backdrop, this portrait captures a moment in which she is still, vulnerable, and allowing us to peer into her inner world.
Peepshow | a fine art documentary project photographed during Melbourne restrictions ( when permitted). Captured through the windows and door left ajar, the viewer is forced into the role of the voyeur, the 'peeping tom' subverted. The subject displaying in a moment of exhibitionism and frustration the impact of lockdowns on someone living alone, a moment of sexual or sensual expression.
Our Sunburnt Country | Australia is well known for being hot and dry. My mums lived in Deniliquin which is flat and in summer very dry, hot and dusty. This particular day was a scorcher. Our weather patterns are changing and these parts of the country are getting hotter and drier with droughts lasting longer. It has been known to hit 50Deg there in recent times.
Bin Chickens | Just you average day at the tip, the 65% of rubbish that does not make it to being upcycled. Yet the Ibis have managed to find their way to survive amongst the human waste. Nature always finds a way..
Manohar Singh Sidhu Surinder Singh
The Newbury Buddhist Monastery in the Victorian countryside is home to monks and nuns, as well as lay persons who come for a spiritual retreat. In the monastic life monks and nuns renunciate all family ties when they are ordained, living an austere life governed by a strict code of conduct with compassion to all living beings as its central theme. The buddhist doctrine has a complex relationship with familial ties, yet there is a sort of surrogate family within the monastic system that supports monks and nuns during this transition much like a traditional family will do.
Assessing burn severity The Orroral Valley fire burned about 80% of Namadgi National Park and 22% of Tidbinbila Nature Reserve (ACT). This photo is part of my book "After the Orroral Valley fire" a photo book project that came about during my data-collection work assessing burn severity in the fire's aftermath with my colleague from ACT Parks and Conservation Service.
Reclaimed | I had seen pictures of this abandoned town nestled away in the hills of Turkey and knew that I had to photograph it on our way past the area. I was amazed at how many buildings there actually were and thought it would look incredible from the air. As with many abandoned locations, Mother Nature is beginning to take back what was hers, and I was sure the best way to portray this was from the air.
Easter Monday With family and friends, old, new and little. A late lunch, some swimming, an afternoon spent on the Woronora River, a little haven of which I’d been until then unaware. Such a joyous occasion, after the flooding and between waves of the plague…life can be so good.
Three Generations | Teaching her son in law and grandson the art of crabbing, in the spot where she used to visit as a child.
Ane eats dinner with her children David (8) and Martea (4) in rural Macedonia before they rise at 2am to pick tobacco leaves. There has been a sharp move away from growing fruit and vegetables for self-consumption to harvest tobacco. Families, including young children work seven days a week from 3am averaging 100 hours a week. The average yearly crop will yield 4000 Euro and after expenses Ane will net 2500 Euro - about $AU0.20 an hour. This has become a better option for many rural dwellers than traditional farm practices.
Michelle Grace Hunder
Ruel | This photo was taken at the end of the European tour in Amsterdam, a spectacular part where Ruel jumps off a riser in the show, that I was absolutely thrilled to be able to freeze this moment in time.
A Covid Kiss | Ramona Pena's grandson, Rich gives her a kiss on her birthday, through the lid of a cake box. This image was made during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Florida, 2020
OTHER | I made this image on an annual family trip to Japan. I was equal parts surprised and bemused to round the corner into this woman's dilapidated embrace, since she looks alot like me and how I often "feel to be" in Japan; Too big, tall, conspicuous, "other". It also reminded me of the roadside "big things" in Australia, and their attributed novelty. This "otherness" cascades down into a different level for my half-Japanese daughter. She seems quite oblivious to it at her age, it will be interesting to see how that may meld over time.
The Covid-19 Pandemic has caused billions of people worldwide emotional struggle. Everyone deals with this in different ways. I realised I was bottling everything up; however, my photographs would reflect my state of mind no matter what I was doing. As lockdowns continued to get longer in Melbourne, My images shifted to darker and darker moods. As crows and magpies live in my area, I understood how they symbolise a change/transformation. How one connects their emotional state with their surroundings to better experience more critical reasoning.
We had just been told that Dad had "Days to weeks" to live. Between the sounds of sobbing and hospital machines beeping, there was a heavy stunned silence, the sound of us trying to process what we had just been told. Time had never felt so precious before. This photo is of my Brother, all we could think about was time, time we assumed we had ahead of us that was now washed away, the time we had together that exists as invaluable memories & the unrelenting disappearance of the time we have left. Dad passed away four days later.
The Jimador | The Tequilana Weber Blue agave is the plant used for making the Mexican spirit know as Tequila. The raw material (agave) takes anything from 6 to 8 years to mature at which stage the Jimador harvests the plant by removing the leaves and exposing its heart he then separates the plant from its roots. He uses a sharp round blade known as a Coa to do this and the skill of the Jimador is passed down from generation to generation. The work is hard and dangerous. This is Ismael harvesting in the mid-morning sun.
Lockdown in Melbourne | This seat is a blast of colour, but the tape preventing its use tells the story of lockdown in Melbourne. All those gleeful colours restrained by a single strip of hazard tape. The intrusive tape doing what it is designed to do – obstruct. There is a lot going on, and at the same time, nothing at all.
The Big Country Puppet project | remote Sandy Dessert indigenous community of Mulan, WA. It was the night before the community performance and getting late, but the Giant Egret puppet needed its wings to be sewn on to reinforce it. The Elders and Aunties assembled their head torches and mobiles so they could see as they sewed and enable needles to be threaded. Lots of laughter, stories and cups of tea flowed passionately over and through the fabric of those wings as needles clicked and clacked.. No wonder the next day it flew so lightly
The Daily Ritual | Swimmers gather by the shoreline each morning on Currumbin beach in Queensland. This particular day the smoke from the Fraser Island fires consumed the air.
Furnace Hazard reduction goes wrong at North Head (Sydney) - 17 October 2020 I was on a boat photographing whales when I suddenly noticed a serious fire behind us in the National Park. This helicopter was bravely battling the blaze caused by a hazard reduction burn that had jumped the containment lines. A few days later it was estimated that 50 per cent of North Head's buhsland had been destroyed.
A protester and a police horse During a controversial anti-lockdown protest in Sydney, Australia, where many unmasked protesters gathered to oppose NSW’s coronavirus health orders, protester Kristian Pulkownik allegedly strikes mounted police horse, Tobruk, in the head, while wearing a shirt with the words ‘Free speech’ printed on it, on Saturday, July 24, 2021. (Steven Saphore)