The unforgettable events of 2020 are reflected in an extraordinary line-up of photos on show from next month when the 2021 National Photographic Portrait Prize opens.
After the incredible year that 2020 was, the exhibition, with the theme ‘Living Memory’, will feature photos from 79 finalists showing the aftermath and personal toll of the bushfires, the drought and floods, as well as the personal and social impacts of the Covid pandemic.
Some are jaw-dropping slice-of-life moments between mates, such as Mullet Magic, which captures fashion-forward shearers enjoying a rowdy moment, and Daniel Huon Sullivan’s Gen, which makes a camping trip near Sydney look like a Renaissance painting.
As ever, ageing and the elderly provide some of the best subjects, with several photographers writing life stories written in wrinkles. One of the most remarkable is Jennifer Blau’s Forget Me Not, a moving comment on dementia.
Youth is a favourite subject too, with the entrants depicting several children and teenagers forced to find new ways to entertain themselves during Covid lockdowns.
The winner, who will be picked on July 30, a day before the Canberra exhibition opens, will receive $30,000 cash and a Canon prize pack valued at $20,000. The public gets to have its say by picking the most popular photo for the People’s Choice Award.
Bookings are essential to visit the exhibition which is being held at the National Portrait Gallery.
Mullet magic, 2021, Leith Alexander, digital print. Covid made us look to our backyards for culture, but still, nobody noticed shearers. They’re part of a niche subculture specific to the country, so you don’t ‘see it’ unless you’re ‘in it’. They’re the iconic ‘working-class heroes’ that mullet-wearing city dwellers aspire to be. They’re so fashion-forward, they never stopped wearing mullets; had stick ‘n poke tatts before hipsters did; and live the bohemian lifestyle Byron Bay-ites want. Shearers haven’t stopped during Covid, so on top of being aesthetically perfect, they also continue to support the nation. Consider this photo a form of cultural exchange from country to city
Blue light hypnosis 2020, Jill Velinos. Digital print. My daughter Poppy, aged eight, is pictured here staring blankly at a computer screen. When I walked into her dark room, lit only by the blue light of the computer, I felt a sharp pang of sadness. Lockdown in 2020 gave way to a serious lapse in technology boundaries, as we all – adults and children alike – became much more dependent on it for our entertainment and connection to the world outside our home
I am Kerryn 2021, Anne Cooper, digital print. Kerryn is my 73-year-old neighbour, who lives alone. She has had an amazing but hard life. Her kitchen – which is filled with a collection of 1970s memorabilia – is a place in which she reminisces about her youth and her time as a go-go dancer
Kevin at midnight, 2020, James J Robinson, digital print. Restless at midnight during lockdown, my housemate Kevin Cheung and I were performing our favourite Korean pop songs in my bedroom – intoxicated with nothing but anxiety and boredom
Lockdown bubble, 2021, Nick Stubbings, digital print. Hadley, nine months of age, playing with bubbles during the ‘snap lockdown’ in Melbourne. It was a moment I would have missed had I not been working from home for three days
Drought story 2020. Joel Brian Pratley. Digital print. Sometimes you think, why am I here?
The goal is not to live forever 2020, Helen Whittle, digital print. As a veterinarian, I often have to euthanise injured wildlife that cannot be released back into the wild. This peewit with a broken leg, sadly, did not make it. My son Fergus and I decided to honour the bird by creating an image so that its memory would live on
Forget me not 2020, Jennifer Blau, digital print. What happens to your sense of self when you lose your memory? And how do we appear to others? Beautiful, elegant and engaged, Patricia defied the stereotype of a woman at 90 before developing dementia. I ask us to consider how in western culture we regard, portray — and often render invisible — the elderly, especially as they decline. How might we respect and celebrate their beauty and humanity in all states of being? This image is from my series Patricia’s Room, about memory, place, transience and fragility
Gen 2020, Daniel Huon Sullivan, digital print. A last minute camping trip four hours west of Sydney, in awe that lockdown was to start on March 23. There was a sense of foreboding and uncertainty about the future, so the feeling was to make the best of it. I took the photograph on 35mm film
Trek for Shona Mai 2020, Glen Braithwaite, digital print. Pulling his life in a 100-kilogram cart, Paul Murcott and his companion RJ arrived in Canberra on the day Covid-19 closed parliament. Thirteen months earlier, Paul had started his 1160-kilometre trek from Adelaide to Canberra as his way of dealing with his daughter’s suicide, and to raise awareness for mental health. When asked if he was tempted to stay away from Canberra due to the virus, he responded ‘How will I get my message heard if I stop before speaking to the politicians? I owe this to Shona and everyone suffering from mental health issues.’ We hear you, but did they?
Leaving Melbourne (Battle wounds), 2020, Tajette O’Halloran, digital print. 2020 was a year that shook the ground beneath our feet, generating a swarm of re-evaluations and decisions based on what felt important and necessary as our lives ground to a staggeringly slow and unfamiliar pace, with our freedoms taken away. This is a portrait of my son in a Lakes Entrance caravan park, taken as we headed back towards my home town in northern New South Wales. After seemingly endless months of isolating in the intimate and familiar setting of our home, he exists here in a sterile and transient ‘non-place’, on the cusp of a new life
The cat’s out of the bag, 2019, Kalyanii Holden, c-type print. Marjorie is 90 years old, and has lived in the same house for 50 years with her husband (who has since passed), and her two dogs Kahn and Sammy. She is a concrete artist and her backyard is filled with an array of concrete animals from op shops that she has painted and repurposed. Marjorie’s husband made two metal elephants that adorn the front gate of the house. Her home is beautifully made, with elaborate ceilings and archways. Hanging succulents surround the verandah, where she finishes a crossword and drinks cups of tea while chatting to her two dogs
NYE 2020, John Janson-Moore, digital print. Crowds ignore social distancing rules and public health orders as they jostle for a view of the New Year’s Eve fireworks in Sydney, ushering in 2021. Hopes for a post-COVID-19 world in the new year have been dashed by the continuing spread of the virus and the emergence of new, even more infectious strains
Mark and Saskia cool off 2021. Jessica Hromas. Digital print. Mark Rushton swims with his husky dog Saskia off the rocks at North Bondi, Sydney. With forced lockdowns and big changes due to social distancing rules brought in to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, people spoke of a return to basics and an appreciation for the simple things in life. This portrait of Mark with his dog celebrates the good things in his life: a beautiful beach by his home, and the special relationship he has with ‘man’s best friend’, his dog
Surfer Rusty Miller 2021, Francis Cloake, digital print. 2020 was a tough year for Rusty, with cancer taking its toll on him. I took this photo of Rusty on his verandah at home in Byron Bay as he reflected on the changes he was seeing in the town, with the wave of migrants from Covid-affected cities. Rusty is the author of Turning Point: Surf Portraits and Stories, which captures Australia’s counter-culture era of surfing in the early 1970s. Rusty is considered surfing royalty, and is featured in one of the most recognisable images in surfing: the poster for the classic 1972 movie Morning of the Earth
Max, 2020, Rachel Mounsey, digital print. Max James stands in the creek on his charred Wangarabell property. He knows this bush intimately – the birds, grasses, insects and marsupials, even individual trees. A couple of days after the fires, sitting on his verandah surrounded by the silence, he heard the screech of a king parrot. Taking out his notepad he quickly jotted it down, beginning a list. It was the list that heralded the start of the healing process. At the time of the photo, Max said ‘All has been erased. Nature has to come back through a black, blank canvas. It’s a lamentable game of survival, but beautiful to watch’
Task at hand 2020, Jarrod Vero, digital print. Mickey Adams, a local Merewether fisherman, concentrates on the task at hand despite the wild weather and huge swell
Emma Lee – flight, 2021, Mike Rutherford, digital print. Dr Emma Lee is an Indigenous academic and activist from Tebrakunna country, north-east Tasmania. A proud Trawlwulwuy woman, she is a founding architect of ‘Reset the Relationship’, a novel approach to the contract between Tasmania and its First Nations people. Dr Lee adopted a form of ‘love-bombing’ politicians, flipping the idea of having an adversarial relationship with government to one of kinship and kindness, openly thanking white Australia for its genocide and dispossession. Her passion, commitment and new ways of thinking have led to enormous inroads in gaining Indigenous fishing rights, parks reform and a Voice to Parliament
Before dark (Metamorphosis), 2020, Rachel Gregg, digital print. Before dark there is a moment where light and shadow appear to merge and diverge in equal measure. Before adulthood, the same potent duality exists. My daughter Indianna, on the precipice of becoming an adult, was not diminished by the fading day in the quiet waterhole that evening, but rather exalted by its ghostly phosphorescence. I felt this image not only embodied her intrinsic connection with nature, but the fragility and fearlessness that exists in a young woman’s metamorphosis
Hugs on hold, 2019, Sandy Scheltema, c-type print. With Covid-19 social distancing rules in place at aged care facilities to protect residents from the risk of contracting the virus, Margaret Wheeler was unable to hug her granddaughter Alice Sarah-Lay – or see her, other than through the window of the Trentham Aged Care Facility. Despite the pane of glass between them, Margaret’s face still lit up at the sight of her granddaughter when she came for her regular visit
Love dogs, 2020, Renee Nowytarger, gelatin silver print. Kushi sits on the lap of her owner, Drew Cross, whose tattooed fingers declare how he feels about his four-legged friend (and all dogs)
Bella in the window of her home school 2019, Agi Davis, digital print. There is something about the Australian outback that makes me feel very settled and honest. The environment – all raw, harsh sun and fierce temperatures – also includes open homes that welcome strangers, and their curiosity. Bella and her siblings took me on an amazing adventure around the property in the middle of the day in drought conditions. There was no sadness in this adventure – only excitement to share what they learn from this very old land that is now my home
Childhood oblivion, 2021, Nadia Stone, digital print. Blossom (of a tree or plant): to produce flowers that develop into fruit. A precious stage of development – still my little girl, and a teenager at the same time. Only eight, she is torn between her imagination and her dreams; she still likes dolls and is comforted by teddy bears, while also dolling up with make-up to play the grown-up. Blossom is a long-term project exploring the life of my daughter from the age of eight until womanhood
Dining room, 2020, Michael Pham, digital print. As a city was brought to its knees in the country’s most restrictive lockdown, everyday rituals were turned on their head, barely resembling their former iterations. A jog became the only chance to socialise; clocking on meant logging in; cultural outings became virtual; and eating out came by way of delivery riders or plastic containers. I stumbled upon one such moment, with these two sharing a meal on an outing in the only permissible place possible – the sanctuary of their car. The image captures what would normally be a standard night out, in a strange new reality
New Year’s Eve 2019, Allison Marion, digital print. Eleven-year-old Finn bravely fleeing Mallacoota, with younger brother, mum and family dog on board
Bill, 2020, Stuart Miller, digital print. Grawin mine dump is where Bill spends his days fossicking for opals. He told me it was the doctors who handed him a map of the opal fields around Lightning Ridge. ‘Doctors’ orders to get out of town – forget about the stress of life for a while’
Leon, 2020, Nick Moir, digital print. During the early days of lockdown in Sydney, after the Ruby Princess outbreak, most people were staying home. As a news photographer I was still required to work, but as school had been cancelled I would look after my kids in the morning, sometimes taking them with me on outdoor jobs. That’s how this image came about, showing my youngest standing in a cold southerly near Curl Curl, his red hair looping and jumping around his face in the strong wind
Untitled 2019, Adele Wilkes, digital print. Kaltukatjara Anangu artist and ranger Ruby James observes performances of Inma – the traditional song and dance ceremony – at Mutitjulu, hours after the Uluru tourist climb was permanently closed to the public.
Drew, Deception Bay, Queensland, 3 March 2020, Kim Guthrie, digital print. I was working doing a photographic project in Deception Bay for a community youth program. While there I took the opportunity to pursue my own practice around the local streets. I drove past Drew waiting at a bus stop and thought she looked great, so went back and asked if I could photograph her
In another land 2020 Geoff Harvey, digital print. A self-portrait at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney while I was receiving chemotherapy for my lymphoma (lymphatic cancer). On this day I was readmitted to hospital because the medications I was using as an outpatient made me very sick, and the doctors decided to bring me back for observation. This waiting room with a photomural did help me feel a little better; it was different to most of the other clinical rooms I had resided in
Her whole world now 2021, Alex Mattea, digital print. For someone who has lived on four continents over ninety years, Mum’s world has shrunk remarkably – almost down to the few hundred square metres of her home and garden. It’s due to fatigue of legs and lifestyle, which were already issues before Covid-19 struck in 2020. In fact, the pandemic has made no great difference to this world, which is sobering. We don’t need pandemics to have our horizons shrunk late in life. Here she is pictured in the verandah of her house, as old as her, surrounded by some of the plants that absorb a vast amount of her waking time
Banduk, 2020, Mihail Tsikas, digital print. Banduk Marika is an artist and printmaker from Arnhem Land, and a member of the Rirratjingu clan of the Yolngu people. She was chosen to be the Northern Territory’s 2020 Senior Australian of the Year finalist, where I met her and had to take her portrait. When I met Banduk, I saw the timeless look in her eyes. How do you capture time? While I was adjusting exposures, she tentatively put her hand to her hair to smooth it down. It was at that moment I took the photograph, and I felt I had captured timelessness and living memory
One hundred years in living memory, 2021, Riste Andrievski, digital print. A centenary of life and body of work. Guy Warren is a capture of Australian art and a living memory of our identity in the arts
Cross-cultural wedding, 2019 John Benavente, digital print. I use photography as a means to document the world around me and the people in my life. I photograph people in their natural environment because I want to preserve a moment in time. My recent focus has been working on a series entitled Humans of cocktail hour, which involves me capturing guests and couples in a style that’s not associated with wedding photography. This image celebrates Australia’s rich multicultural history through the blending of cultures and traditions. It was captured on a traditional film camera
Reading the map 2020, Davina Jogi, digital print. Craig White (right), Fire Captain of the Hester Brook Volunteer Fire Brigade, leads a training exercise in map reading with members of various local brigades at Four Seasons Estate in Bridgetown, Western Australia in the lead-up to the fire season. The image is from an untitled series exploring the everyday lives of volunteer bushfire brigades in the south-west Shire of Bridgetown-Greenbushes
Artists in residence – Carlos, Jono and Lazy Susan, 2020, Suzanne Phoenix, digital print. This ‘virtual portrait’ was one of over 50 created by Suzanne Phoenix with Victorian artists via Zoom calls during lockdown 2.0 in 2020. Suzanne Phoenix documented Carlos Mantilla, Jono Martínez and Robbie Sinclair Ten Eyck (Lazy Susan) on what they described as one of the hardest days of their lockdown, but they were there for each other with a smile, like every other day. To quote Lazy Susan, ‘Drag is art about survival’
Sun shower 2020, Adrian Thornton, digital print. At just the right time, the afternoon sun enters through the bathroom window and lights up the water droplets in the shower. I took this photo while on crutches and with a wrist splint on. It was awkward, but worth the effort to have such a unique portrait of my son
Great conjunction, 2020, R J Poole, digital print. The purpose of entering a lake is not to ‘know’ the lake, but to luxuriate in the water – to feel the cold against our skin, the weight of our body disappear. It’s not about working the lake out. Likewise, art is not a test of intellect so much as an experience. It is not a concept or a measure of how much we know, so much as an emotional exchange, a sharing of things held in common between an artist and their audience. It’s like a spiritual connection that ultimately changes the way we feel, and helps us become weightless
Back to earth, 2019, Julian Dolman, digital print. I took this portrait of my father Michael a few weeks before he passed away. The moment when taking it felt quite surreal, as if I somehow knew it would be the last shot taken of him. He is standing under his mother’s oak tree, which grew from an acorn taken from their home town of Flint, Wales. He seemed at peace (perhaps for the first time in all the time I knew him), and ready for whatever journey awaited. I took the photo on my Contax G2 using Kodak Portra film
Wandella firestorm 2020, Dion Georgopoulos, digital print. The property is almost unrecognisable: sheets of corrugated iron twisted and warped, grass burnt to bare dirt, vehicles flung across the landscape, and the charred remains of livestock. The Badga Forest Road fire manifested as a firestorm, consuming the tiny hamlet of Wandella on New Year’s Eve 2019. This is what fourth generation farmer Jade Corby came back to after returning to his parents’ Wandella property a week later. Although most of his family and his wife’s family had lost their homes, he still maintains his resilience and yearns to rebuild what is lost
Guy in his studio, 2020, Peter Morgan, digital print. Archibald Prize-winning Sydney painter Guy Warren reflected in the window of his studio’s garden. As 2021 marks his 100th birthday (16 April), he recounts a lifetime of creativity, including during his service in New Guinea with the RAAF in the Second World War: ‘While other people spent time playing cards, I would go out and draw. I loved the jungle. It looked like a giant 3D drawing.’ Jungles and rainforests have remained a recurring theme in Guy’s art practice, with an interplay of memory, form and primitive symbolism
In a world of her own, 2021, Mark Mortensen, digital print. In a time of the pandemic this girl turned to books, and found reading was the new way to understand and cope with a world in flux around her. Retreating into the classics became the best way to deal with the unusual, and restore some sense of normality – a replacement for the classroom and a resetting of her world
Untitled, 2020, Steph Fuller, digital print. When this self-portrait was taken, Australia was on fire. I was supposed to be making artwork reflecting on the Doomsday Clock for an upcoming exhibition, but I was overwhelmed – the nightmare wasn’t two minutes away, it was here. I felt powerless watching the digital map of the continent slowly disappear under a swarm of little fire symbols. I seethed with resentment at our leaders for their denial of the climate emergency and unwillingness to commit to tangible action. I needed to do something with my anger, so I made this quiet record of it
Melissa Madden Gray at home, 2020, Pia Johnson, digital print. Melissa Madden Gray is an Australian singer, dancer and theatre creator, famous for her performance persona, Meow Meow. For this portrait I wanted to photograph Melissa ‘at home’, to capture a glimpse of her intimate life, surrounded by her belongings, reclining next to the piano. Melissa is one of those performers who gives everything to the camera, and is so incredibly present – she makes the picture
Cactus flower – the garden 2019. Heather Dinas, other. Loyd. During isolation the world stopped and took a breath. After the initial shock and fear dissipated, we were left to find a new rhythm. Time slowed to a quiet hum. As the amenities were all closed, my three-year-old daughter and I wandered through the neighbourhood streets. She drew us into the present moment, to pause and revel. Her joy and up-close enthusiasm created bridges of connection. Passing strangers would stop and talk rather than walk on by. The serendipity of these meetings made us feel welcomed, and enhanced our sense of community
Marion 2019, Glenn Homann, digital print. Marion is one of the last of a dying breed. The former school principal lives on her own in a very old and rickety home halfway between Brisbane and Toowoomba. I met her one day whilst searching out old homes to photograph. She exudes toughness and resilience, and I’ve been back a few times to listen to her stories. I can often hear her singing to herself as I step up the wonky stairs to the front door
Anna, 2020, Matthew Newton, digital print. The logging of Tasmania’s old growth forests continued under exemption during the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. After months of staying at home, Anna Brozek went to the Wentworth Hills near Lake St Clair on the edge of the Tasmania’s World Heritage Area and climbed high up into cable logging machinery, where she stayed for two days and nights on a hanging platform. She was eventually arrested and fined for her actions. She continues to take peaceful action to bring attention to the logging of native forests in Tasmania
And then came the night 2020, Amanda Miller, digital print. We sit around a fire in the yard. It is autumn during our isolation. She could be inside watching TV. But these odd times invoke primal instincts – hunt and gather, stoke the fire, huddle close. Then out comes the tablet so she can check in with her friends. I muse at the allegorical poignancy that the vision before me conjures about our world: her device-lit, disembodied face, isolated in the darkness, yet still connected to the zeitgeist. Meanwhile the fire, emblematic of a sinister threat, crackles and burns below – contained, but with the potency to potentially jump the lines at any moment
A girl and her boy, 2021, Kirsty Sycz, digital print. Larissa and her boy, Obi. The bond between a teenage girl and her pet is sometimes more constant than the high school dramas and storm of friends that can swirl around. Constant friends – always companions
Mother’s Day 2020, Kim Tonelli, c-type print. The threat of the coronavirus is creating unprecedented fear and uncertainty for everyone. The elderly are particularly vulnerable and lonely during the time of quarantine. I am in lockdown with Mum in our family home. Mum is 80; she is experiencing an unfamiliar sense of fear and isolation. Cleaning her home gives her a sense of order and control, and tending her garden provides solace during this time of uncertainty. Her quirky belongings give her an enormous sense of comfort and companionship. As a widow, she misses her husband – who was always her protector – and prays persistently for this to end
My father 2021 Anna Gottlieb, digital print. My father and I had a deep connection that was not diminished after he suffered a hypoxic brain injury, the result of a heart attack. In accordance with his wishes, I had him cremated when he passed away. I had no idea that afterwards I would struggle so much with this. He no longer had a place, something that helps maintain a connection with our memories. My father now remains in limbo – in a container, in a paper bag, in a cupboard – and it is not where he should be. This is a portrait of my father with his grandson
Lauren, 2019, Victoria Baker, digital print. My niece Lauren with her little bird, Louis
Wombat and goats, 2020, Victoria Baker, digital print. Wombat at home. The image is part of a current series studying local Bridgetown residents and their attitudes towards the environment, bushfires and climate change
Marty’s living room 2020, Benny Capp, digital print. An image from the series Unscene Sets. Born from the need to remain passionate and creative despite Melbourne’s 2020 lockdowns, Unscene Sets is a photographic portrait series of Australian set designers, decorators and curators working in film and television. A space in Benny’s studio was set up for participants, who then had creative freedom to decorate a set reflecting their style and aesthetic with pieces they connect with and draw inspiration from. This series pushes the boundary between portraiture and self-portraiture, and is a project that shares meaningful engagement with another creative community also negatively impacted by Covid-19
Stage dive, 2021 ,Martin Philbey, digital print. Tex Perkins is typical of the many musicians in Australia – the Covid-19 pandemic has decimated the music and arts industries, with the last year challenging artists to find new methods of connecting with their audiences. This has seen a lot of playing to empty venues; live streaming ‘virtual’ concerts and festivals; and, when performances were allowed to resume, drastically reduced audience sizes and seated-only venues. Musicians and audiences feed of each other’s energy, so this has meant gigs are a very different experience for both
Tom at the drain, 2020, Julian Kingma, other. Isolation sent children into new territory: what to do with themselves; how to negotiate their four walls, sometimes battling anxiety; how to find playfulness; and resisting constant screen time. Tom needs to be on the move, to create worlds within worlds. He was diagnosed with ADHD, so lockdown was particularly challenging – being told to stay home and stay indoors was excruciating for him. Yet I found optimism within him when making this portrait. While the world retreated, Tom was reminding me happiness always exists within the simplest things
Stranded under a fire-red sky, 2020, Justin McManus, digital print. Robert and Karen Allen with Panther the dog. Robert and Karen became stranded in Mallacoota after bushfires ravaged the town on New Year’s Eve. Holidaymakers and locals became trapped when the only road access to the coastal town was closed. The couple, along with their dog, were stranded in the midst of a strange and frightening landscape when a second fire front enveloped the town, turning daylight to an ominous fire-red sky. There is a sense of anxiety and fear in the image, but also resilience and stoicism
We make do in hard lockdown 2020, Anna Kiparis, digital print. My roommate Lucien decided to make do with what little midday sun was available by sunbaking. He wasn’t bothered by the lack of grass to lie on in our concreted suburban backyard in Coburg, or by the temperamental, gusty weather on this spring day during Melbourne’s hard lockdown. It made me appreciate the optimism a person can carry – the trait that allows them to make the best of any given situation by gracefully accepting the limitations at hand. I’m glad I was there to capture it
I’ve been meaning to … 2020, Greg Adams. Octogenarian Bill Finlay decided to organise and declutter his vast book collection during the Covid-19 lockdown in Adelaide. He has an eclectic range of books that represent his interest in art, photography and literature, with piles of them stacked throughout his home. Bill then spent his time in isolation reacquainting himself with the subjects that have been a source of inspiration throughout his life
The Salway family 2020, Dion Georgopoulos, digital print. Aaron Salway, in front of the ridge where his father, Robert, and brother, Patrick, died on New Year’s Eve 2019 protecting their property in Wandella, New South Wales. Aaron holds Patrick’s blond-haired son, Harley, who at two years of age is too young to understand what has happened. It is clear Aaron didn’t have the luxury of grief as he spoke candidly about the recent tragedy – there was an unspoken emotional burden to be lifted, but it would have to wait. ‘We’re all feeling numb, to be honest’, he said. ‘We’re hurting bad. And we’ve cried. But we’ve got to keep going’
Evie and Ruby at The Bend, Dec. 2019, Christopher Hopkins, digital print. My daughter Evie and her pal Ruby are like-minded, environmentally aware souls. Having grown up in the country, yet raising my daughters in urban Melbourne, it is heart-warming to see the children interact with nature. The freedom they are given on our trips is born from a need to shed the worries we have as modern day parents – the perceived dangers that the modern urban environment presents. It’s a physical freedom for them, and a psychological one for us
A Covid kind of day, 2020, Marzena Wasikowska, digital print. At the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 in Sydney and Melbourne, some respite from the social upheaval was possible on the far south coast of New South Wales for those who were able to escape restrictions on movement. However, the psychological impact of the pandemic was ever-present. My daughter, Mia, granddaughter, Olympia, and the sublime Tathra landscape became unwitting visual symbols for conflicting extremes associated with the pandemic – hope or despair, opportunity or catastrophe, life or death
Inside: Tiggy, 2020, Louise Hawson, digital print. I photographed three-year-old Tiggy as part of a series called Inside, about life during a pandemic in Sydney. Her mum is a registered nurse and felt anxious about getting the virus and passing it on to her family. The biggest challenge, however, was managing energetic Tiggy while trying to home-school her six-year-old sister, as Tiggy ‘requires constant attention!’ I found this out for myself as I tried to capture her behind glass doors – she didn’t stop moving. For a brief moment, however, she paused in her mother’s arms, aglow in the sunlight hitting the door, and looked straight at me
Mike Low 2020, Aaron Puls, digital print. We had just come out of eight months of lockdown and isolation, so we headed for Lake Eildon. Mike’s first port of call was a Lilo and a beer. It was bliss to be out of the city and just listening to nature. Not knowing what might happen tomorrow (unprecedented times), we were equal parts frightened and compelled to savour our time together.
Lockdown dreaming II, 2020, John Morley and Madelin Bronar-Thomas, gelatin silver print. A lockdown portrait. 2020 was a year of finding things to do. Max, Eli and Leo play dress-ups, and ask when we can get back to the coast, see the ocean. I took this photograph over a forgotten roll of holiday photos. The photo of the beach scene was taken by the boys’ sister, Madelin Bronar-Thomas
Let them eat cake, by Zoom, 2020, Sarah Vandermark, digital print. The second of April 2020: a new experience accompanies a child’s birthday, a result of the Covid pandemic’s enforced conditions. Full lockdown, no school, no party, no immediate family relatives. Sound delays and technical hitches abound as we conjure birthday spirit via Zoom magic … but at least the cake was real and spectacular. As was cousin Sophie’s long and tender gaze
Pride 2020, Christopher Hopkins, digital print. Elizabeth and Brian Blakeman managed to save their home in the fire that razed the small farming hamlet of Wairewa, East Gippsland during Black Summer. They had three days to digest what had happened when, fuelled by high temperatures and winds, fires again threatened their home in a crisis that raged for months. While they kept their spirits high, the image reflects Elizabeth’s pride in her ‘battle-weary’ husband
Eight (vi) 2020, Brydie Piaf, digital print. Collaborating with my daughter Edie, this image is from Eight, a portrait series that started as a way of exploring shadows within our home differently during lockdown. Influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and master painters’ use of chiaroscuro, a moment is held for a brief period as we create a portrait together. No matter what is happening in the outside world, I know this time will be fleeting, and I want to inhale – in some way – her light. Her time of being eight
Eleni and the bookshop, 2020, Tracy Ponich, digital print. This is Eleni Pringle, aged seventeen at the time of the photograph. She was a casual at Megalong Books on the main street of Leura, New South Wales. So many young people were forced out of their jobs during the autumn shutdown in the Blue Mountains. Eleni, though, was kept on the bookshop’s books – an asset retained. One could say she was a sign of hope for those with so very much left to do
Isaiah Firebrace – reflect, reset, rejuvenate, 2020. Heidi Victoria, digital print. Isolation was a time to reflect, reset and rejuvenate. Isaiah took the opportunity to look inwards and really think about his journey so far – his connection to his ancestors and his place in this crazy world
Jaydan Bush on the salt pans I played on as a kid (Northern Adelaide, 2019), 2020, Matthew Thorne, c-type print. This photo of Jayden was taken during a project I was working on in the northern suburbs of Adelaide where my father grew up, and where the shadows of the shuttered industrial car-manufacturing plants of Ford and Holden (alongside the now near-derelict port) loom large. It is a work about frail masculinity, petrolheads, and left-behind suburbs. It was inspired by my father’s childhood – and my own – and made with the real people from those communities (and my life). This photo was taken out on the salt flats where I used to take photos
The Goodall boys, 2021, Tamara Dean, digital print. One thing that this last year has reminded me is that I don’t have to travel far to find beauty in my environment, and inspiration to create photographs. It is there in my home, when I walk out on our property, and within the people and places I am surrounded by. As a return to my early Friends series, I have spent this time focussing on the people close to me: my family, my friends and their children. This photograph depicts the three Goodall brothers living beautifully close to the land, running barefoot, playing in the cornfields surrounding their property
Standing in the now and looking to the future, 2020, Laura Reid, digital print. A woman standing at the beach – nothing unusual, except this is 2020. She can’t sit down because the public seat is wrapped up in red and white tape. That tape just screams to me ‘Covid-19’. I imagine she is looking out, looking for a brighter future, but grey clouds hang on the horizon. This is my living memory of this year
Sunbath under the lockdown 2021, Franky Tsang, digital print. Alice, my wife, enjoying the sun, feeding our daughter Michaela in front of our home. We were in lockdown in the Northern Beaches of Sydney during the summer of 2021
The Wobbly Wizard – Isolation Portrait, 2020, Suzanne Phoenix, digital print. This ‘Isolation Portrait’ of Gerard, or The Wobbly Wizard, was created during the first months of pandemic restrictions in the Yarra Valley in Victoria in 2020. Gerard and his dog Miss Tala Waggytail were living in a tent in the forest and enjoying not being hassled to move on, and ‘personal space’ being in fashion
Hana, Bobby and Mica in the lounge room, 2020, Lisa Sorgini, digital print. This image of my friend Hana and her twin girls is from my portrait series, Behind Glass. It’s a photo documentation of mothers and their children experiencing isolation in their homes during the period of enforced social distancing to control the transmission of Covid-19 in Australia. I have built a practice investigating relationships between mother and child, and I became fascinated with the lightness and darkness of parenting in this unprecedented time. Now alone, with the absence of external support, and simultaneously never alone as we spend intense one-on-one time with our children
The silent gardener 2020, Guy Lamothe, digital print. Dr Dena Ashbolt, visual artist, loves spending time in her garden on the edge of the Yarra Valley near Melbourne. The Covid mask was made by her friend, Dr Maryanne Coutts, Head of Drawing at the National Art School in Sydney, at a time when the fragility of life was on everyone’s mind. I have been involved in photography for over 40 years, both in a professional and artistic capacity
Mask on inside 2020, Clare Martin Lapworth, digital print. Saskia, age five. Spring light beckons her into a new world; she tentatively emerges from the ‘Ring of Steel’. Melbourne, epicentre of Australia’s ‘second wave’ of the Covid-19 pandemic, September 2020 – ‘Stage 4 lockdown’ of 112 days
I’m just a suburban fashionista, 2021, Kristina Kraskov, digital print. As a documentary maker I like to capture people in their own spaces, surrounded by small parts of themselves. Michelle’s house was the most drastic example of this I’d ever witnessed – I couldn’t help but capture her in her element. Like the experience of meeting Michelle, the portrait is eclectic; she can get lost amongst the curated chaos, yet has an undeniable presence