When Bob McKendry snapped a candid photo of his daughter Charlotte giving him a “bit of attitude” at a friend’s backyard party, he captured a moment that he says sums up the tumultuous COVID years faced by college students.
The Canberra photographer said a lot of teens could relate to the photo that has been selected as a finalist in the prestigious 2022 City of Sydney Australian Life photography competition.
Titled College Days Gone, 2021, Bob says the shot symbolises a “casual up yours and a college education that seems to have disappeared in a puff of smoke”.
Influenced by iconic rock posters, such as Frank Zapper’s partially visible face hiding behind a wall of smoke or Johnny Cash giving his angry bird to the camera as a rock and roll outlaw, the photo is one of 28 finalists featuring in an outdoor exhibition along St James walkway in Sydney’s Hyde Park until 9 October.
Bob takes his camera everywhere looking to capture those golden moments.
“I’m sure my family must be over my insistent snapping,” he said.
Photography has always been his passion, but Bob has only recently started to exhibit his imagery.
He manages the digital preservation of the Photograph, Film & Sound collection at the Australian War Memorial and he says his job has “nurtured a strong relationship with image, both still and moving”.
“I have also been lucky enough while at the memorial to shoot a portrait commission on veterans, their tattoos and the associated stories,” he added.
The Ink In The Lines exhibition is currently travelling around Australia.
Bob said the shortlisted finalists this year were very strong and emotive.
“I found the narratives behind the images rather powerful,” he said.
“I think one positive to come out of the COVID pandemic is that it has nurtured creativity, people looked inside during lockdown thinking about what is important to them.
“The arts will benefit from this personal introspection over the coming years with a deeper understanding of who we are and why we are here.”
Handpicked from hundreds of entries from across the country, the images selected for the exhibition capture the essence of life in Australia. Canberra photographer Amy Iacullo’s image, Our Bathroom Floor, has also been selected as a finalist.
Her photograph explores the hidden world of neurodiversity.
Amy said the image “evokes the raw feelings of helplessness, courage and resilience within the viewer, feelings many neurodiverse people and families face daily”.
“Our Bathroom Floor was created with no expectations, no pressures,” she said. “He is free to be present. To feel the water. Neurodiversity, kept safe within our walls.”
A photograph taken by Rachael Willis in the late afternoon on Canberra’s Tuff Street has also made the final cut. Yeah The Girls shows two girls watching the procession of classic cars at Summernats 34.
Photographer River Bennett said her short-listed entry, titled Mal and His Racing Pigeons, was taken during a visit to a friend’s sheep farm at Henty.
She said Mal was “delighted” when she asked if she could take his photo.
This year’s winning photo is a striking image of two women night-hunting for file snakes in the Northern Territory.
Titled Hunting with Fire, the image was taken at the Djulkar waterfall in West Arnhem Land by photographer Matthew Abbott, who won the $10,000 cash prize.
City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said the calibre of finalist images was “just incredible”.
“St James’ walkway looks fantastic, dressed with these beautiful images, and I encourage everyone to come along and see this extraordinary exhibition in person.”
The finalist images were captured by a mix of amateur and professional photographers from every Australian state and range from a flood victim sitting in the ruins of her Lismore home, a photographer’s self-portrait following spinal surgery and participants of the annual Marilyn Monroe charity swim to a mass exodus of birds from a tiny, deserted church near Broken Hill.
The works take the viewer on an intimate journey through contrasting scenes of love, destruction, loss and cheek that encapsulate Australia’s unique personality.
“These images are thought-provoking, joyful, harrowing,” Cr Moore said.
“Each one captures a moment in time somewhere in Australia and together they form a record of the challenges and richness of Australian life.
“I’m particularly excited that we’re able to host a public exhibition of the finalists again this year, for the first time since the pandemic began. People passing through Hyde Park will be delighted to catch these special glimpses from around the country.”
Exhibition curator Sandy Edwards says the range of works and the depth of expression is very present in this year’s finalist images.
“The final selection is as rich and varied as it always has been and whittling 1700 images down to 28 is no small feat!
“I believe Australian Life is the most democratic exhibition of photography in Australia, and this year features complete newcomers to previous Australian Life finalists, to well-known photographers and photojournalists.”