St George Girls’ High School students featured in Australian Photography Awards winning photo | St George & Sutherland Shire Leader

A photo showing a group of students from St George Girls’ High School has won a national award.

Sydney Morning Herald photographer Janie Barrett was behind the lens in 2020 when she captured the excited students outside a Penshurst apartment building for their school formal.

She won this year’s documentary award at the Australian Photography Awards.

This photo, part of a series on School Formals, shows nine young people from nine different cultural backgrounds.

“Students who completed their HSC in 2020 endured a year in which many of their ‘rituals of transition’ were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” it read alongside her winning photo.

“For a while it looked like they wouldn’t even have their official prom.

“After a campaign to lobby the government, they were given the green light.”

According to the jury, the statue was worthy of the top prize – a camera worth $4500.

“It reflects the importance and significance of these events at a time when NSW was free from community transmission, during a global pandemic,” judges said.

“When we think of documentary photography, we often evoke images of tension and drama. The image of Janie reminds us that the importance can also be found in the quieter moments, the less celebrated scenes.”

They said the photo was a testament to today’s Australia, all in one frame.

“Every interaction between the individuals gives us a new layer and a story,” said the jury. “The abundance of expression and gesture leaves us with a sense of joy, a breath of fresh air in the midst of two long years of ordeal. As organizers, we feel that such images are often overlooked.

“The candid and understated way Janie has approached the making of this photo authentically portrays us. Our 2021 committee felt there was a genuine and non-exploitative approach to Janie’s photo that deserves recognition. It’s a photo that promotes connection at many levels and leaves us with a sense of optimism.”

Australian Photography Awards (APA) is an initiative of Photo Collective.

Since its launch in 2016, APA has become a key space for the changing ways Australian photographers explore big ideas.

Every year it calls for original and thought-provoking photography. Photos can be taken anywhere in the world as long as the photos were taken by a person residing in Australia or a person living outside Australia with Australian citizenship.

As an organization seeking meaning and advancing understanding through photography, it strives to view images beyond surface value, in search of layers and intent.

It looks for work that pushes the boundaries of what a photograph can be. It welcomes experimental, new and artsy approaches to photography that may be overlooked at other awards.

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