Sydney Morning Herald photographer Janie Barrett has won the documentary prize in this year’s prestigious Australian Photography Awards.
She caught the judges’ eyes with her vibrant image of a group of students from St George Girls High School excitedly setting off to their school formal.
“I am so excited to have won. I just feel so humbled and honoured,” said Barrett, who has been with The Herald for 16 years and will take home a camera worth $4500, among other prizes.
“It was a part of a series of photographs from last year when it looked like school formals would not go ahead because of COVID. And there was a big campaign from some of the student leaders to lobby the government so that they could go ahead. And then, basically, at the last minute, Gladys [Berejiklian] said they could and these kids who had suffered through COVID were finally getting to complete that rite of passage.”
In their comments, the judges praised Barrett for her candid and restrained approach to making the image.
“The plethora of expression and gestures leaves us with a sense of joy, a breath of fresh air amidst two long years of tribulation,” they said.
Barrett said one of the aspects she liked about her winning image, shot in Penshurst, was the multicultural mix of the students.
“I think there were nine different countries of origin represented in that photograph,” she said. “I was trying to cover the school formals from public schools that we don’t normally get to. I think it’s important to show that sort of joy in kids from all areas of Sydney and all economic and social backgrounds.