The annual Mardi Gras festival in Sydney Australia is an event that you just can’t imagine, until you actually see it happen. The parade that runs through the main streets in Sydney’s Gay district is the culmination of a week’s worth of wildly popular events. Mardi Gras remains one of Australia’s biggest tourist draws, with more than a million visitors attending the events, parade and parties. The amount of money that is dropped into the economy of New South Wales state is staggering. 

The parade and festival originally started as protests in support of the LGBT community in the late 1970’s, when Gay rights were non-existent in Australia. Many protesters would be arrested during these early demonstrations. Even today, the parade still has many political entries, but they reflect current issues like marriage equality. And unlike the early days, police are now participating in the events, showing their support with the change in social mores and attitudes toward the LGBT community in Australia.

One of the great things about the Mardi Gras parade is that it takes place at night. Since the parade occurs during summer in Australia, having the parade at night is a welcome respite from the often unbearable heat. Many of the floats and marchers will use the darkness to their advantage, and light up their parade entries to make themselves more visible and festive.

The Mardi Gras parade is one of the more anticipated events in Australia’s summer, and viewers even participate from the sidelines. Many viewers will dress up just to feel part of the event. Parade marchers will encourage the viewers to become involved by playing to the crowds. Of course, a great deal of viewers will be drinking before, during and after the parade, adding to the atmosphere.

Taking Photos

When I was shooting photos of the parade, I paid a lot of attention to the people watching the parade, more so than the people in the parade. I got many more interesting photos of them, than I did of the floats and marchers. After the parade was over, and the barricades started to come down, the viewers would start wandering all over the parade route and begin to fill in the local bars and pubs. As I wandered down Oxford street, I was getting lots of great photos of the party that never slowed down. I came across one bar that had dozens of patrons spilling out into the streets, enjoying themselves. I shot several images of this crowd, and to me it sums up the whole evening. What I particularly like is how you can look at the photo for a while and see many different stories. There are so many people in the group, but they are all in their own world. I didn’t realize until later that there is a man in the photo wearing a diaper. You don’t come across that every day.

Technical: 1/60th sec at f/4.0, iso 3200, Nikon D700 with 24-50mm lens at 24mm, shot at 10:55pm.

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Ian Robert Knight Photography

Ian is a professional photographer, specializing in travel editorial and street photography. Find out more about Ian's background and experiences in the bio page here.

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