This isn’t my first Mardi Gras

March 6, 2013

Sydney, Australia

By Tim Wimborne

Not many photographers look forward to shooting on the street on a wet Saturday night. This probably led to my ‘big break’ with the sole agency I had my eye on shooting for – more so than the months I had spent promoting myself as a potential Reuters stringer. And so I covered the 2001 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. I got there early, left late, carried too much gear, over shot and over filed.

Now, after a couple of years freelancing and then a decade as a staffer with assignments in dozens of countries, my time Down Under is up. This month I take on a new position with Reuters in Singapore. My last assignment in Australia? The 2013 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade.

2001 – I was still shooting film and used a Nikon F5. I would have used Fiji-color 800 film, maybe pushed a stop.
2013 – Last Saturday I covered the parade using Canon EOS 1Dx bodies, 16Gb cards although still shooting mostly with prime lenses.

2001 – After leaving the crowds on Oxford Street I raced on foot to a minilab machine in town and waited over an hour for all the rolls to be processed. (Being a freelancer I would have invoiced for every roll I used. I think I charged for four rolls but in my inexperienced style probably shot about 10 rolls or more)
– From there it was back to the office and pouring over uncut films with a loupe on the lightbox.
– Scanning low res versions and then finals selects on a Nikon CoolScan LS-2000.
– Captioned scans ftp’d to the London editing desk (Singapore, the closest) was closed by that hour of the night.
2013 - I filed these from the office nearby a few minutes after leaving the parade but without the rain may have edited from the street from a 4G connected netbook.

2001 – Photographers had full range of the parade route, moving between floats and dancers and talked freely to participants.
2013 – Almost all media are barricaded into five street side pens, shooting from the side, not permitted to speak to participants (except authorized spokespeople). Perhaps this is what the age of corporate sponsorship brings?

2001 weather – Showers
2013 weather – Showers

I haven’t seen any numbers but the crowds looked smaller to me than they did 12 years ago. That said, there’s still hundreds of thousands of onlookers. The Parade’s history comes from the gay rights movement of the 1970s and back in 2001 there was a strong safe sex message and emphasis on HIV/AIDS. That’s changed a bit but it still maintains a political flavor and this year, for the first time, serving Gay and Lesbian Defence Force members marched in uniform and gay marriage was also at the top of the agenda, two things I can not recall making an impression in 2001.

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