24HourProject Sydney 2017 – The experience

I enjoy photography a lot, and I love it when I can do something that helps people.  Combining the two together would be ideal, and this is where the 24HourProject gives me the vehicle to achieve this.  The 24HourProject is an event which has now been in play for about 5 years, to document different cities across the world, for every hour, on the same day.  This year it was on 1st April 2017, and according to the website covered 112 countries, about 840 cities with just under 4000 photographers.

I came across the 24HourProject on social media last year after it had run, so I registered for this year’s event, to be one of the representatives for Sydney, Australia.  As the date approached it got exciting planning out in broad strokes the whole day.

What is the 24HourProject?

Quoting the 24HourProject website, “The 24HourProject gathers street and documentary photographers from around the globe to share in real time as they document the human condition of their city. Photographers share one photo per hour during twenty four hours.”.

So how does this help people?  The 24HourProject partners with selected Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) which helps raise awareness and empower their initiatives.  This is done through global exhibitions, published photobooks and conferences.

The way it works is that each participating photographer shares a photo every hour from midnight until midnight on the scheduled day, primarily on Instagram and other platforms.  After the event, each photographer selects their best pictures from each hour and uploads them onto the website.  The best ones are then selected for the exhibitions, photobooks etc.

The founders who started this fantastic idea are Renzo Grande (@renzogrande) and Whittier Sam (@whittiersam).  Please check out their work, it is worth the effort.  The website for the 24HourProject can be found here.

This year the NGO they are partnering with is Lesvos Solidarity, which provides refugees with shelter and hospitality without registration.  They help the most vulnerable: disabled, sick, pregnant and the families of victims of shipwrecks. They offer food, clothes, hygiene kits, medical assistance. They also organize activities for children, language classes and social support.  Their website is here.  On Instagram they are: @lesvossolidarity

By coincidence my mother is from the Island of Lesvos, Greece.  It was meant to be!

The second organisation they are partnering with is She Has Hope. She Has Hope rescues and rehabilitates human trafficking survivors with the goal of restoring them to a life full of hope.  You can find them here.

The Preparation

Leading up to the 1st April, several helpful items were made available on the 24HourProject website.  I ordered the official T-shirt, as you must look the part.  I also downloaded some templates which I used as an id and as pamphlets to hand out just in case someone asked why I was taking their pictures.

I must admit I was torn on what camera to use.  Lately I have mainly been using film cameras and for street photography mainly rangefinders.  This is generally lighter and minimalist equipment.  I knew in this case I would be shooting in very dark conditions with very challenging light temperatures and then in very bright conditions which will require quite a bit of dynamic range.

So, I was down to choosing either my Panasonic GX7 kit, nice and light but challenged in low light, or my Nikon D800 which is reasonable at low light but heavy, especially with the Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 attached.  The Nikon outputs a big raw file which I figured would also help in the range of conditions.  Finally, there is the consideration of the battery, and with the GX7, being a mirrorless camera, chews through these like there is no tomorrow.

In the end, I chose the Nikon D800, with only the one lens, the all-purpose 24-70mm.  In hindsight, while it probably gave me a better result, I had forgotten how heavy this can be for such a long period.  As this is a big camera, and obvious, I was concerned that is would be too visible.  So, I went into “stealth” mode.  I used some electrical tape over the logos and made sure I turned the AF assist light off.  I dropped by the Apple Store and got myself a USB reader for my iPad, which allowed me to upload the photos from the secondary card on my D800, which was putting out the Jpegs.  Two spare batteries, a Lens Pen and some cleaning tissues and I was all set for equipment.

For the planning of the day, I mapped out a few key locations I thought would work for various times, but purposely avoided planning to detail.  I wanted to be flexible and ensure I was not rushing from one place to another.  The other factor was that I did not want to rely on ordering transport, so it needed to be central and within walking distance for each location, or a very short train ride.  This provided some challenges as Sydney is currently going through a period of reducing some late-night violence and pretty much all venues have a 1:30am lock-out.  This presents some very quiet hours in the morning.  Combined with a lot of infrastructure building work this empties out the central area very quickly.

I did inquire on an 24HourProject Ambassador for Sydney, early on, but there was not one assigned at the time.  Basically, the Ambassadors help organise the group, set up some meeting points, and after the day, from what I can gather, be involved in the setting up an exhibition in their city.  There was one assigned late, but due to this, I did not get a chance to get in contact with her so I was travelling on my own.

With all this preparation and planning how did it go?  Let’s get to it.

12:00am to 1:00am

Oxford Street, Darlinghurst.

Just before midnight I caught an Uber out to Darlinghurst, which is an inner-city suburb and is well known for nightlife and second only to the seedier side of Sydney to Kings Cross.  I got there a little early, so I walked and scoped out Oxford Street, which is where most of the action happens.  Some rain was starting to come down, but luckily this was the extent of it for the day, otherwise as I was worried, it would be a very long 24 hours.

What I noticed is that at this time a lot of people were out getting late night food, to try and beat the lock-outs.  The usual options are available, kebabs, souvlaki, pizza etc.  It was fitting to catch a scene where you can see the busy food shop and when a man in double denim walked past with a very serious expression on his face, it fell into place for the mood of the time.

Other contenders:

 

1:00am to 2:00am

Oxford Street, Darlinghurst.

The noise and bustle was quite good at this time of night, as the late-night revellers were mixing it in with the abundant security in the area, the homeless and the generally lost souls of the night.  At this time of night, you need to be a little careful as many people have had too much to drink and can get aggressive here.

Walking back towards my base point of Taylor Square, still on Oxford Street, I came across Kevin.  Well I think it is Kevin, as he had been obviously drinking and I struggled to make out the name.  Kevin was in a corset, denim skirt, and runners (trainers).  He also had a black fan.  As I was walking, he pointed at me, and struck a pose, for a split second.  I grabbed a shot, asked his name, he responded as he walked off to join some cabaret drag queens.  I could not get a shot of the group which was a bit of a shame.

 

2:00am to 3:00am

Taylor Square, Darlinghurst.

I was watching from my spot in Taylor Square that the energy of the area was starting to slow down.  The lock-outs where in effect and as people came out of the clubs and pubs they would start to disperse out. As I was about to get up and head into another direction myself, my attention got captured by snippets of a band playing in the pub right in front of me.

I checked the time, and it was just before 2:00am and I had already got my shot for the previous hour, so I took some pictures for myself and waited the 2-3 minutes hoping I would get a chance when the clock turned the hour.  Luckily, I did, because after a couple of minutes the band finished for the night, but I got my shot right on 2:00am.

I uploaded my picture soon after that, as I wanted to start moving into a new location.

 

3:00am to 4:00am

Liverpool Street, Sydney

Off I was, heading into a central location.  I wasn’t the only one on the move.  People walking is not very interesting, so I started to look for any action and I came across a group of four young people who had been partying all night.  The young lady of the group had obviously been partying too hard, and was busily showing the group what she had eaten for the night.  She was lucky her friends were taking quite good care of her.

 

4:00am to 5:00am

Martin Place, Sydney

As I walked through the city, I realised that it had changed from when I would frequent late night clubs and bars.  It is now very quiet, which considering how busy Sydney can get, it is quite eerie.  I walked for a while without really encountering anyone until I decided I needed a quick stop in Martin Place where there are some seats, to give me a chance to see what all other 24Hours-ers were up to and posting.

While I sat there, a group of friends came into the area, and for some reason were comparing the clock on top of the GPO to Big Ben.  I can guarantee you that this is nowhere near a comparison!  In any case, the men, being boys, started to ask for their photo taken while showing off their muscles, which the young ladies kindly obliged.

Other contenders:

 

5:00am to 6:00am

World Square, Sydney

The city was now as still as I have ever seen it.  Nowhere was there any action.  I walked for a while longer and was resigned to not having an entry into this hour, when I came across a cleaner going about his business with some backlighting.

 

6:00am to 7:00am

Circular Quay, Sydney

Dawn was starting to break, and the beautiful Sydney light was starting to come up.  I knew the popular tourist areas would start to be set up for the day, so I followed there to see if I can capture some action.  Action is what I got, there are so many joggers I thought I was in a stampede of running shoes!

As I walked towards the Sydney Opera House, I noticed the light was an interesting mix between the lamps, the weak natural light and the ship’s light on the other side of the quay.  I waited there knowing there would be some joggers coming though, and as expected I managed to get a few attempts at this one.  I wanted to have some blur (at that light, not much of a choice), and this lady unknowingly gave me a shot which shows the spirit of a new day in Sydney.

 

7:00am to 8:00am

Circular Quay, Sydney

All around me, lots of cooking was starting to happen, people were out for breakfast, early morning jogs and walks, sightseeing, sunrise captures and generally awaking to a new glorious day.  I stopped to get some caffeine, as I tend to need this to get me moving on a regular day yet alone on this day.  As I was waiting, I noticed the chef in the background flipping food up into the air as he cooked. I suspect he did this a bit for my benefit, but hey, it made a great action shot.

I did get another picture I very much like in this hour, but as the exact theme is humanity, this did not quite fit into the theme on the hour by hour basis, but did give me the title photo for this article.

Other contender:

 

8:00am to 9:00am

Circular Quay, Sydney

Another beautiful day in Sydney!  The sun was out, there was cheery voices and children squealing everywhere.  I also noticed that the cruise ship passengers were disembarking.  It was interesting to see all the different ways people handle getting out from a crowd, but something that stuck out was the number of people taking selfie shots of themselves and the ship.  Gone are the days where you would ask a passer-by to take a picture with your camera.  I snapped a few people selfie-ing themselves.  Interestingly this was the first of the pictures that I had posted to Instagram which I then replaced in the final uploads.

Other contender:

 

9:00am to 10:00am

Circular Quay, Sydney

After watching the passenger terminal for a while, I saw an older gentleman nodding off to sleep nearby, in the nice warm sunshine.  I suspect all the commotion around was a bit much after a while.  Now it was time to stop for a decent breakfast!

 

10:00am to 11:00am

The Rocks, Sydney

It was time to move on again so I headed to the Rocks area.  This is one of the older parts of Sydney, so I was looking for something where there was interesting backdrop.  What I did not expect to find was a bride being photographed.  I motioned if it was ok to make some photos and got the nod back.  It was a matter then of waiting for the wind and the assistants to be in the right place and voila! I preferred the background to be the column of the Harbour Bridge rather the normal scenic wedding picture.

I then moved into the weekend market spots.

Other contender:

 

11:00am to 12:00pm

The Rocks Markets, Sydney

The Rocks Market is an interesting market in that it used to be quite eclectic, but when the vendors got wise to the tourist dollar, especially when the international dock for cruise ships was built up nearby, it has lost its edge.  What I do still like is that there is an array of artists that you can still go look at and buy their work, if you look past the usual tourist stuff.

 

12:00pm to 1:00pm

Barangaroo, Sydney

Middle of the day, with very harsh shadows.  I headed through Barangaroo, which is a relatively new addition to the inner city.  Here I started to look for people with interesting backdrops when I came across this ship.  What you don’t see is that there was about 50-60 people waiting to get aboard, but all keeping in the shade of the structure behind me, except for this lone gentleman reading, with the ship on one side, and the Harbour Bridge on the other.

This was not the initial pic I posted, but in hindsight is a better representation of that hour.  I also encountered the only other 24Hour-er, that I met, on my way to the train station.  It was nice to meet @granjools there and from what she told me there is a good group of photographers in the Sydney chapter of this project.

Other contender:

 

1:00pm to 2:00pm

Paddy’s Markets, Haymarket, Sydney

I was finding it hard in the harsh sunlight at this point.  I was also getting quite hungry, so I decided to head to the indoor markets, which entailed a quick train ride.

Paddy’s Market has been in Sydney for a long time, at least from when I moved here the first time.  A bit of a rushed hour this one, as had to fit in some food, but when I saw the colours of the spice stall, I had to snap that up.

 

2:00pm to 3:00pm

Paddy’s Markets, Haymarket, Sydney

Fed and feeling a bit more energetic, I spent a little more time at the markets and concentrated on capturing some shoppers and vendors.  This was another one where I swapped out the uploaded picture, but felt the man’s stare over the fruit and veggies was more powerful than the ice cream vendor.

Other contender:

 

3:00pm to 4:00pm

Tumbalong Park, Sydney

Having been refreshed, I headed out back into the sunshine, in the direction of Darling Harbour.  Along the way there is Tumbalong Park and coincidentally the Korean Festival was being held.  I could hear some drums and when I located them, found a little boy banging away.  As I was watching a lady comes up and joins him, so they both had a go.

Other contender:

 

4:00pm to 5:00pm

Darling Harbour, Sydney

Darling Harbour was the hive of activity as it always is.  Even the building works have not slowed that down.  Lots of families, couples and friends having a great time.  As I was walking, I noticed there was these pillars with mirrors on all sides. Lots of people were making snapshots of themselves being mirrored and half mirrored.

I wanted something different when I noticed that one side of a particular pillar reflected into a quiet little corner.  I waited there for a few moments, and when a lady walked past a man who looked like the other side of the spectrum moved into the dark corner.  This captures two different people that most likely did not even see each other, but were captured in the same photograph.

I kept walking after that and had a look under the bridges, which gave some interesting shapes.

Other contender:

 

5:00pm to 6:00pm

Darling Harbour, Sydney

It happened.  It was bound to happen. I hit the wall.  My legs hurt a lot, my back was aching and I almost stopped.  I rang my lovely wife and told her I did not know if I could make it.  She gave me the encouragement I needed, and anyone that knows me, knows I do not tend to give up on anything, so I continued.

As I talked to her, there was a gentleman sitting close by, shouting at people as they passed by.  What attracted me to him was not only his voice, but also that apart from his normal hat, he was also wearing a sombrero.  A bright orange one at that! I actually made this photo while I talked to my wife, thanks to autofocus and aperture priority (which I happened to have on by chance).  Great old Nikon metering to the rescue.

Soon after, I walked off and ran into a colleague from work.  She mentioned that I did look worse for wear and she had never seen me like this.  My legs ached that little bit more at that stage!

 

6:00pm to 7:00pm

Darling Harbour, Sydney

I decided then that I would head to my last destination that I had mapped out, which was Chinatown.  On the way, there is a little play area for kids of all ages, and includes some table tennis tables.  You could not miss these two gentlemen going at it with all they could.  No one would go past at either end, in fear of being run into.

Other contender:

 

7:00pm to 8:00pm

Sussex Street, Haymarket, Sydney

It was getting dark again, so the search was on for artificial lighting.  Shops and restaurants are great for that, and when I saw this hairdresser’s shop I knew what I wanted.  I watched until the customer looked right into the mirror.

Now to get some dinner in Chinatown.

 

8:00pm to 9:00pm

Chinatown, Haymarket, Sydney

I love Chinatown, in whichever city I happen to be in.  It is always full of noise, action, fantastic food smells and is just vibrant.  Within all that people do find their moments of quiet, as did this couple in front of a shop and with dinners sitting metres from them.  I love how this captures that to them, the rest of the world does not matter at that point, it is just a man and a woman looking into each other’s eyes.  What makes it even more serene is that no one else is even noticing them.

Other contenders:

 

9:00pm to 10:00pm

Chinatown, Haymarket, Sydney

Even though I am sure most people around me at that point had not been up shooting for 20-21 hours straight, I could see lots of tired people.  It was Saturday, everyone had worked hard all week, and were in the process of unwinding.  I noticed a girl in the window of a trinket shop being consoled by who I am assuming is her mother.  Maybe the day had been too long for some.

Other contender:

 

10:00pm to 11:00pm

Darling Harbour, Sydney

To try and break things up a bit, I walked back to Darling Harbour for a short while.  On the way I witnessed a bag snatch which put a bit of a sour note on things, but no one was hurt, which was the main thing.  While in the area a couple of performance artists started up with fire juggling and the like.  I noticed that if you looked from the right side, it looked like the man on the high seat is on fire.

 

11:00pm to 12:00am

Chinatown, Haymarket, Sydney

That was it, I needed only one more to finish up.  I had an idea from something I had seen earlier, and trekked back to Chinatown.  I also knew it would be easier to order an Uber for pick up there.  I had noticed some overgrown smiling seafood at the front of a restaurant.  I had also seen some of the workers finishing their day nearby.  With that I captured them within the curve of the smiling chef fish (don’t ask me!).

I was done!  As I walked back to a bench to upload my final photo, two men started getting into a heated shouting match, so I headed instead for Sussex Street, which is about a block away.  As I was walking away, a bottle was thrown and it was getting quite serious with many friends joining in, so I moved off quickly.  By the time I finished uploading my photo and the Uber arrived, at least 8 police cars came screaming into the area.  Glad to be on my way home then.  What an exciting end to the day!

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the experience, it was something I was very keen to do.  Also knowing that it is contributing to a couple of really good and worthwhile causes was more than enough to convince me.  It did take a day or so to recover, but that is such a little discomfort.  Mind you, I would love the below stats on my daily fitness tracker every day!

What I did learn is that next year I am going to ignore the low light quality argument and take my mirrorless kit.  Luckily, I have travelled quite a lot with my Nikons, so it was not foreign to me, but it is where my subjects could see me too easily that made it harder.  Walk anywhere with a DSLR and it is noticed.

I have looked at all the work produced by photographers all over the world, and it is impressive.  I am now looking forward to the exhibition at the Head-on Photo Festival in Sydney during May, and roll on next year!

3 Comments

  • Julie Samerski April 25, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Hi Theo
    @granjools here!! We ran into each other at Circular Quay during 24 Hour Project when you noticed my 24hr t-shirt!!
    I’m keen to do next year and hopefully be more organised about it.
    Perhaps I could arrange a catch up with some of the other Sydney participants a week or two prior to the event.
    Cheers Jools

    Reply
    • Theo April 26, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      Hi Jools, I’m also keen to do it again. A get together before hand would be great! It’s also a good way for us to share team photos etc. to the wider world. Theo

      Reply
      • Julie Samerski April 26, 2017 at 5:12 pm

        Great Theo! I will get in touch closer to the 2018 event then! Cheers Jools

        Reply

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