Today, a Walkley winner from the archives. Steven Siewert won the 2008 Photographic Essay Walkley for his Good Weekend photoessay, “Waiting for Wanda Jackson”.
What we said then:
The 1950s was an exuberant decade that brought the birth of rock and roll, new fashions and social mores, and a breakaway generation who became known as teenagers. More than 50 years later, there are still some for whom the fifties never died.
Siewert spent five years documenting Sydney’s rockabillies, a vibrant subculture living and breathing an era that predates their earliest birthdays. The boys dress for cool with stovepipe jeans and slick quiffs, while the women wear dazzling cocktail frocks by night and colourful vintage dresses by day. Siewert travelled to gigs at festivals around Australia and entered people’s lives and homes, self-funding a project that captured how this small community expresses its passion for the past.
Colour, composition and fun are the key elements to this exquisitely crafted series of images, from energetic dance-floor shots to painterly portraits. One image in the collection, above, also won the Nikon-Walkley Prize for portrait photography. The subject, Robyn, had just seen rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson perform, and she was waiting for her in her boyfriend’s car behind the venue. Lighted by the interior and floating in a sea of drops from the rain outside, it’s an unconventional portrait and uncommonly beautiful.
What the judges said: Every image is beautifully composed. Siewert uses composition and colour together, playing off each other. These technically brilliant images actually use colour to tell the story. There’s a beautiful pace in the type of lenses he uses, from tight telephoto to wide angle. A perfect and well-edited use of the photoessay category, it really tells a busy and beautiful story.
Find Steven on Twitter: @SiewertPhotos