In these award-winning photographs by Sam Ferris, intense golden sunlight bounces off the steel-and-glass urban canyon walls of Sydney’s Central Business District — illuminating passersby and setting the stage for countless fleeting encounters on the city streets.

Artist’s Statement

“In Visible Light” is a personal street photography project shot between 2013 and the present that interrogates my perceptions and experiences of living in Sydney — a city where the cost of living has never been higher and the sense of anxiety never more acutely felt. The more I am on the street photographing, the more I feel it is important to document this time and place where I live as a bystander, as witness to a city on the verge of something. A city where we are bombarded daily by the fallacies of a vapid, sensationalist media; a city where we are obsessed with status and feel constant uncertainty about what we have, if it’s enough and what we’re missing out on; a city where multiculturalism and diversity is celebrated while, simultaneously, resurgent nationalist and conservative values take a foothold; a city that still bears the scars of the Martin Place siege and Cronulla riots; a city where the interests of businesses and the political agenda of government now outweigh the lifestyles that were once cherished; and a city where it is easy to find yourself lost.

— Sam Ferris

Foggy Morning, Circular Quay. A quintet of Australian White Ibis fly through the fog and reflected light early on a Winter’s morning at Sydney’s Circular Quay. Due to its increasing presence in the urban environment and its habit of scavenging from human refuse, the species has been colloquially dubbed the ‘bin chicken’ and, in recent years, has become iconic in Australian popular culture. Symbolic of urban Sydney’s encroachment on native habitats, there has been much debate whether to consider these birds a pest or a protected species. © Sam Ferris
Corner of King and George. A woman with a serene expression is struck by a gust of wind at the corner of King and George streets in Sydney’s Central Business District (CBD). During the month of November, there is a 30-minute window in the evening where the light is both direct and reflected, creating a cinematic effect on the street. I have been photographing at this location for roughly five years. © Sam Ferris
Untitled. Inside the newly constructed entrance to Wynyard station on Clarence Street. With the population of Sydney rapidly expanding, Wynyard was upgraded to ease the burden on Sydney’s struggling rail network. At a cost of $100 million AUD, the capacity of the heritage listed station was increased to accommodate 150,000 commuters at any given time. © Sam Ferris
Untitled. Corralled on street corners but never connected, commuters begin the journey home. During peak hour, each corner on Sydney’s main thoroughfare of George Street is packed with pedestrians in a mass exodus of the CBD. © Sam Ferris
Light Rain on George Street. A Summer storm quenches the city and douses commuters during rush hour, after a hot and humid day in Sydney. © Sam Ferris
Outside the Townie. Last light hits the facade of Newtown’s ‘Townie’ Town Hall Hotel. Commuters wait at the traffic lights while patrons line up outside the venue to check in. The hotel has been serving the people of Newtown for over 100 years. © Sam Ferris
Hold Up. The glass surfaces of the shiny, new office buildings at Sydney’s recently developed Barangaroo precinct provide a dramatic setting for street photography. In Aboriginal history, Barangaroo was a powerful Cammeraygal woman of the Eora Nation and a key figure in local Aboriginal culture and community. Commenced in 2011, the 22 hectare precinct consists of towering office buildings, a 270m tall casino and hotel, restaurants, bars, and tourist attractions. According to census data, the population of this area stands at 186. © Sam Ferris
Windswept, 2020. The Winter wind whips through a near empty Sydney Opera House precinct, as joggers pass by and Sydney’s few remaining tourists grab a quick selfie in front of the iconic structures in the last minutes of golden, winter light. © Sam Ferris
Untitled. Passengers commute on a packed Manly to Circular Quay ferry. A worldwide icon of Sydney, the ‘Freshwater’ ferries are both a rite-of-passage for any visitor to the harbour city and have become quintessential of Sydney life for those who use them for their daily commute. In April 2019, the NSW government announced plans to retire these ferries, sparking public debate and outrage. © Sam Ferris
Market Street, 2021. During the beginning of 2021, Sydney returned to relative normality after the Pandemic of 2020. Crowds were back in the CBD, patrolling the shopping stretch of Market and George Streets. In the month of February, the sun finishes its descent at the Darling Harbour end of Market street, creating a spectacular few minutes of light at the close of Summer evenings. © Sam Ferris

About the Artist

Born in Melbourne, Australia, 1985, Ferris completed an Honours degree in the Arts, winning the Vice Chancellor’s university medal, and an Australian post-graduate scholarship to research and work at the University of New South Wales in the School of English, Media, Performing and Fine Arts. This precipitated his relocation to Sydney where he started to seriously photograph around 2010. He organised and co-founded the Aussie Street Festival in 2018-19 and joined Burn My Eye Collective in 2021.

His work has been exhibited across the globe and featured in 100 Great Street Photographs by Prestel Publishing, Internationale, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, The Sydney Morning Herald, and many other leading periodicals. Ferris was a prize winner at StreetFoto San Fransisco (2017), finalist in the Head On Photo Festival Prizes in the categories of Portrait and Landscape (2020 and 2021), finalist in the Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize (2019) and a two-time finalist in the ‘Australian Life’ Photographic Prize (2015 and 2021). Ferris was named ‘Australasia’s Top Emerging Photographer’ in 2019 in the category of documentary/photojournalism by a panel of over 30 local and international judges. In 2020, he was profiled for the Australian Photographers’ Journal Why Photograph? series. 2021 saw Ferris publish his first monograph, In Visible Light, which has since sold out in both its first and second printing. He was awarded 2nd Place Winner in the series category of the LensCulture Street Photography Awards 2021.

Discover all of the other winners of the LensCulture Street Photography Awards 2021.