The faces of a culture in multicultural Australia

The faces of a culture in multicultural Australia Source: SBS

The faces of some of Australia's most influential Indigenous heroes are being celebrated in a new Sydney photo exhibition.

Photographer Sunny Brar decided to embark on the self-funded project to capture the face of Australia in a search for his own identity.

If you had to choose 30 faces to represent the story, struggles and achievements of a particular set of cultures or ethnicities, whose would you choose?

That was the question photographer Sunny Brar posed to himself.

Mr Brar, from an Indian background, arrived in Australia when he was only seven years old.

Growing up as a cultural hybrid, he says he grappled with his own concept of identity and heritage.

He says the concept for The Face exhibition came to him as he worked for the South Sydney Rabbitohs rugby-league team during the NRL's Indigenous round.

"I saw that everyone else was struggling, also, to identify with their own culture or even figure out their own heritage. I started figuring out the pattern -- that was, the need to find out that not everyone's the same type of person, like, everyone has different stories, different things that they've done in life. I sat down with my family, and I decided to photograph the different faces of culture in multicultural Australia. The wonderful thing about that is that it gave me an opportunity to start with the First Nation people."

Over the past eight months, Mr Brar has travelled from Sydney to Townsville, from Dubbo to Canberra and the Gold Coast, and many other places in between.

He has been getting to know some of the most recognisable and emblematic faces of Indigenous Australia.

They range from sporting legends like Nova Peris and Jade North to actors like Jack Charles and Miranda Tapsell to politician Linda Burney and activist Bonita Mabo.

And he has captured the charisma and experience of a group of formidable Indigenous Australians.

"It was all about finding out that these people are one of the most proud and inclusive people that I've ever met. You know, they want to show you all the things that they've achieved, but they were humble in it. I found that the cultural similarities of Indigenous people and a person like me from India are very similar. We hold very similar values of family and connection and language."

Despite not being Indigenous, Sunny Brar found a way to earn the trust of the people he was photographing.

Professional boxer and mental-health advocate Joe Williams says Mr Brar displayed a genuine interest and an openness to learn.

He allowed the photographer to shoot him while looking proud and shedding a tear as a means to represent his pride in culture and his achievements in overcoming depression.

"There's obviously some sporting people here, but it just highlights the different fields that a lot of our people are in, and succeeding in, and Sunny's done an amazing job just capturing the right shots. You know, it's from young people to old people, to boisterous people. It's truly incredible."

The exhibition also reveals the faces and achievements of other, lesser-known heroes.

One of those local champions is Redfern senior constable Jarin Baigent, the first police officer in her family and the only Indigenous female officer in her circle.

She says, while the experience was daunting, she really hopes Mr Brar completes more exhibitions of Indigenous people doing noteworthy things in the community.

"It was particularly daunting for my session. I had my two very young, loud children with me, and Sunny was very patient and really good at keeping them at bay and still managing to take my photo. So, yeah, he did really well."

Sunny Brar has also recorded videos of those he photographed as a way to extend the scope of the exhibition.


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