Taking a message beyond the street: Jamie Wdziekonski chats protest photography

You’re probably already familiar with the music photography of Jamie Wdziekonski. Having shot iconic pics of bands like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Amyl & The Sniffers, Tropical Fuckstorm, and a heap of others, his signature grainy style has become a staple of the Aussie music community.

However, a lot of Jamie’s most powerful photographs are taken away from the stage—they’re taken on the streets, at rallies, protesting social and political injustices. The goal is to capture the spirit of these moments, and take that power beyond the rally. Through his photography, he takes the message further. So we caught up with Jamie to chat about how he’s using his platform as a music photographer to fight for important issues.

This article appears in Happy Mag Issue 11: The Photo Issue. Pre-order your copy here.

All photos courtesy of Jamie Wdziekonski

There’s a strength in community and the power of people coming together“: Jamie Wdziekonski (Sub-Lation) chats his protest photography.

HAPPY: Do you remember the first protest you ever shot?

JAMIE: It was in 2014 and there was a protest against Tony Abbott and his policies. I approached the rally and I wasn’t sure how it worked. I didn’t know if I could just start walking with the crowd or not. I took a total of maybe 10-15 shots that day but there was one that, to this day, is still one of my favourites: “SAY NO TO THE NEO-LIBERAL WAR OF ALL AGAINST ALL”… which is sadly still all too relevant.

HAPPY: Could you tell us a bit about how your history has helped drive your interest in political issues?

JAMIE: It’s an accumulation of things throughout my life that have shaped me and my outlook on the world today. Being bullied all throughout my schooling taught me that you should stick up for people that need it… to elevate the voices of the oppressed.

Most of it, however, stems from the Government’s insensitivity, apathy, and inaction to social-political and climate issues. They only really look after themselves and the people that fill their pockets with dollars. The rest of us are left to look after each other and our planet.

A perfect example of this would be what’s happening with the Murray-Darling Basin. Towns on Gamilaroi Country that are mostly populated by Indigenous people are left with bore water that’s contaminated and making them ill, or worse, they’re left with no water at all. It’s up to organisations like FIRE (Fighting In Resistance Equally) with the aid of crowd fundraising to do water runs to these towns and more recently installing water filters on their taps. This was all action with no help from Liberal or Labor or The Greens or any other half-arsed politician in Canberra. Why? Because they simply don’t give a fuck about the people or the environment.

When there are so many injustices in our country and in the world today, it’s hard not to be mad. Indigenous deaths in custody, where over 400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died at the hands of Australian police since the royal commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991.

Where 800-year-old sacred birthing trees on Djap Wurrung country are to be bulldozed to make room for a fucking highway… like so many sacred Indigenous sites have been destroyed in the past for the purpose of mining and development.

Where a scorched Notre-Dame raised millions in hours but hundreds of thousands of men women and their children will go to sleep on the streets of Paris tonight. Yet the Catholic Church’s estimated worth is somewhere between 10 and 15 billion.

All these issues and more are what drives me to try and make this world a better place to live in. I’m definitely not saying I have the answers but I know right from wrong and I plan to simultaneously use and dismantle my privilege to call out these injustices and raise awareness.

HAPPY: Do you approach taking photos at rallies differently to taking photos at gigs?

JAMIE: It’s similar in terms of pace. Everything happens fairly quickly. I’m probably a little more cautious of who I take photos of – I try to gauge if the person is comfortable with having their photo taken.

HAPPY: Have you witnessed any particularly moving moments at one of these rallies?

JAMIE: There’s a strength in community and the power of people coming together. That, in itself, is moving.

HAPPY: What do you see as being the most important part of capturing these scenes?

JAMIE: I think the most important thing to me with photographing rallies is to take the messages beyond the street, beyond the one-hour march in the city. I’ve built myself a platform through photographing psychedelic and punk musicians, and I will use that platform to highlight and expose issues that people may not necessarily be aware of.

Also, I just wanted to add that if you don’t already follow pages like W.A.R. (Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance) and FIRE (Fighting in Resistance Equally), I couldn’t recommend them enough. Also, donate money to these organisations that are resisting colonial powers. Every day we live, work, party and benefit from stolen land and it’s important to pay the rent and support Indigenous Sovereignty.


This article appears in Happy Mag Issue 11: The Photo Issue. Pre-order your copy here.