World Youth Day. Sydney, NSW, Australia

I’ve recently bought myself a new single lens reflex camera, and I’ve been itching to try it out.  So I went down town to photograph the young Catholic pilgrims that have come to Sydney for World Youth Day.

Let me state right now that I’m not a religious person, and that I’m not anti-religious either.  I wanted to photograph the pilgrims, because I knew that they would be colourful subject matter due to the fact that many of them had wrapped themselves in their country’s flags, and it would be interesting to document the phenomenon.

Spanish pilgrim

I have to admit that my preconceived ideas, led me to believe that I could go and look at the pilgrims dispassionately as though they were just some picturesque folk who follow some anachronistic dogma rather than decent people with deeply held beliefs.

African pilgrims

On the television news, I had seen a few reports showing the pilgrims playing music and it all looked a bit lame. So when I went down to Hyde Park near St Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Sydney it came as quite a surprise to me, how much I enjoyed the music and watching the people dance to it. 

As I was watching a Spanish group of pilgrims playing the guitar and singing while about 50 people danced in a circle around them, a young neatly dressed Spanish woman came up to me and told me in broken English, that she was part of that group and that she wanted me to know that Jesus loved me the way how I was. I have a standard reply that I tell such people so that I don’t get involved in some long and tedious discussion about the Bible.  I always say, ” thank you, I know”. That always puts a smile on their faces, and they leave me alone because they think I’m one of them. All the same, it did it gave me a warm feeling that someone wanted to share some joy.

Strangely enough, later on, I found myself thinking about why she had said what she had, to me, and the thought occurred to me that maybe because I was unshaven and sporting the generally unkempt look that I cultivate, she might have thought I was some kind of bum, full of despair and she wanted to up-lift my spirits. 

This thought occurred to me because I know that in Europe most people take pride and care in the way how they look and they tend to dress a lot more fashionably and neatly than many people here in Australia. To compound matters, I tend to dress even more casually than most other Australians.  I can imagine that many of these straitlaced young Catholics from Europe must think we’re so poor here, because so many of us just don’t bother spending that much money or time and effort on our grooming.  Sydney is a generally a very relaxed and casual place, and many people have transcended the need to dress up all the time.

In my travels to various parts of the world I have seen series of painted statues on display in cities.  In Denver, USA, a couple of years ago there were differently painted fibreglass cows, all over town as part of a series called “cow parade”. In Vancouver, Canada there are painted orca all over the place. The cows in Denver, were quite interesting, but the orca in Vancouver were lame, lame, lame!

Here in Sydney for World Youth Day, much in the tradition of the cow parade, there are Jesus Christ statues all over town that have been painted in various ways.  I found that most of the painted Jesus Christ statues weren’t very well done, but I did find one that I thought was fantastic. 


 Covered in mirrors, this statue was called “Reflection”.

I suppose it is trying to communicate that we should reflect upon the life of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures.  As I looked at this mirrored statue, I found myself thinking about how we as human beings tend to project our own concerns on the world. Although the Bible says God created man in his own image, I have a sneaking suspicion that man created God in his own image, and the mirrored statue seemed to be a metaphor of how our religions reflect who we are and how we see our place in the world.

Not very far from the reflection statue was a group of Filipinos who are being led in song by a Spanish priest, who played the guitar.

Philippino pilgrim singing

The priest had a beautiful voice, and the Filipinos sang along with him with a result that wasn’t as polished but not too different to the video below.

[youtube TKkoT5ZoMA0]

If the city of Sydney is to be inundated with large crowds of people from overseas, you really couldn’t pick a better bunch than young Catholics. So very different to the hooligan English soccer fans that plague continental Europe every year.

6 thoughts on “World Youth Day. Sydney, NSW, Australia”

  1. Ok. I’m trying to figure out what type of single lens reflex you bought?? Do tell. Since the highlights on the shoulder of Christ aren’t all whited out, I’m thinking you might not even have bought a digital camera? Is that right? But, if you are marrying this with CS3, I’m thinking nah, must be digital (not that you couldn’t but well, you know). Anyway, this group does sound like it should be on the Preferred Visitors list for any country. And, I’m adopting your “I know” response to any further inquiries about my salvation.

  2. Pat

    The pictures were taken with a Fuji Pro S3. It’s a digital camera. I sold off all my old 35mm Nikon bodies (F2 and FE2) and lenses (18, 28, 85, 135, 300) last year after not using them for about 10 years.

    Working in the photo industry turned me off photography for about 15 years and it’s only now that I’m getting back into it.

    I bought the S3 second-hand last week. Here’s a link to a review of it,

    It’s actually a Nikon body with a better CCD.

    I bought the camera for the very reason that you noted (well spotted).

    Many people get caught up on the file size and forget about the CCD and the software running it (Nikon is crap at writing software). the Fuji basically takes 2x 6mb files. One of the highlights and one of the shadows to combine them so that there isn’t so much loss of detail in the shadows and highlights.

    I shoot and save as RAW files and the tonal range is un-believable (check out the shadow detail on the African women’s faces and hair). I have hardly had do anything in Photoshop to fix them up at all. The images are so naturally saturated and lush!

    I used to spend ages fixing up my snap-shots that I took with my little Canon Powershot (I’ve never really liked Canons).

    By the way, it was my grandmother who I got the “I know” thing from.

  3. Hmmm. Another post to make you stop and think.

    Last weekend my mother told me about a news story where a dog has made friends with a dolphin and swims with it every day (I’ll find it now and add it to a new post). We chatted about how we usually hate watching the news because it’s all doom and gloom and wouldn’t it be great if there was a special news programme where the news is positive/ uplifting/ inspiring. This post would go in my Positive News Show. Just goes to show that not every young person out there lacks conscience.

    I love the picture of the African women. Their hair is incredible!

  4. The message and the photos: both so moving. The double portrait of the women and their incredible hair and expressions is verification that you got the perfect camera, have a great eye, and a grandmother who taught you the best and most succinct way of handling many a situation.

    I’ve also heard that the reason we have two ears and one mouth is that we should listen twice as much as we speak!

    Not every utterance from every human requires a rebuttal or our opinion, wouldn’t you say?

    Enjoy your new camera and it’s results.

  5. Do Australian bums usually carry DSLR’s? Maybe I should try panhandling a bit when I’m lugging my gear around. “C’mon! Look how expensive this crap is! Spare a dollar?”

  6. Epic

    I was surprised at how pleasant I found being around those the World Youth Day pilgrims was. I usually avoid religious people like the plague.


    Thanks for dropping by. I agree about what you have to say about the need to rebut. Oscar Wilde once said, “the need to be right all the time is a sign of a vulgar mind”.


    I’ll have to try panhandling for that 10mm-20mm sigma lens that I’ve got my eye on.

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