13 March 2014
What happens when you take 9,100 people completely glammed out in costume, 400kg of glitter, 250 motorcycles, 144 different floats, and put them all on a 5.9km parade route through Sydney? The result is a massive party called the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade. Although the scale is large, the overall message is very simple: to communicate universal diversity, equality, and love.
Before all the lively excitement kicked off, I watched participants trickle into Hyde Park in preparation for the event. I was there early on a mission to capture all the different faces of Mardi Gras with my camera. As the first guests arrived, it was amazing to see the extravagant costumes that were emerging. People were decked out in bright neon colors and varying materials, while others had opted for their own “birthday suit”. But as more and more people arrived I couldn’t help but notice that the event had little to do with what people were wearing and a lot more to do with why they were there: to celebrate being together. The best part of Mardi Gras is that everyone is accepted. Every single person is there to have a good time and truly be whoever they want to be. Aside from Christmas, I don’t think I’ve ever heard more people wish each other happiness on a single day – “Happy Mardi Gras!” was being said everywhere, and people really meant it.
I had never been to a Mardi Gras before, but the Mardi Gras Parade in Sydney will be difficult to top as it’s unlike any other of its kind. Oxford Street is lined top-to-bottom with energetic spectators waiting to capture the magnificent array of color and attitude parading up the street. But before anyone gets a chance to see the floats, the thunder of 250 motorcycles reverberates through the city walls as Sydney’s renowned group of lesbian riders, the Dykes on Bikes, officially open up the parade route. Cheering ensues as thousands of the wildest characters you can imagine begin their march.
Every group fathomable in the LGBTQI community is present in the parade alongside supporting friends and family and others who are there to promote different causes, or simply to dress up and have fun. Over two hours, the parade is a humongous spectacle and this year’s finale ensured it finished with an impressive performance and float celebrating Strictly Ballroom. Explosions of glitter, dozens of dancers and multicolored flames created a dazzling sight under the directorship of Baz Luhrmann who joined the parade overflowing with excitement as he too paraded through the intersection of Oxford and Flinders Streets.
At it’s core I think Mardi Gras can best be described as outrageously fun, but more importantly, human. It’s easy to see the camaraderie that was present when you look at all the faces I got to capture. If you enjoyed the parade yourself, or know a friend who did, tag yourself in our album! Enjoy!