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Photographers' perspective: Same-Sex Marriage Vote

Crossbenchers Cathy McGowan, Adam Brandt and Andrew Wilkie celebrate the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, December 7, 2017. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

While Australia watched on the Parliament House's live stream, followed on Twitter or tuned into a TV broadcast, Lukas Coch and Mick Tsikas were capturing the moments inside the House of Representatives that would keep an historic moment alive in our memories for a long time to come.

Mick and Lukas, two of AAP's top staff photographers, started working that morning at 7am, covering the early press conference and the rally organised by the Equality Campaign. From there on there were no breaks until about 8pm.

With such an eventful day, covering everything can be challenging for a team of two. The strategy consisted in taking turns, both in and outside the Parliament, but making sure someone remained in the House at all times. Like goalkeepers on each side of the field, Lukas and Mick took different sides of the Chamber. Lukas in the press gallery, behind the Speaker. Mick from the public gallery. The strategy ensured they could cover as much of the debate as possible as well as the surroundings, to achieve multiple angles and perspectives.

In collaboration with reporters, photojournalists such as Lukas and Mick need to make sure they are across the main topics. Reporters and photographers have to have a very close working relationship, says Mick. Once events unfold, however, they are on their own.

More than 100 speeches took place that day. Even though an image can say much more than a thousand words, it is hard to capture all those words with images. Despite the repetitiveness of the speeches, the atmosphere, anticipation and the constant reactions made up for it. The public gallery was filled with same-sex marriage supporters and, as the debate moved through the day, it had the atmosphere of a cricket game. Members of the public clapped and cheered each time an amendment was voted down, says Lukas, who did not find the debate boring at all. For Mick, some of the amendments felt like an excuse to keep the debate going. After covering the same sex marriage legislation for how many years, I just it wanted it done and over., he explains.

Continuing with the sports analogy, this match had a clear ending. The anticipation kept building towards a moment of jubilation, with the Yes side expected to win. For Lukas, it was about covering the action and reaction knowing that once the bill passed we needed pictures of the jubilation.

"You can try and anticipate some shots, but once the jubilation started everything happened at the same time and you need an open eye and mind" Lukas Coch

And that moment indeed came. Once it did, everything happened very quickly. With 150 MPs reacting at the same time, experience and instinct took over. In Lukas' words: You can try and anticipate some shots, but once the jubilation started everything happened at the same time and you need an open eye and mind. We focused on the main supporters of the Bill and the Prime Minister. There was a moment where gay MP Trent Zimmerman offered a rainbow flag to the Prime Minister but he decided not to wear it. This would have been an obvious and strong picture. But then you get surprised by a moment of joy and emotion that we did not anticipate when main same-sex marriage supporter Warren Entsch picked up Labor MP Linda Burney.

Photographers are often witnesses to moments in history most of us will never have the privilege to come to close to. This was one of them.  For Mick, this reminded him of when he covered Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. This had the same sense of history, passion and drama, he says.

For Lukas it hit close to home: I often think about what it might mean for my daughter's generation.

"I covered Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. This had the same sense of history, passion and drama." Mick Tsikas

Unfortunately for a passionate photographer who seeks to capture emotions, parliamentary rules don't allow photographs of those in the public gallery, which in the end was what struck a chord with these experienced photojournalists. The moment that the public galley broke into spontaneous song I am, You are, We Australian, even for a hardened shooter like me, it was a moment that gave me hope, says Mick.

The Frame of the Week

Photojournalism is all about telling a story with a single image. Lukas' frame got accolades from the journalism world for doing just that. Read more about the story behind the image here.

Liberal MP Warren Entsch lifts up Labor MP Linda Burney as they celebrate the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, December 7, 2017. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)























 

Want to follow AAP's coverage of the Same-Sex Marriage vote? Visit AAP Photos.

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