Showcase: Nick Shehadie

Erin Irwin takes a closer look at these outstanding works.

The work: Nick Shehadie, Untitled, 2022. Photograph, various dimensions. Courtesy: the artist.

At the Yipirinya School located in Alice Springs, Northern Territory, maintaining the significance and vitality of local culture is foundational to their approach to educating a new generation of First Nations Peoples. The only school of its kind in Australia, it teaches in five languages: Central Arrernte, Walpiri, Luritja, Western Arrernte, and English. Photographer and teacher Nick Shehadie considers himself deeply lucky to not only teach at Yipirinya School, but also to educate himself about the stories that his students share. In his words, “It is my job not only to make students feel safe and comfortable at school, but to form connections and learn about their culture.” One way in which he does this is through his practice, where he takes spontaneous photos of his students as they interact with the world and with each other. In this piece, one of his pupils is caught in a moment of concentration, captured on the bus.

By eliminating any background noise and reducing the subject’s surroundings to pure white, the audience is left to concentrate on the girl and her experience. Her eyes are truly striking, conveying the curiosity and attentiveness that children possess as they encounter the world. With Shehadie’s subject turning slightly from the camera, we are given the impression that this work reveals a fleeting moment in this child’s life, one of many that make up a crucial time of learning and maturing that will inform their future. The image captures the beauty of learning, especially in an educational context that strengthens vital traditions, paving the way for future generations.

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