Byron Bay Bluesfest on a Shoestring

The Bluesfest is one of Australia’s biggest music festivals; it takes place every year over the Easter weekend and is a showcase for many Australian and international musicians at various stages of their fame Bell curve. Thousand of visitors stomping on the soggy ground of Byron Bay floodplain – like cattle crowded in a small pen – quickly turn the site into a mud bath. Singers come and go; mud is the mainstay.

It has become a tradition for my friend Geoff and I to go to the festival’s closing night and this year, I carried a camera with me. I am a keen portrait photographer but I am often too shy to ask strangers for permission and too well brought-up to snap without it. The solution to my ethical conundrum revealed itself almost immediately upon entering the venue: people’s feet kept catching my attention. Whether clad in Wellington boots, shoes, thongs and plastic bags or braving the elements bare, they looked colourful, dirty and rather striking. They quickly became the main subject of my photographs so I decided to take a leaf out of the Sartorialist’s book and produce a fashion parade of sorts. The following gallery is my downcast Bluesfest photo diary. Perhaps not as classy as the New York dress code shots on the Sartorialist, but way more fun.

On the day, the only exceptions to my foot fetish were Grace Jones, whom – being on stage – was treated as fair game, and Serge, whose handsome speckled grin might look out of place amongst my Achilles’ heels parade. Having spotted him mud body-surfing at the end of a concert, I asked to take his picture. Elated and caked in mud head to toe, he was a sight too good to be missed.

Maurizio Viani