Photographer Andrew Quilty and journalist Jackie Dent have come together to present a new series of black and white images for a reportage project entitled The Heart of Punchbowl. The exhibition was commissioned to accompany the SBS’s upcoming series Once Upon a Time in Punchbowl, a four-part documentary that tells the story of the Australian Lebanese community. Each image in the exhibition acts as a window into the rich culture that inhabits the streets of the Sydney suburb. Quilty’s photographs are fascinating, throwing light out across a bay of individuals, families and their daily lives.

Quilty’s compelling and shadowy documentation of the 2005 Cronulla riots captured the attention of SBS, who contacted him to use some images for their Punchbowl series. “The suburb had become embroiled in the reprisal attacks that followed the riots,” Quilty explains. “Hence the importance of Cronulla – and those photographs in the Punchbowl narrative.”

Dent spent a month familiarising herself with Punchbowl and its community, before inviting Quilty into the fold to capture the essence of the suburb. “[Dent] developed great relationships and trust with all the people that we ended up profiling,” says Quilty. “Drinking coffee, going to dinners, parties, weddings and things. She - and therefore I - were very much embraced and taken in.” The portraits in The Heart of Punchbowl are animated and energised, an assemblage of sincere family moments that are intensely personal but filled with optimism.

“Nothing was contrived, manipulated or set up,” adds Quilty. “The Heart of Punchbowl was conceived in an effort to give the Punchbowl community a voice of their own. It would be their stories, told by themselves, held and celebrated within the Punchbowl community.”

The Heart of Punchbowl will show at The Bankstown Arts Centre at 5 Olympic Parade, Bankstown on November 22 and 23 only.