Tenants' Union photo competition winner captures anxiety for pets and renters alike


Dylan is smiling with his certificate. In the background there is a sign that says Make Renting Fair and a window looking over buildings.
Dylan Young, winner Pets category

Dylan Young is the winner of the Pets category in the Through a Renters' Lens photography competition run by the Tenants' Union. We had a chat with Dylan about taking part in the competition.

What made you want to get involved with the competition?

Dylan: [My partner] Kirby had just received their eviction notice. It had emotionally destroyed her. She was inconsolable for at least a couple of hours. I don’t think she would mind me saying that. It’s a pretty horrible thing.

It was pretty serendipitous that we saw the competition ad. We were just trying to get on with our lives and not worry too much about the crisis we were going into. 

I thought, I do have a story about this. I’ve taken a lot of photos in Kirby’s apartment, particularly of [Kirby’s pet cat] Coffee. I looked up online to get some more details. I saw the categories and thought I should enter this thing. Why not? I have been getting into photography as a hobby. I should try some competitions and see if the photos hold their weight.

Coffee is your muse. What does it mean to you to expand the right of pets in rentals? And what does it mean to you to be able to have a pet?

Dylan: This is something I think a lot about because [my family] have always had pets back in Canberra. They’ve been on mortgages so they can have whatever pets they want. Then coming to Sydney, realising all the barriers to that have really made me feel like a second class citizen as a renter. 

Not being able to have pets reflects the wealthy disparity in this world. If you don’t have the money, you are not allowed the basic ability to have a companion.

Do you think the competition was an opportunity for renters to have their voices heard?

Dylan: The Tenants’ Union and this photography competition really highlight these stories with that focus on renting and combating the idea of transience. I really appreciate it for that. 

Would you like to do something like this again? 

Dylan: I had been in a little bit of a slump with my photography. The act of going to all of these inspections with Kirby, looking at [rentals], and being bombarded with news of the rental crisis had creatively drained me. 

I hadn’t really thought about photography at all and then I saw the competition and felt like I could twist that energy into something constructive. That was great. Being involved in the competition has made me feel better about the rental situation.

Coffee the cat is perched in the window sill with light coming in around them
Coffee Watches Anxiously by Dylan Young






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