The winners of the Australian Photography Awards have been announced and, please, gaze upon this stunning imagery.
One winner was crowned in each of the eight categories which include portrait, landscape, documentary, student, wildlife, open/illustrative, travel/street and junior (under 13).
“In 2020 we received 5,800 entries across our 8 categories making this year the biggest and most diverse celebration of Australian photography yet. APA continues to see a growth of around 30% annually across both entries and audiences. The growth in entries is only important though if we continue to operate at the best possible standard and continue to provide value for those who are involved.” Australian Photography Awards co-founder Tom Goldner said in a statement.
The APA seeks the most original, artful and creative work across all its categories but particularly commends work that reflects our current times.
Winners receive cash prizes and camera and lighting kits from Nikon Australia, Fujifilm Australia and Kayell. They are also offered Moments Pro vouchers so winners can self-publish their images in photo books and have the opportunity to be published in the APA Annual magazine.
You can check out the winning photos and how each photographer created them below.
Portrait Winner – ‘Smile’ by Nicole Reed
Nicole Reed is based in Melbourne. Her work spans editorial, documentary, architecture and portraiture all with a fine art aesthetic. Reed explains how she created this image:
“This was created during Melbourne’s lockdown in response to an Instagram account created by Jo Duck. Each week there was a word theme for photographers in lockdown to respond to to keep us creating. The word for that week was ‘smile’ and the day I shot this was also the day Dan Andrews had announced an extension to the already-three months of Stage 4. Not much reason to smile. I photographed myself, printed out my face and cut out my smile and stuck it on my mask. I guess you could say it had several functions as it also masked the way I was feeling at the time.”
Landscape Winner – ‘Broken River’ by Tom Putt
Driven by his desire to showcase the beauty of the landscape, Tom spends many months of every year creating new photographs for upcoming limited and open edition prints and book projects. Tom’s drive is to showcase the immense beauty and variety of Australia by bringing his art into every home and office. Putt explains how he produced this piece:
“In the northern winter of 2020, I was fortunate to lead a photography expedition to Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia. Baikal is the world’s largest and deepest freshwater lake. Each winter it freezes over creating many incredible ice formations. Seen from above the lake reveals all its spectacular features. During the freezing process of 2020, these very unique ice patterns formed — the likes of which have never been seen before. It is theorised that snow fell on the lake and was blown by wild winds channelled through a nearby valley close to the shoreline. As the lake froze, this snow scattered hundreds of metres across the freezing water, causing these ice patterns. A break in the formations may have been caused by more liquid water penetrating the wind-blown snow. After the lake had frozen, the changes in temperature caused the ice to crack, hence the thin spider-web like lines through the image. Snow falling during winter clumps together on the lake’s icy surface in dune-like formations with the wild winds that cross the exposed lake. This creates yet another stunning layer to this already-complex landscape.”
Documentary Winner – ‘I want to hold her hand’ by Christopher Hopkins
Chris’ creative and intuitive eye saw him hired by Australia’s largest mastheads, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. In 2012 he documented the lives of second-generation Agent Orange victims in Vietnam and was awarded the Walkley slideshow prize. He has since gone on to cover humanitarian issues globally and nationally with an intent to bring human rights issues to the forefront of public awareness.
Hopkins explains the story behind this moving image:
“22/05/20 11:09 am, Williamstown. Robyn Becker is in the final stages of terminal breast and gastric cancer in home isolation with daughter Alex. She was told last week she could only have hours to live. Her sister Jennifer flew from California to Melbourne to be with her but is required to quarantine for two weeks. She has been given special leave from the hotel to be with her if only for an hour a time. ‘Each visit, our time is cut short and it’s devastating,’ says Robyn. Jennifer understands the necessity of the quarantine but says that there could be some flexibility for those in palliative care, ‘I want to be with her, I want talk to her, I want to hold her hand, comfort her and hug her.’ Robyn would sadly pass away on July 10th, seven weeks later.”
Student Winner – ‘Quarantined for a dream’ by Claudia Messenger
Claudia Messenger is a 21-year-old photographer and student from the east coast of Australia. She started photography after relocating from Melbourne due to COVID-19 where she lost touch with her regular art practice of oil painting. Messenger describes the motivation behind her image:
“This image was taken during the mandatory two week government quarantine myself and a friend had to undertake when leaving Melbourne. The experience was dissociating, with a prevailing feeling of isolation and cold sterility that seemed to echo that of the city we’d just left. I hope the images I shot during this time reflect this, and by extension the wider experience of those affected by Covid-19.”
Animal/Wildlife Winner – ‘Invasion’ by Natalya Stone
Natalya Stone is an award-winning nature Photographer, based in Melbourne. Fuelled by a passion for travel and a love of this planet, her eye is influenced by the incredible patterns, textures and colours of nature.
“The photo was taken last year while I was visiting Grand Teton National Park. Whilst the landscapes are stunning there I was primarily focussed on wildlife. In this instance I was actually aiming for the quintessential portrait of an American bison in front of the Grand Tetons, but that soon changed when the scene was taken over by the appearance and chaos of the European Starlings filling the air. The bison were slowly moving through the fields grazing, sporadically disturbing the birds from the ground into the air. A peaceful scene soon turned into a chaotic one. The birds would settle for a few minutes hidden from sight until the bison moved through again. The combination of blur and sharply focussed birds shows the movement of the moment. The starling was brought from Europe to North America in 1890 and have spread to occupy most of the continent. They were intentionally introduced to New York’s Central Park because those admiring the works of Shakespeare wanted to see all species mentioned in his works. What a ridiculous and frivolous reason to introduce a species to a place and here we are 130 years later dealing with the consequences.”
Open/Illustrative Winner – ‘We are women’ by Cara O’Dowd
Cara O’Dowd is interested in the concept of female identity and which is frequently repeated in her work. She said, “I enjoy the challenge of scouting for unique locations, problem solving and connecting with my subject.” For ‘We are women’ she explains:
“Women’s bodies are often presented to us as an aspirational image. More often than not through the lens of a man. I wanted to show them as the fabric, a story, a soul. I wanted to show a cross section of ages, shapes, stories in a beautiful eye-catching way. I wanted the image to make women feel great. I decided to have the women painted (by the wonderful makeup artist Pinky) because the image I saw in my head was a blur of colour and lines. I wanted the lines of the women to be the first thing you saw and then you realise they’re real and they’re all very unique. The shoot day was a powerful and uplifting experience. All the women had such incredible stories of resilience. Each and every woman had nothing but love and admiration for one another’s bodies, they were in awe of the beauty in each other’s differences however when it came to their own bodies they seemingly couldn’t see the beauty in their own differences. They still had a preconceived idea of what they thought their own bodies should look like.”
Travel/Street Winner – ‘In the Cloud’ by Pepijn Thijsse
Born in The Netherlands and raised in Australia, Pepijn Thijsse’s photography focuses on combining aspects of culture, history, built form, symmetry and the human condition.
“This photograph was made in Paris while I was on a one-year photography focused sabbatical in Europe (it became 18 months thanks to Covid-19). I really enjoy street photography at night as it simplifies the scene and light. While walking in the La Défense district, I came across this family seemingly lost ‘in the cloud’ and I knew capturing it would produce something special. The resulting photograph is a bit mysterious and leaves people guessing as to what’s really going on.”
Junior Winner – ‘Surrender to the Calming Waters’ by Harper Allen
The youngest winner in the under-13 category, Harper Allen describes herself as “A 13-year-old girl just living her dream in Brisbane – well partly for the moment.” She talks through the idea for her piece:
“My little 7-year-old sister is a skateboarder – she trains hard, multiple times a week and is often sore. The bath not only soothes her muscles, but calms her over active mind as well. On the day I took this photo I walked in to the bathroom to find her almost asleep (…she wasn’t alone, so she was totally safe) She had surrendered to the calming waters. It inspired me to take a series of photos while she floated peacefully. This one I treasure though because her freckles are so prominent.”
In 2021, the APA will be reforming their organisation into the Australian Photographic Collective (APC) with the aim for APC to become the source of creativity for Australian photography.