Walkley photo finalists announced

This year’s photographic finalists in the Walkley Awards were announced overnight and I was really excited to see who made the cut. It used to be my job to sort through all the photographic entries as they came in, and then to write the gallery notes for the exhibition of finalist images (100-120 photos), and it’s one of the things I’ve missed the most since leaving. Within the office we staff would always make our own predictions about which images would be winners, but it was more fascinating to sit in on the judging sessions and listen to photo editors deliberate over the value of one set of images over another. They take into account a lot of criteria – the context, the constraints the photographer was under, how memorable the image was, whether it shows courage and innovation; the composition, lighting and impact of individual images, and the coherence and tight editing of series of images.

I really believe Australia is one of the world’s best countries for photojournalism, particularly on a per capita basis! And it’s great to see some new names among the 2010 Nikon-Walkley finalists, at a time when both staff roles and freelance opportunities for press photographers are being slashed. You can see the full list of finalists here; the winners will be announced at the Walkley Awards on December 9.

The Nikon-Walkley prize winners for portrait and regional photography have already been announced – check out a gallery here. I love Cameron Laird’s winning portrait of Bob Katter; the composition is fun, and it completely captures the defiant, laughing insolence of him as a bloke and a politician. Another political image that seems destined to be a classic is Glen McCurtayne’s commended news photo, a tight close-up of Kevin Rudd’s face on the day he last spoke as prime minister, a single tear poised below his right eye.

In the sport category finalists (always a very tight race) I was particularly struck by two series. Craig Golding’s commended black-and-white collection of shots of aged athletes at the Masters Games, and Adam Pretty’s colour-saturated, dramatically composed images from the Singapore Youth Olympics. Pretty is Asia-based for Getty Images and to my eye his sport photography stands out because he has this way of taking fiercely human moments and instead potraying them with a clinical calm, an almost achitectural beauty; as though his shots are premeditated works of art rather than captured of-the-moment.

The photographic essay category is prized among the togs and this years’ entries are strong. Phil Hillyard (who’s had a stranglehold on the sport category for a few years) captures small, humanising details in his black-and-white series on new PM Julia Gillard: playing with her high-heeled shoe under the table at a meeting, checking her hair in the mirror before giving a speech. Jack Picone documents the tension and outright violence of the “Battle for Bangkok”. And Jason South presents a harrowing photographic investigation of Yayasan Galuh Centre in Bekasi outside Jakarta, where the mentally ill are housed but not medically treated, many of them nude and chained to poles. I remember seeing these shots in the Sydney Morning Herald and thinking we’d be seeing them again come Walkley-time. South, Hillyard and Simon O’Dwyer will duke it out for the press photographer of the year title.

Catch the Nikon-Walkley Press Photo exhibition on tour around Australia:

  • Sydney: Australian Centre for Photography – 15-30 October 2010
  • Melbourne: The Age – 20th October-December 2010
  • Brisbane Powerhouse – 31 January-28 February 2011
  • Newcastle Regional Library – March-April 2011
  • Adelaide Fringe Festival – November-December 2011

More details here.

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