I am thrilled to bits to announce that I was named NZ Classic Portrait Photographer of the Year at the gala dinner last night for the 2014 Epson/NZIPP Iris Awards! It was an amazing night and I am so glad I made the decision to fly up to Rotorua to attend. I also won the award for Highest Scoring Print 2014, with a Gold Distinction at 99/100, and it was confirmed that this was the highest-ever score in the history of the institute. I received my Fellowship of the NZIPP, and also Wellington won the Curtis-Poole award for the best scoring region. So I got to go up on stage four times, give two speeches, and knock back one enormous glass of whiskey in memory of Messrs Curtis and Poole.
After I saw fellow finalist Esther Bunning's gorgeous prints just before the dinner and decided I could easily have given all four of them a Gold had I been on the judging panel, I lost all hope of winning the category and started relaxing more and just enjoying the evening. So it then came as a genuine surprise to hear my name called out, and I was so rattled that I nearly dropped and smashed my first award as it was presented!
It was quite hard to talk about the Gold Distinction image that is responsible for my win - I doubt any photographer could take an emotional photo like that without it feeling very personal - but I managed it OK. It was really nice actually to have the chance to pass on to everyone in the room and those watching the live internet streaming my model's thanks for their messages of support. She has found the overwhelming and reaffirming response to the image extremely healing. She told me that while she had hopes the photograph might help other breast cancer victims accept their situation, she had no idea she would be the ultimate beneficiary. As she said, the image is not about the woman on the bed - it‘s about the fact that cancer is not the end of the world, nor of dignity nor of femininity. And while she sort of believed that before, she is a dedicated believer now.
On Sunday I received a message from a stranger, which made me cry. She wrote: "I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your photograph, and I can tell you that the heart of every breast cancer survivor will be walking into that awards ceremony with you." To Justine and to all those other survivors, this one's for you!
Congratulations to Richard Wood, once again named New Zealand Photographer of the Year, and to all the other category winners. The quality of the work shown over the weekend made me so proud of New Zealand photography and I urge you to check out the award-winning images, which you can see at this link.