NZIPP Wellington Photographer of the Year!

NZIPP Wellington Photographer of the Year!

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Check out my new baby! For the next year at least, and then I have to hand it over to the next person.  I was so thrilled last night to be named NZIPP Wellington Photographer of the Year!

The NZ Institute of Professional Photography's Honours Council decides on the recipient each year based on the accumulated total of each entrant's top four scoring prints in the annual Iris professional photography awards. I have to give credit at this point to my dear chicken Loretta - couldn't have done it without you, darling - as she helped me score Wellington's only Gold Distinction award. Here she is in all her psychotic glory.

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I brought her into our lounge and put her on her pedestal (as she deserved), and then photographed her with the Fuji GFX50S medium format camera, which captured all the fantastic detail of her feathers and her evil eye. I had one light above her, a gelled light below aimed at the backdrop to make the turquoise curtains even richer, and a big softbox beside her. I had wondered if it might be a really messy shoot and difficult to catch her when we were done, but she was the perfect model (arguably I stunned her with the lights and she was too scared to take off); she just ate her food, did a bit of preening and a bit of dancing, and then let me pick her up again.

My next two highest-scoring prints were Silver Distinctions, for this portrait of the wonderful Kristin (taken in the lobby of her apartment building), and a series of photos of the perforated packaging paper that came wrapped around my new business cards. I backlit the paper, and loved how the light made seemed to make things a bit Escher-esque (?!) and three-dimensional in a way that messes with your mind: the light bits made me think of little steps that you could climb up.

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There was a tie for my fourth-highest-scoring entry, between my fine art book Homage and a photograph of plants - a sort of line-up of "usual suspects of the botanical world".  The two at the ends made me think of brackets, and while none of the judges saw it as punctuation, one did say "this is poetry and I'm hearing the music".  Cheers Ilan!! He tried hard to talk it up into Gold but to no avail. This shot and my book both received Silver awards.

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Here's the cover of the book, and I will append the spreads at the bottom of this post for those who are interested in looking through it. I uploaded the book at this link, which is a better way of flipping through it in book form, but unfortunately the link doesn't work on mobile devices. Use the link if you're at your computer though!

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This quiet portrait of the beautiful Yua received a Silver award:

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I received Bronze awards for these next three: a series of photos taken in warehouses on Cockatoo Island in Sydney, another botanical print made by repeating a photograph of a single leaf, and my second book entry.  "At the Edge of Art" was a book I did recently for Alistair's engineering company Dunning Thornton.

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My final entry, a photo of my friend Camilla's daughter Evelina swimming fully clothed, was judged as Professional Standard rather than award-worthy. One of the judges said he used to be a lifeguard for 20 years, and that 'this girl looks like she's drowning", which made me laugh. Fortunately she wasn't, as she's a great kid. :)

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So yes, it was a really great year for me. I ended up as a finalist in three categories; Portrait In-Camera Artistry, Creative and the book category. While I didn't take out any of those titles, being a finalist in three categories was just wonderful and felt like a win in itself! And now I have won Wellington Photographer of the Year, which is the icing on the cake. I am enjoying the aesthetic of the lovely little camera trophy on my desk, and even though I have to hand it over next year, there's also a glass trophy that I get to keep forever and ever. :)

A huge thank you to everyone who helped me along the way with critiquing my images, and giving feedback on book layouts and sequencing. Thank you to Momento Pro (special mention to Jackie) for producing such a beautiful book, to Fujifilm for the quality gear that helped me capture all this detail, to my wonderful models, to the sponsors who make the Iris awards possible, and not least to my supportive family and friends.

Here's a video I put together for last night's regional meeting, showing all of the award-winning images from Wellington NZIPP members. If you have 12 minutes to spare it's very impressive viewing. I love how there's all this secret-squirrel creativity going on behind the scenes here in Wellington, and then the Iris awards roll around each year and boom! We're a strong region and I am so proud of everyone.

Right, this post is getting long, but below are the spreads of my book for those who can't access it via the link. It's a square book, so you're looking at open spreads. It looks pretty terrible stacked vertically like this, so if you can get to a Proper Computer and view it using the link, I strongly recommend it!

The judges loved my book as a fine art piece, but the feedback was that they couldn't get past the lack of text. It's a great learning experience for me: I had been thinking mainly of the photographs, but it's a book category and I should have thought of it more holistically. Several people did suggest to me that I should add some inspirational quotes, but I'm not into those and it really didn't feel like me. In hindsight, what I could have done and stayed true to myself is to add a single page of text that introduced this wonderful plant and explained why it's known as Miss Willmott's Ghost (there's quite a good story there) and why I fell in love with it. Instead I relied on a single word to explain what my book was for, to convey the idea that this was an ode to the plant. I've been encouraged to take it further, so I am going to add that explanatory page, and perhaps enter it in some international book awards. So, watch this space!

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