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