2016 Finalist Photo Showcase

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The Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism recognise work across a range of genres, from news and sport to portraiture and photographic essays.

In selecting three finalists in each category from more than 2,500 entries, the Nikon-Walkley judges looked for newsworthiness, impact, creativity and technical skill.

About the judging process

See the full-size photos at our exhibitions:
• Sydney, Oct. 13-Nov.27
• Brisbane: Oct. 14-Nov. 27
• Adelaide: Dec. 15-Feb. 12
• Newcastle: Dates TBC

The judges:
David Callow, photographer
Kirk Gilmore, photographer
Glenn Lockitch, photographer and teacher, Australian Centre for Photography
Sam Mooy, picture editor, Australian Associated Press
Alison Stieven-Taylor, journalist and photographer

All winners will be announced Dec. 2, 2016: Watch at walkleys.com.

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Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year

Presented since 2013, the Photo of the Year Award honours a single image that defines the year. This shot is selected from all entries, and the winner need not be a finalist in any category to be considered for the prize.

Winner: Andrew Quilty
Foreign Policy
“Man on the Operating Table”

Warning: This is a graphic image showing the violence of war. It may distress some readers.

The Man on the Operating Table. Andrew Quilty

The Man on the Operating Table. Andrew Quilty

Andrew Quilty submitted his winning photo as part of his entries for the Press Photographer of the Year and News Photography categories.

A patient later identified as 43-year-old husband and father of four Baynazar Mohammad Nazar lies dead on the operating table inside the Médecins Sans Frontières Kunduz Trauma Center in Afghanistan, following the October 3 attack by an American AC-130 gunship in which 42 were killed, including MSF staff, patients and patient carers.

It’s an arresting image. Even before you know the background to the photograph, that single frame condemns war’s toll on the innocent. Photojournalist Andrew Quilty describes the scene that met him in Kunduz:

“In the operating room, the surgical bed was empty except for a thin layer of concrete dust. The second room had been harder hit. A man’s body, arms and legs outstretched, lay supine on the operating table with a cannula inserted in his left forearm. Blotches of rust-coloured antiseptic stained his torso; there was a steel bracket fixed to his right thigh. A surgical curtain had collapsed across his chest and shoulders above where a ceiling panel lay across his abdomen. On the cushioned head support, the patient’s bearded jaw was all that remained of his head — the rest appeared to have been sheared off by shrapnel or a large ammunition round.

“The body of the man on the operating table had been the only one among the human remains in the trauma centre that was still somewhat visibly identifiable. And when I first saw him, this man had been lying dead on that operating table for a week as the fighting continued to rage across the city.

“It would be four more weeks before I’d learn his name.”

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Nikon-Walkley Portrait Prize

A single image can say a great deal about a person. Entries for the Portrait Prize show people from all walks of life and reveal aspects of the human condition.

Winner: Brian Cassey
News Corp Australia
“Beaten refugee”

Beaten refugee.

Beaten refugee.

Iraqi asylum seeker Abdullatif Almoftaji stares through the wire of a police cell in the town of Lorengau on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. Abdullatif was 17 years old when he was detained trying to enter Australia three years ago.

Photographer Brian Cassey says: “I first met Abdullatif at a Lorengau guest house. A couple of days later we heard that he had gone on a drunken bender with another asylum seeker and it was alleged that he tried to steal food and other items from the guest house.”

Abdullatif was arrested, charged with several offences and thrown into the police cell, wounded, with just shorts and a torn shirt.

Cassey made the image through a hole in the cell wire. Later a police officer caught him trying to pass Abdullatif food and a new shirt through the same hole and threatened to lock him up too.
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Nikon-Walkley Community/Regional Prize

Many of the most interesting stories happen outside our major cities. This prize celebrates community and regional photographers, who may enter up to five images representing their work.

Winner: Marc McCormack
The Cairns Post
Body of work

Shooting photographs for a community paper requires skills across the board — catching split-second moments of sporting glory, knowing where to be for breaking local news, and finding creative ways to illustrate feature stories. Marc McCormack excels at capturing his North Queensland community. He won this prize in 2013 and his portfolio this year again shows the breadth of his skill. From an extraordinary get of a murder suspect in an unguarded moment to a macro shot that shows the tiny scale of agricultural research, McCormack has a knack for nailing a story in a frame. He showed this when he took the time to observe young Indigenous dancers practising before a theatre performance of Biddigal Dreaming. “I noticed the three dancers sitting in the theatre after their rehearsal. I loved the stark contrast between the drama of their performance and their relaxed demeanour after being on stage.”

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Sport Photography

Chasing the story from our hallowed grounds to iconic athletes, photographers submit up to five images, representing a single story or a body of work, that capture the action, imagery or drama of sport.

Finalist: Scott Barbour
Getty Images
“Peak of the Action”

Just as athletes’ fortunes can turn in a split second, so too can those of sport photographers. Scott Barbour nails the peak moments of action across a range of sports, with artistic as well as newsworthy images from the Australian sporting year. Feathers flew when Barbour captured a dramatic collision in the 2015 MotoGP. Barbour says:

“Luckily for Iannone he survived the impact with no harm to himself or his bike. The seagull, on the other hand, was not quite so lucky!”

Finalist: Eddie Jim
The Age, Fairfax Media
“Champagne Shower”

Champagne shower.

Champagne shower.

Make it rain! To celebrate Jim Cassidy’s retirement after a 30-year career of professional riding, fellow jockey Glen Boss gives him a spray on Oaks Day 2015 at the Flemington Racecourse. In a single frame, Age photographer Eddie Jim captures all the jubilation and emotion of these old friends and competitors.

Finalist: Cameron Spencer
Getty Images
“The Defining Moment”

“The defining moment is the split second when something magical happens in sport, when a game hinges on a play, or a race is remembered by a moment that fleets in a millisecond, and all of a sudden it’s gone forever,” says photographer Cameron Spencer.

“The high of celebrating a try, or a goal or winning the grand final summed up in a single image, of pure ecstasy and joy.”

Spencer knows a thing or two about defining moments. If you saw one image from the Rio Olympics, it was probably his shot of a grinning Usain Bolt leading a pack of sprinters. In this body of work Spencer also seeks out such moments in football, tennis and on the waves.

“When photographing sport and these moments occur, when everything comes together, they are frozen in time, and in an instant document the memory of the defining moment that happened that day.”

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News Photography

From the planned to the spontaneous, it takes skill to capture a news moment in a split second. Photographers may enter up to five images representing a story or event, but not a series on a theme.

Finalist: Annette Dew
News Corp Australia
“Close your eyes, I love you”

Close your eyes, I love you.

Close your eyes, I love you.

It’s a rare and heartbreaking sight — a son wheeled in on a stretcher bed to his father’s funeral. The service was delayed so that 17-year-old Brendan Powell could attend from hospital after being injured in a crane collapse at Newstead that killed his father, aerial photographer Chris Powell. Photographer Annette Dew captured a family’s loss and grief.

Mourners dabbed away tears as Lea Powell shared a quiet moment with Brendan, an image of the husband and father they’d lost atop his casket. It was a miracle the teen survived the crane collapse, and those gathered in the Bray Park community church were told it was his father, Chris, and God who had “given him back” to them.

“I feel your last gift to me was to save my baby boy, Brendan,” Mrs Powell said in a letter to her late husband. “I know in those seconds, you saved his life. You would have only been worried about him.”

The family revealed that his final, heartbreaking words to Brendan were: “Close your eyes, I love you.”

Finalist: Jake Nowakowski
Herald Sun
“Moomba Gang Riot”

This series of images is shot with raw intimacy, with photographer Jake Nowakowski risking his own safety and trying to avoid becoming a victim of the violence around him. Nowakowski places the viewer right in the middle of the action, facing a shower of pepper spray and racing through the streets of Melbourne.

Nowakowski was sent to cover the Moomba festival on a Saturday night after threats of violence surfaced on social media.

“My expectations were low, and after scouting the festival I positioned myself in Federation Square where large groups of teenagers were loitering, with the understanding that if anything was going to happen it would be here.

“After a long wait a violent clash unexpectedly erupted around 10pm, and I was in prime position to engage the action. What ensued was a chaotic, confusing and frightening melee, with teenagers running in all directions. I managed to position myself in an elevated position close to the action, where I was able to shoot police officers using pepper spray to disperse the warring gangs.

“The police presence failed to deter the warring factions, nor did the police have the numbers to effectively put a stop to the violence. The situation continued to escalate: A fight would break out, followed by a chase, followed by another fight, followed by another chase. Violent clashes took place in Swanston Street, Flinders Lane, Flinders Street, Collins Street and City Square.”

Finalist: Andrew Quilty
Foreign Policy
“The Man on the Operating Table”

“The Man on the Operating Table” is the third and final part of a series documenting the devastating effect of an errant U.S. airstrike that destroyed the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in October, 2015, killing 42 people. The hospital was mistakenly believed to have been used as a Taliban command and control centre.

The first journalist to reach the scene, Quilty found bodies still in the rubble. With fighting still going on in the vicinity, it had been too dangerous to remove them. He discovered one man lying on an operating table who was later identified as Baynazar Mohammad Nazar, a 43-year-old Afghan civilian.

Foreign Policy held off publishing Quilty’s arresting image to give him time to make the dangerous trip back to Kunduz to meet this man’s family. When asked if they thought the photograph of his corpse should be published, Baynazar’s wife and eldest son said yes: The world needs to see it.

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Feature/Photographic Essay

If a picture is worth a thousand words, these collections are a book’s worth. Photographers use between five and 12 images to tell a longer story or make a point.

Finalist: Danella Bevis
The West Australian
“The Day After”

After the death of a teenager, hundreds of Indigenous locals took to the streets of Kalgoorlie to vent their anger. Danella Bevis captures the grief and outrage of a family and a community. She shows the raw aggression in an eruption of racial tensions and violence, and in stark contrast concludes the narrative with a moment of quiet beauty at a dusk vigil.

The alleged manslaughter of 14-year-old Elijah Doughty, after a collision involving a utility and a motorcycle, catalysed a riot. The Kalgoorlie Courthouse was closed to the dead boy’s family when the accused 55-year-old appeared. What started as a peaceful protest outside the court, as family members and friends cried and comforted one another, was transformed into scenes of anger and violence as racial tensions erupted in the gold-mining town. The riot involved more than 300 people and caused three hours of chaos. Riot police and dogs were called on as the crowd pelted the courthouse with glass bottles and rocks.

This confronting scene from our own nation echoes the tragedies and protests of the Black Lives Matter movement in the U.S. As Bevis bears witness with her camera, she also catches bystanders doing the same with phones and tablets.

Bevis describes the scene:

“It was a frightening act of violence that most who were present had not anticipated. I ducked down and continued to shoot before sheltering behind a large steel pole to avoid being hit. I followed the crowd as they spilled onto Hannan Street, continuing to photograph a tense stand-off between riot police and the crowd after arrests were made. In the midst of the violence and arrests, there were moments of calm such as when 18-year-old Hayley Garlett, the cousin of Elijah, stood directly in front of police to try to protect others and herself.”

Finalist: Eddie Jim
Good Weekend Magazine, Fairfax Media
“Standing Tall”

Koko Makura is an eight-year-old boy from remote Papua New Guinea who came to Australia to undergo life-changing surgery. An accident when he was a toddler left Koko with a deformed leg. Photographer Eddie Jim shares his journey in a series of images from his family and village to very modern hospital scenes — and a true happy ending for Koko. It’s a narrative so complete you could call it a “visual book”, as the judges did.

Jim observes Koko’s story with compassion and beauty:

“Koko Makura is the youngest of eight children. His mother Kapeta Makura proudly describes him as a keen sportsman and very good at playing basketball and rugby.

“Australian aid groups No Roads to Health and Children First Foundation brought Koko to Melbourne, where orthopaedic surgeon Leo Donnan of St Vincent’s Private Hospital operated on his leg to remove the 90-degree bend. The surgery took four to five hours. The recovery took longer, but the transformation is remarkable — not just physically, but it has put a smile on the face of Koko and his family.

“What does a life-changing surgery mean to an eight-year-old boy? For now, it is about being able to walk, run, hop, cycle, and play.”

Finalist: David Maurice Smith
Guardian Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Globe and Mail and Mother Jones Magazine
“Refugee Crisis in the Balkans”

In 2015 the world witnessed a scale of human displacement unseen since World War II as millions of men, women and children fled Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, North Africa and elsewhere seeking safe haven. In a series that’s powerful from start to finish, photographer David Maurice Smith traces the desperation, despair and dignity of some of these journeys.

“The Balkan Route, as it became known, represented an unofficial path to the perceived sanctuary of Western Europe, and as the flow of refugees swelled with no end in sight, many of the Balkan Route countries found themselves grossly unprepared and/or unwilling to deal with the crisis. These countries rushed to seal their borders and repel refugees, actions that added further risk and suffering to an already traumatised group of refugees.

“The scale and significance of this crisis meant that as a photojournalist who focuses on the issues impacting marginalised communities I felt the need to cover this story. It was (and continues to be) a tragic situation with global implications that overlap multiple contemporary matters, including human rights, world politics, global security and national identity. While geographically isolated from the events themselves, Australia is directly connected to this story considering our role in the root causes of foreign military campaigns and our obligations to the rights of asylum seekers.”

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Press Photographer of the Year

To win this highest honour, photographers must use their self-editing skills. In this category they enter up to 10 images to show their talent across a range of genres and themes.

Finalist: Alex Coppel
Herald Sun

A strong and diverse selection of images in this body of work shows Alex Coppel’s technical skill and storytelling ability. He captures action in the sporting arena and violent clashes in the streets, dramatic weather and quirky daily life.

“My overall entry includes images throughout the year of major events including the Grand Prix, the AFL Grand Final, Spring Carnival, angry anti-race riots and the Rio Olympic Games.

“As most were cowering from the harsh rain at the track, I was in it looking for picture opportunities. And as one racegoer stripped to her underwear in the torrential rain I was there to capture it.”

Finalist: Jason Edwards
Herald Sun

Jason Edwards has beautifully captured a year of politics, sport and art in Australia. Through his lens he has also helped put a human face to social issues in the news, like his image of three generations of the Giliam family, whose dairy business was threatened by low milk prices.

“The Victorian milk crisis rallied a nation as we watched shelves empty of farm-owned brands while supermarket-owned cheaper versions were left untouched. As ours was one of the first stories published on the issue, I wanted to show Victorians straight up what was at stake. Will Giliam’s grandson Max, 2, get to live the great Australian dairy farmer life that his granddad has? Australians look at our farmers as heroes, and they are. After they pioneered the land, then battled through the harsh climate, will corporate greed spell the end of an iconic Australian luxury we have grown to take for granted?”

Finalist: Andrew Quilty
Foreign Policy, The Washington Post, TIME Lightbox and SBS.com.au

For a body of work focused on Afghanistan, Andrew Quilty’s entry displays versatility and variety from action shots of battle, painterly depictions of daily life and intimate portraiture. His ability to capture the human side of war and the struggle and loss of those directly affected is well displayed in his portfolio “Afghanistan, Back on the Brink”.

“Two years after the international combat mission packed up and left, and amidst growing discord at the highest levels of government, the outlook in Afghanistan is increasingly dire. The unemployment rate estimated to be around 40 per cent nationwide, and more territory is now under the control of the insurgency than at any other time since 2001. The country’s fifth largest city, Kunduz, fell to the Taliban for two weeks in late 2015, and several other provincial centres, including Helmand in the south, have been heavily contested.

“This work illustrates several significant fronts in Afghanistan’s struggle for survival, as well as incidents both large and small that contributed to the state of affairs over the past 12 months.”

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Nikon-Walkley Award Partners 2016

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