Portrait Top 10 Judges Breakdown

By October 11, 2018 No Comments

The Australian Photography Awards
Portrait Top 10

Thanks for joining me, APA competition judge Matt Palmer, as I look at the winning Australian Photography Awards Portrait photograph of 2018 as well as looking at what made the rest of the top ten so successful. The portrait category in 2018 was incredibly strong and diverse, making it both a challenge and delight to judge as every photograph was completely different from the last. Thank you to all of you who put your entries in.

Let’s dive straight into this incredible top ten!

Update as at 20/02/2019
Nadia Stone is our winner after the prior winning entry has been disqualified. Two entries from the top 10 have been removed from this blog as a result.


Winner: This Is Us – Nadia Stone

Nadia Stone brings us a raw, gritty, honest portrayal of family. The narrative of this photograph is so strong, the mother connecting with the camera with a pensive uncertain look, and yet still willing to be vulnerable to the camera. There is a feeling of a family right on the edge of survival. The children all bring narrative, the youngest still breastfeeding, the daughter mimicking mum by bottle-feeding her own baby doll while keeping a close eye on mum, and the son almost oblivious to the scene engaged in technology.

The lighting and tonality of the capture also support the narrative, window light being used expertly and lighting each of the four faces suitably which can be quite difficult. Ultimately though it’s Nadia’s ability to connect with her subjects in order to access this moment and this emotion and familiarity that is her greatest achievement in this portrait.

We are thrilled to have Nadia as the winner of the 2018 Portrait category.



2nd Place: Village Life – Jayne McLean

Jayne McLean has successfully brought to us a unique take on African life with this stunning and exuberant seen moment from a Dassanech Village. The man in this photograph could not be more perfect, as he strikes a pose as if he were on a runway in Milan. He boldly faces the camera, confident in himself and his ensemble. The children passing by, who find this man absolutely ordinary and the photographer completely fascinating provide a great counterbalance in the scene by providing a rawer interpretation of village life.

The background and square crop are used well to frame the scene and provide additional information about life in the Dassanech Village. The front-most cow provides a nice touch by mooing at an opportune moment, while a bystander walks past between huts providing a perfect balance to all people in frame.

Technically the photographer has also done extremely well to capture shadow detail and detail in the faces of the villages in difficult lighting.



3rd: Amanda – Bill Gekas

Amanda is a masterfully created portrait of a single mother of two who had broken up with her partner just hours before the portrait was taken. The woman portrays both an inner strength, and outwardly a sense of uncertainty about the future. It is a pensive and vulnerable portrait. The judges also found the slightly non-traditional pose interesting, with Amanda turned almost side on to the camera, and her small finger delicately poised at the end of the table.

Technically the capture has been lit beautifully and the tonality is stunning. I am unsure if it were planned, but the coat, Amanda’s eyes, and backdrop share tonal values that compliment each other perfectly and it certainly contributes to the feel of the portrait.


Steph Connell

4th: Lois – Steph Connell

Steph has created a powerful and informative portrait full of feeling, while only showing the back of her subject Lois. Every morning since 1978, Lois swims early in the morning at the place her son lost his life. It’s her way of connecting. The pensive and solemn feeling of the photograph gave the judges a feeling of loss before hearing the caption, and the reflection could give the viewer the impression of a second person in the photograph who isn’t quite there… perhaps representative of Lois’s son.

The lighting in the scene is beautiful and perfect for capturing the mood. Steph has captured this on a perfect day and the slight warm tones falling on Lois through the diffused light are beautiful and illuminate small specks of sand on her swimsuit. Just keep walking forward.



Robert Coppa

5th: Hannah – Robert Coppa

Robert Coppa’s Hannah is a delicate and beautifully formed take on nude photography. While the model is contorted and pressed against a horizontal surface, there still isn’t a feeling of the portrait being contrived. It feels oddly natural, comfortable and familiar. The photograph pulls off breaking so many rules, such as cropping at the ankle or having a slight green in skin tone, in such an elegant way. Robert also cleverly crops just beyond the lips, with full understanding and intention that the lips slightly apart communicated all that is required.


Simone Addison

6th: Queen – Simone Addison

Simone’s portrait ‘Queen’ is a masterclass in working with shadow. It is a fine example of low key portraiture, with only eyes and jewels daring to enter highlights. Simone captures a strong and confident portrait worthy of the title, and yet there is still a hint of something gentler in the pose and expression of the subject. In terms of narrative, there are many hints here from pattern in frame, symbols such as cows, crown, and of course the powerful cross that provide a direction for the viewer to form their interpretation. In this portrait, Simone takes the darkness and makes it divine.


Matt Horspool

7th: Headspace – Matt Horspool

A confused and dazed human mind represented by fog and falling leaves. Matt’s portrait shows the strength of a simple concept done well. With such a simple portrait, choice of wardrobe and props are of utmost importance. The yellow raincoat is essential here as it’s one of the few colours that can separate the subject enough from the falling leaves, road, and greenery. The transparent umbrella also provides the look without the big clumsy block of colour. Matt asks in his caption ‘Can you guess how it’s done?’. I have a good idea but don’t want to spoil it! how about you?


Gemma Hoyle Farrell

8th: Curtain – Gemma Hoyle Farrell

This gentle portrait has a candidness and playfulness about it that makes it very appealing. Its simplicity belies the technical expertise required to pull off the shot, with the highlights of the curtain managed perfectly, and the diffused light of the curtain beautifully lighting the front of the young girl. The girl’s hand position gives a feeling of inquisitiveness and cheekiness which helps support the strength of her eye, that as a viewer you cannot help but be drawn into.


Thank you for joining me as I discuss our Australian Photography Awards Portrait category. What a fantastic display of extremely diverse portraiture with studio lit masterpieces, exotic subject matter, and candid captures that could be in any home in Australia. Thank you for your entries and support this year, there was so much amazing work!