How photo buffs get full exposure in our photo comp

Our Australian Life photo competition and exhibition provides often unexpected insights into our country. The prize’s 4 judges share what they’ll look for.

Every year, the Australian Life photo competition receives thousands of entries. Casual camera buffs and professional photographers submit photos that capture a remarkable spectrum of Australian experiences. From images of private natural nirvanas and lively public places to portraits and faces that tell poignant personal stories.

“Australia is so many things for so many people,” said photographer, installation and performance artist Tamara Dean. “Urban city living, domestic life, working life, beach life, outback life to name but a few. There is so much scope in the way that Australia and Sydney can be represented, and I hope to see a variety of interpretations of this.”

Dean is 1 of 4 judges who’ll select 22 photos for the finalist exhibition. Among these finalists, 1 talented photographer will take home the $10,000 prize. While anyone can point and shoot, few have the eye to capture a compelling moment in time.

We asked the judges to share what they’re keeping their eye out for this year and what Australian Life means to them.

Portrait of a Boxer, taken at Redfern’s Aboriginal flag mural, took out the top prize in 2013. Image: Jeremy Evans.

Wesley Enoch, Australian playwright and Sydney Festival director

What makes a photo stand out for you?

"There is always a story in a photo. Whether it is about relationships between people and places, family members or capturing a moment or split second, someone’s guard is down and you can capture a subconscious reaction. I love looking for the stories even if it isn’t apparent at first glance.

Rallies, marches, gatherings are sitting beside the selfie tradition but also the lonely figure, isolated, in need of help.

Sandy Edwards, Australian photographer

What kind of themes, visual trends or photographic styles do you think we might see this year?

"They are usually documentary in style because the content is important. They often reflect subject matter that is relevant to contemporary events and Australia’s rich and varied cultural ethnicities, religions and lifestyles.

"We love to get something different in style or an unusual approach as variety in the mix is great. We are always looking for something new, something that has not been seen before. The images that work well are ones that benefit from large scale. This can be a detail or a wide shot."

Last year’s winning photograph, Beryl and Jesus. The judges described it as “a photograph that addresses complex issues of gender, race and religion distilled into a striking and affective portrait”. Image: Amy Joan Harding.

Ken Done, Australian artist

What kind of themes, visual trends or photographic styles do you think we might see this year?

"I hope we see images that convey the joy of living in Australia. As we are bombarded with so many photos every single day of our lives, I hope to find some images that surprise me."

2009 winning image, The Bride, Ritualism Series. The photographer is on this year’s judging panel. Image: Tamara Dean.

Tamara Dean, Australian photographer and 2009 Australian Life winner

What makes a photo stand out for you?

"I tend to look for a photograph which can work on a number of levels. Be it emotional, energetic, subtle, and forthright or any number of approaches, I look for universal themes of humanity which touch me on a personal level. Photographs which may not immediately answer their own questions that make the viewer have to engage with the photograph to interpret what they are looking at."

Entries for Australian Life have closed. The exhibition takes place in Hyde Park from 13 September to 7 October 2018.

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