Cultural and creative life

Discover the winners of the 2018 Australian Life photography competition

With a $10,000 prize, Australian Life is one of the most prestigious photo contests. Ahead of its 2019 launch, here are last year’s finest frames.

  • Winner: Joshua Morris, ‘Pepa Molina, and some of the residents of the Parque Habitacional’, Rooty Hill NSW

    “Pepa Molina’s dance performance ‘Perceptions’ explores intuitive understanding, cultural stereotypes and clichés through flamenco. Captured at the Residential Gardens (Parque Habitacional), a Spanish speaking nursing home. It was developed as part of the Blacktown Arts creative residency program,” Joshua said.

    Judges comments:

    Ken Done: This image tells you about the optimism that old people still have – they’re sitting there and the dancer is giving it absolutely everything. There are all kinds of stories you can find in the people in the background, and I think it’s a very sensitive, well-constructed picture – it’s an unconscious piece of beautiful composition.

    Wesley Enoch: The flourish of her red dress and the passion on her face is so intense – it’s amazing. And the people around her have varying levels of engagement; which is just like every artist. It is also a celebration of community – whether you’re at the Sydney Opera House or at an old folks’ home, there’s a sense that an artist has something to bring to your life.

  • Dominique Houyet, ‘Uluru’, Uluru NT

    “Landscape photography bores me unless it is the embryo of a reflection on society and human behaviour,” Dominique said.

  • Matt Palmer, ‘Rhys Lightning’, Brisbane QLD

    "Muay thai fighter Rhys ‘Lightning’ McLaren receives advice from his corner team between rounds," Matt said.

  • Martine Perret, ‘Big Lagoon’, Shark Bay WA

    "Big Lagoon is on the Peron peninsula, Shark Bay’s UNESCO World Heritage site in the Gascoyne region. The ancient land as seen from the air reveals delicately balanced patterns, colours and texture," Martine said.

  • Stuart Walmsley, 'Marngrook', Echuca VIC

    Uncle Henry Atkinson, Wolithiga Elder and former Monash University professor, handballs a marngrook, made from possum skin. Marngrook is the Aboriginal term for football. Marngrook was played mainly by communities in what is now western Victoria. The Australian Football League still doesn't recognise its contribution to modern Australian Rules football," Stuart said.

  • Benjamin Cuevas, 'French Flies in Santa Teresa', Santa Teresa NT

    "Indigenous Parramatta Eels player Bevan French visited Santa Teresa. A rural Indigenous community of less than 600 people, it is 85km along a single gravel road from Alice Springs. The students, who couldn't afford shoes, raced against one of the fastest men in rugby league," Benjamin said.

  • Bob Barker, 'The Challenge', Ben Buckler Headland, North Bondi NSW

    "A young man puts himself in a seemingly deadly situation as he faces a massive explosion of water on Ben Buckler headland at North Bondi," Bob said.

  • Birgit Neiser, 'The Corner Store', Broken Hill NSW

    "Corner stores are quintessentially Australian, in both their ubiquity and style. I wouldn't want to miss them," Birgit said.

  • Darren Clark, 'The Upper Rock pools at Middle Springs', East Kimberley WA

    “The kids pushing it to the limits in the upper rock pools. You can feel the energy and excitement in this moment,” Darren said.

  • Emma Rolls, ‘Under the Stars’, Orange NSW

    “I always drive by this house and think that it is the epitome of Australia. It reminds me of my childhood where I grew up on a small farm in the outback. We would often lie out on the grass and look at the stars. There is even a snippet of the Milky Way,” Emma said.

  • Joel Pratley, 'Release', Redfern NSW

    "Domestic violence is an epidemic in today's Australia, and it almost cost Jasmine her life. Leaving painful scars on each and every one of those it affects, mentally and sometimes physically. 6 months after her surgery, this portrait observes a minor ‘milestone' in Jasmine’s recovery,” Joel said.

  • Justin Tan-Torres, ‘Straya Day’, Langley Park, Perth WA

    “A crowd watches a motocross show at Langley Park during Australia Day 2017,” Justin said.

  • Stephen Boxshall, ‘The Travellers’, Melbourne VIC

    “I found myself intrigued by this couple and their surroundings as we travelled by tram along St Kilda Road, after leaving the National Gallery of Victoria,” Stephen said.

  • Sarah Malone, ‘Don and Me’, Dee Why NSW

    “At Dee Why being pregnant, with Don,” Sarah said.

  • Margaux Kendall, 'Born This Way', Sydney NSW

    “We are human. We are love. This photograph depicts spectators revelling under the confetti and lights of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras parade in 2018. It's the biggest celebration of the year for the LGBTIQ community. It's a night that celebrates love, equality and life,” said Margaux.

To everyone who entered in 2018, thank you!

You made us wince, gasp, laugh, fight, weep and wheeze. Most of all, you made us feel so euphorically good about being Australian.

We received 2,478 entries this year. This is the largest number in the 16-year history of the competition, almost doubling our previous record.

Our 3 independent judges, Ken Done (yes, that Ken Done), Wesley Enoch (current artistic director of the Sydney Festival) and award-winning photographer and artist Tamara Dean, swiped left and right for hour upon hour in order to agree upon the 22 finalists.

In selecting the finalist images to exhibit in Hyde Park, the judges looked to curate a collection of images that reflected daily life in a variety of communities. Australian life isn’t all about thongs. Nor is it all about tram rides and scorched earth. It’s a wondrous mish-mash of millions of moments, thoughts, styles, beliefs, accents, environments, past-times and more.

Finally, we believe creativity and the act of creating is very important for a healthy, interesting, and prosperous society. It’s why we run this competition. We love seeing people, regardless of their daily professions, regardless of their skills and equipment, get out and about observing, experimenting, and learning. So keep it up!

View all the finalist images blown-up to bedsheet size portraits amongst the glorious, tree-lined avenues of Hyde Park, 13 September to 7 October.

See you next year.

Published 14 September 2018, updated 13 May 2019