2018 Nikon-Walkley Photography Finalists announced

A look at the finalists’ photographs…

Lukas Coch has been named the winner of the 2018 Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year Prize for “Linda Burney Airborne”. It’s a news image rich in emotion and deeper significance, as described by photographer Lukas Coch: “For Burney it was a bittersweet moment — her son, who was gay, had died just six weeks before. For all of those who campaigned so hard for so many years, it was both a happy day and a day far too long in coming.”

Finalists for 2018 Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism and the Walkley Documentary Award were announced tonight at State Library New South Wales.

The Nikon-Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism recognise the work of photographers across a range of genres, from news and sport to portraiture and photographic essays. This exhibition lets us reflect on the year in news, through the individual worldviews and skilled lenses of Australia’s best photographers.

Here’s a look at photographs by the finalists. The finalists’ photographs will be toured around the nation in a series of free public exhibitions and are currently on display at the State Library of NSW and will be on display from October 18 at the ABC in Brisbane. Below you can see the hero image from each entry, but in many cases the entry comprises multiple images. You can see all of them at the exhibition!

Winners will be announced November 22 at the 63rd Annual Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism.

Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the Year

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

Matthew Abbott, The New York Times, Oculi, ABC and The Australian

The beginning of the first major demonstration, “Welcome to Hell”, at the G20 in Hamburg, Germany. Protesters in the city continued to riot over the next three days during the summit.

The judges praised the versatility on show in Matthew Abbott’s portfolio.

“There’s real range in this body of work, everything from portrait and daily life to news and politics, and they’re all really strong images. The focus on a range of Australian stories is great, an impressive variety.”

Dean Lewins, NBCnews.com, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian, The Australian and Time

Supermaxi Black Jack, surrounded by spectator craft, leads the fleet down the coast in the 2017 Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

Dean Lewins’ portfolio features a selection of images from major sporting events of the year, including the Commonwealth Games, FIFA World Cup, Australian Open tennis tournament, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the Ashes. He covers news as well, and there’s an interesting contrast between his aerial shots of drought and his graphic, birds-eye view of a racing superyacht amid a flock of smaller craft.

Andrew Quilty, The New York Times, Human Rights Watch, National Geographic Magazine, Politic and The Guardian

12-year-old Shafiquallah’s uncle Zar Gul comforts him while a nurse prepares to clean the wounds on the stumps that used to be his legs. He and his two younger brothers Mangal and Rashid share this room in Nangahar Regional Hospital in eastern Afghanistan. Between the three of them they have only one leg.

The judges praised the work Andrew Quilty continues to do, documenting life in Afghanistan. “There’s a painterly quality to some of these images, and that eye for beauty is helpful when so many of the stories are so brutal.”

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, not a series on a theme.

Lukas Coch, AAP, “Linda Burney Airborne”

Liberal MP Warren Entsch lifts up Labor MP Linda Burney as they celebrate the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, December 7, 2017.

After the lows of the same sex marriage campaign and the nerves of the vote, an uplifting moment. Labor MP Linda Burney crossed party lines and was held aloft by Liberal MP Warren Entsch on the floor of parliament.

The judges praised Coch’s image as “a brilliant news picture with so much backstory behind it. The colour of the flag is visually powerful and tells so much. It’s a spontaneous moment superbly captured. There’s a lot of life in this image. And so much emotion, it humanises our parliamentarians.”

Jenny Evans, Getty Images and The Daily Telegraph, “Life Saver”

A woman screams and raises her arm as she is caught in a rip at Bronte Beach in Sydney during very rough surf conditions.

Jenny Evans took this series of images at Sydney’s Bronte Beach, where a swimmer found herself in a dire situation when she was sucked out by a rip. The judges praised this as “an amazing set of pictures. It’s dramatic story and she’s captured the moment in every shot, really split-second moments that add up to a great news series.”

In her entry statement, Evans describes rip currents as the number one hazard on Australia’s coastline. “They account for more deaths per year than sharks, floods and cyclones combined.”

Andrew Quilty, The New York Times, “‘It’s a Massacre’: Blast in Kabul Deepens Toll of a Long War”

Victims lie dead and severely wounded among fallen branches, crumpled cars and debris after the huge bomb was detonated only metres away, minutes earlier. Miraculously, some in this photograph survived.

Andrew Quilty writes: “At lunchtime on a winter’s day in Kabul, where a street famous for its Afghan carpets meets another lined with government offices and embassies, an ambulance was waved through a checkpoint but stopped by police at a second. Here, its driver, sent by the Taliban, detonated explosives that filled the rear of the vehicle. 103 people were killed and a further 230 injured in the blast. Most were civilians going about their days; friends eating lunch or Interior Ministry employees queuing outside an administrative office.

“The ambulance bombing was just one in a string of attacks on predominantly civilian targets that have escalated in ferocity and frequency in the past year. Such attacks are seen as the result of intensified air campaigns from Afghan and American aircraft, which make it difficult for the Taliban and ISIS-K to engage in conventional combat against government forces. Instead, they are conducting devastating bombings in urban centres where innocent civilians make up the majority of casualties. For residents of Kabul, the battlefield is now at their doorsteps.”

Sport Photography

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.

Scott Barbour, Getty Images, “Sport 2017–2018”

Richmond Win AFL Premiership: Richmond Tigers captain Trent Cotchin looks up as his team celebrates with the the 2017 AFL Premiership Cup, after beating the Adelaide in the Grand Final at the MCG.

The judges praised Barbour’s technical capacity with light and the timing of his shots. “What makes a beautiful sport image is timing. Timing can create something you’d barely catch with the naked eye, like the way Scott captured the gymnast.”

It takes immense skill and great reflexes to nail that timing, or to get an exclusive angle like his birds-eye view of the Richmond Tigers parting the seas of adoring fans with their first premiership cup in 37 years.

Brett Costello, The Daily Telegraph, “No Limits”

Blues Win: New South Wales Blues players celebrate after defeating Queensland in game two of the State of Origin series at ANZ Stadium, Sydney.

“Through my pictures I have tried to show the spontaneous moments in the sporting arena which illustrate an athlete’s desire to have ‘No Limits’,” wrote Brett Costello in his entry statement. “I have used my instinct and determination to capture the magic moments, which to the naked eye, quickly pass by.”

The judges praised his eye for original compositions. “Brett’s technical prowess behind the camera is only matched by his creativity and drive to find a new image within the sport. His portfolio shows great examples of how he’s driven by that challenge.”

Craig Golding, AAP, “Body of Work ”

Lightning serve: Angelique Kerber of Germany smashes an ace down to Czech Republic’s Lucie Safarova as lightning strikes at the Sydney International Tennis Tournament at Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre.

“Sport is a form of photography that allows for no second chances,” Golding wrote in his entry statement. “To shoot a sport well, it helps to have an good understanding and knowledge of the sport itself to increase your chances of getting the defining images — be it on or away from the field of play. You need to be able to anticipate and react in a split second or the moment is gone forever.”

The judges said: “Sport photography is about evoking emotion — it’s great to see that emotion can be humour. Craig has a beautiful rhythm and playfulness to his images that make you want to see his next picture, and the one after that.”

Feature/Photography Essay

If a picture is worth a thousand words, these collections are whole books. Photographers use between five and twelve images to tell a longer story or make a point.

Jenny Evans, Getty Images, “Louth Races”

Young folk start off the day after the races with some hair of the dog at the Louth Racecourse campground.

Louth is a small village on the Darling River, home to just 43 people, and the region has been gripped by one of the worst droughts on record. But for its annual race meeting, Louth is flooded with thousands of visitors. The racecourse is transformed into a campground to accommodate racegoers who travel from around the country.

Louth Race Club personnel and locals worked tirelessly to prepare the race club for the big day, says photographer Jenny Evans, who captured the spirit of of the Louth Races in images.

“The track itself was incredibly dry and had to be raked and watered three times a day to get it race ready and pass safety inspections,” Evans wrote in her entry statement. “The (only) local pub, Shindy’s Inn, fed hundreds of people and ordered 210 kegs of beer for the big event.”

The judges loved Evans’ story as “dry and uniquely Australian”.

David Gray, Reuters Wider Image, “Drought From Above”

Farmer Ash Whitney stands in the middle of a dried-up dam.

David Gray describes the striking aerial images in his photographic essay:

From ground level, Australia’s drought looks like a featureless, brown dust bowl, but from the air it transforms into an artistry of colour and texture as the land cracks under a blazing sun. Circular dry plough tracks resemble the concentric circles in Aboriginal dot paintings that tell of an ancient mythology; starving cattle queuing for feed look like an abstract painting, and their black shadows stretching across the land a surrealist image.

But for farmer Ash Whitney there is no such beauty, just blood, sweat and tears as he struggles to feed his cattle, cutting the drying branches of Kurrajong trees — a last resort during the worst of droughts.

“I have been here all my life, and this drought is feeling like it will be around a while,” says a despairing Whitney, whose property near the town of Gunnedah is on the Liverpool Plains, a usually fertile area now withered having received the lowest average rainfall in nearly 30 years.

The judges said they saw many perspectives of the Australian drought, but none that were captured as artistically as Gray’s. “David showed that drone photography is not just about having the technology, but also still using composition, light and colour through the camera lens.”

Chris Hopkins, SBS Online Documentaries, “My Name is Yunus”

Sacrifice: Mohamad Yunus helps members of the local Rohingya community carve a sacrificial cow as part of Eid al Adha. The meat will be shared amongst seven families.

Mohamad Yunus came to Australia in 2012 via Christmas Island and Darwin. He fled the persecution that has now seen his family and approximately 700,000 other Rohingyas cross the border into Bangladesh to escape human rights abuses by the Myanmar military.

Now in the relative safety of suburban Melbourne with a temporary visa, Yunus faces new challenges — isolation, poverty, unemployment, housing affordability, and constant fear for the safety of his family in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Chris Hopkins captured moments from Yunus’ life for SBS’s innovative Instagram documentary She Called me Red. The judges said: “Chris has captured an amazing intimacy with this series. His use of available light shows a level of patience with his subject and a great technical ability with his camera.”


Winners are also announced for four photography prizes.

Nikon-Walkley Portrait Prize

A single image can say so much about a person. Entries for the Portrait Prize show people from all walks of life, revealing aspects of the human condition.

WINNER: Sylvia Liber, Illawarra Mercury, “Trapped in the Wrong Body”

Sylvia Liber: “Charlotte and Aley are two people on very different journeys of self-discovery. After years of torment, they come together in a love that transcends gender. Charlotte describes herself as trans, agender with a hint of girl, while Aley identifies as a transgender female who was assigned male at birth.”

Sylvia Liber says she learned a lot about the concept of being transgender through a project that included this powerful image of South Coast couple Charlotte and Aley. This image’s unwavering gaze reminds us that the best way to learn from and respect the trans community, is to see and hear them as they want to be seen and heard. The judges praised the raw intimacy of this portrait, its engaging composition and its guts. “It’s brave, from both the subject and the photographer.”

Nikon-Walkley Community / Regional Prize

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

WINNER: Sylvia Liber, Illawarra Mercury, “Sea of Emotions”

Deep Love for Dance: Brooke Macdonald and Olivia Mitchell have performed together for five years, and choreographed a dance to be performed by 24 students from Kiama High School at the 2018 South Coast Dance Festival. Photographed in the ocean, their every move was challenged by the pull of the current, cold water temperature and the weight of their dresses.

“Life as a photographer is never the same from one day to the next”, says Sylvia Liber in her entry statement. “My work days generally start with finding powerful images in whatever job I’m assigned, from a simple weather photo to the extremes of the human condition.”

When you’re a regional photojournalist, versatility is essential. The judges loved Liber’s entry as “the package”, where every shot is strong. “It covers news, action, documentary, sport. It’s creative, there’s diversity. She’s got it all. … and it’s all done well.”

Nikon-Walkley Contemporary Australian Daily Life Prize

Celebrating images of life in Australia, this prize is judged on originality and human interest. Photographers can enter a single picture, or a series of up to five still images.

WINNER: Matthew Abbott, ABC Online, “Not a farmer’s wife”

Stephanie Coombes, 29, (centre) with other station workers sharing breakfast and coffee before sunrise. The team of workers sleep, work, eat and even party together; the life builds close relationships and a feeling of camaraderie some compare to the army, due to the intensity of the work and the isolation.

Matthew Abbott came across this story when he saw a jillaroo on social media and learned how, in the bush, women are increasingly taking on roles in a traditionally male-dominated industry. He traveled with a colleague to cattle country in the Kimberleys with the idea of documenting the daily lives of women mustering cattle, and shaking up the stereotypes of what outback life is like.

“What we found was modern young women taking on leadership roles in a changing industry where skills such as social media, logistics and planning are just as critical as manual labour,” wrote Abbott in his entry statement. “Over many days the women let us into their personal lives, and we were able to capture raw and intimate moments that get to the heart of what it means to be a jillaroo in 2018.”

The judges praised Abbott’s series as technically strong, with beautiful composition and use of natural light. “Each individual image stands alone quite strongly and tells a story. It says everything about who they are, where they live and how they live, in a way the viewer can really connect with.”

Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year Prize

This prize recognises an outstanding “hero” image. This defining image of the year is selected by the judges from photographs submitted across all categories in the awards.

Winner: Lukas Coch, AAP, “Linda Burney Airborne”

Liberal MP Warren Entsch lifts up Labor MP Linda Burney as they celebrate the passing of the Marriage Amendment Bill in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, December 7 2017.

Many thanks to this year’s Nikon-Walkley Judges:

Neil Bennett, picture editor, News Corp Australia; Carly Earl, picture editor, Guardian Australia; Ross Eason, photographer; Sam Mooy, picture editor, AAP; Renee Nowytarger, photographer.

The Nikon-Walkley Press Photography Exhibition will be toured around the nation in a series of free public exhibitions and are currently on display at the State Library of NSW and will be on display at the ABC in Brisbane from October 18.

The Walkleys thank Nikon for its support of the photography awards and prizes.


For media enquiries, including requests to reprint finalists’ photos online or in print, contact Clare Fletcher, communications & editorial manager, Walkley Foundation at clare.fletcher@walkleys.com.