Why This Won the Trinity Bay School Portrait Prize …

Last week it was a pleasure to once again judge the works in the annual photographic portrait prize at Trinity Bay High School in Cairns.

This years exhibition totalled about sixty portraits from the students (and a handful of teachers). The overall standard of the entries appeared improved on last years crop. A significant achievement. It took a stroll several times around the exhibition walls before finally settling on this years First, Second, Third, a couple of  ‘commendations’ and a staff prize.

The work that I finally settled on as best in show was a multi layered portrait by grade 12 Shantelle Birch entitled “Self Hate” (top – below).  Not only is Shantelle’s work a complicated and quality portrait, but also comments on the role of portraiture in society itself. The strong title and intricate image evokes emotion, addresses a contemporary youth issue on personal image and self doubt … and the pressures to confirm to stereotypes that visually bombard youth everyday. For her very well deserved win she was thrilled to receive a Nikon D3400 DSLR courtesy of sponsor Garricks Camera House.

Fractionally behind in Second Place was “The Despondent Girl” (second from top – below) … a  well structured beautifully textured and composed portrait by Irin Phomraksa (also grade 12). Her work was anchored on the stare of the one visible eye amongst the seeming chaos of the windswept image.

Third was a classic and well constructed portrait – “Look Like Art” (bottom – below) by grade 11’s Lit Thai. Highly Commended awards went to untitled works by Etevise Taua and Lachlan Best (Lachlan’s clever and disturbing!), whilst the exhibition crowd voted Graziella Romunga’s work as ‘People’s Choice’. Staff prize went to a stand out entry – “Goodbye” by Anna Koetz Trowse.

Trinity Bay High School Visual Arts department teachers, including Sean Tooley and Ian Whittaker, should take a bow. Once again it was great to see, comment on and judge the wonderful photographic work of their talented students.

Images © the artists – Shantelle Birch, Irin Phomraksa and Lit Thai (2017)

Trinity Bay High School Photographic Portrait Prize - judged by Brian Cassey

Trinity Bay High School Photographic Portrait Prize - judged by Brian Cassey

Trinity Bay High School Photographic Portrait Prize - judged by Brian Cassey

Fostering Young Portrait Photographers …

I first clicked the shutter of a camera (two shillings and sixpence at Woolworths) at what would, in those good old days, have been considered a young age. The work produced was erratic and questionable … but I fluked the odd one or two that I was happy with.

This week I had the pleasure to be involved with scores of young photographers whose work at a similar age far outshines my earliest efforts. Along with fellow Cairns photographer Romy Bullerjahn, I was asked to judge and present prizes at the 2016 Trinity Bay High School Portrait Photography Prize.

I really didn’t know what to expect before walking into the schools gallery to select the winning portraits from about fifty entries … many of a quite startling quality. Picking winners was a difficult task for Romy and myself but we eventually settled on first, second, third and two highly commended (as well as two ‘staff’ prizes).

The story around 14 year old Matt Hastie’s selected winning portrait “Shades” is remarkable. Matt only picked up his first DSLR camera a month ago – a ‘loaner’ from the school inventory. Prior to that he had only made ‘phone’ pictures. His prize winning evocative image (below – top) was made during that first ever ‘proper photography assignment’.

Shell shocked and shy, Matt said he was ‘pretty happy’ to win and to be presented with the prize of his very own Canon DSLR courtesy of Garricks Camera House. He is now enthusiastic about his plan to choose Photo Imaging as an elective school subject from grade 10 … and maybe one day pursue a professional photography career.

Fractionally behind Matt’s work were images by students of a similar age or younger – Matilda Sail (2nd – year 7), Eden Cvetkovic, (3rd – year 11), Eliza Sail, (commended – Year 9) and Pagan Sutcliffe (commended – Year 11). Delon Clark took out the Peoples Choice Award.

When I was their age it was inconceivable for schools to teach photography. With the help of Trinity Bay Arts teachers Ian Whittaker, Sean Tooley and the Arts department staff and program, these young aspiring students have made great strides towards becoming the next generation of photographers and photographic artists.

Images – Top – Winner “Shades’ by Matthew Hastie © . Below – clockwise from top left – works by Matilda Sail © 2nd, Eden Cvetkovic © 3rd, Pagan Sutcliffe © HC, Eliza Sail © HC, Delon Clarke © Peoples Choice.

Trinity Bay High School Portrait Prize inner 2016 by Matthew Hastie - judge Brian Cassey

Trinity High School Portrait Prize 2016 place getters - judge Brian Cassey