Awards, Inspiration, Updates

Silver Lining Awards 2021: The Stories Behind The Images

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In this year’s Silver Lining Awards we saw over 2300 entries from Accredited, General and Student members, as well as non-members. Entries were received from every state and territory in Australia, and were joined by international entrants from NZ, the USA and the UK.  Today we speak to a number of winners about their processes, the choices behind their winning images, and their motivations and inspirations.

As a reminder, if you’d like to see the top 25 images from each of the categories, you can head to the Silver Lining Awards galleries at any time. Now on to the winners….

Robert Piccoli’s winning portrait image was shot in his studio in late 2020.

What do you love in particular about the image?

I was intrigued by the subject when we first met. I invited him to the studio and after a mutual sense of trust developed, the subject revealed the significance of his tattoos, and fell into a natural pose, which is when I captured this shot. In this image, one of the last of the session, the subject became more relaxed and showed more vulnerability, and I felt it was a more sincere and more genuine portrait of the him. I chose to submit this image because of what it revealed about the subject.

There are certain portraits that make you feel like you have really captured the person and that is what I feel I achieved with this image.

Robert Piccoli

Tattoos can simultaneously accentuate and at times mask one’s personal identity. His tattoos were a visual display of a personal narrative and my aim with this image was to convey a deeper narrative of the person.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Thank you to the sponsors, Atkins Lab in particular, the judges, and all those behind the scenes who made the awards possible.

Grant Galbraith’s winning image was shot from Kurraba Point, NSW in June 2019.

What propelled you to shoot the image? What was your motivation or inspiration?

At the time this image was taken, I was very fortunate to be living in an old set of apartments (that sadly are now just a hole in the ground as the site is being redeveloped), and we had a magnificent view of the city from our balcony. I spent many days while we were there taking images of the city. I have always been intrigued with intentional camera movement, and this image just came together nicely.

Was this a planned shoot or a surprise image?

As I had daily access to this view, it was just a situation where some lovely soft light fell across the city, and I went out to see what would happen on that day. I often experiment with intentional camera movement at a shoot, and on this day, it just fell into place. I knew immediately I had an image to work with and headed back inside to start work on it. It came together slowly over a few months as I tweaked and played with the processing.

What made you choose this image for the competition?

Apart from it being one of my favourite images, it has done well in some other key competitions, winning the Creative category at the 2019 Focus Awards and 2020 Sony Alpha Awards.

Why is this image important or special to you?

As the processing of this image came together, it reminded me of the artworks in a personal favourite book called ‘The Arrival’ by Shaun Tan. It’s a graphic novel that tells its story entirely through his art and is one of my most treasured possessions. This image is my tribute to Shaun’s inspiring work.

The solid shapes of the buildings, the Opera House and their dance with the swirls make it an image I enjoy spending time with. One thing that people often are surprised by is that it is a single image capture.

Grant Galbraith

What do you love in particular about the image?

I love how the texture that came out in processing gives it a graphite sketch sort of look… The textured look comes from a combination of an embossing layer technique in Photoshop that I learnt from Adam Williams and some work with the texture slider in Lightroom. As for the solid shapes mixed with the swirl parts of the image, that comes from the way the image was taken and controlled during the intentional camera movement process.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the sponsors Print2Metal and Chromaluxe. It’s a fabulous prize, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of my favourite images produced in this way. I enjoyed this competition, in particular the feedback sessions in which I asked for feedback on this image. The comments were insightful, and one of the judges really connected with the image, which is always a special moment.

Ari Rex’s winning image was shot near Harden, NSW in 2020.

What was your motivation or inspiration for the image?

I wanted to highlight two hot issues in the recent years: GM (genetically modified) crops and the dramatic increase in the number of satellites that are covering our skies. Both issues involve contentious applications of scientific progress. The planned expansion of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite service involves an application to add another 42000 satellites to the current 1400, which will have dramatic effects on astrophotography and astronomy.

Was this a planned shoot or a surprise image?

This image was planned over a long-time. The Covid-19 pandemic had an unexpected positive side-effect for astrophotographers like myself, in that there weren’t as many planes flying. This became the perfect time to highlight satellites with this image, as it was only their presence and the occasional meteor that would now produce strikes in the image.

The foreground of the image was also strategically planned, and I chose both the specific time of year when the canola was in bloom, as well as the perfect time of the day, during ‘blue hour’, to capture the image.

What made you choose this image for the competition?

When I saw the ‘Manmade’ category and its requirements, I knew that I found the right category for this image. I really enjoyed the intentional juxtaposition of the supposedly ‘natural’ and manmade elements within the image.

I love the power of suggestion in this image.

Ari Rex

Why is this image important or special to you?

This image is important because of the work I put in to capture it and construct it. Astrophotography requires long hours and dedication, but it’s also worth it because time flies when you are making a great image.

For this image the sky photography involved shooting around 10000 images. Out of those one set of one night was selected; this would include 1500-2000 images, and out of those I intentionally selected the ones with satellite and meteor strikes as I constructed the image.

The image is also important because it reminds me of how my photography provided a bit of an escape during what was a difficult year for everyone. With restrictions and changes to everyday life, still being able to see and photograph the sky at night felt like a little bit of normality.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I definitely would like to thank Kayell Australia for their generous prize. This year’s SLA was very well organised, and the feedback for every picture was a great addition.

Theresa Lee’s winning image was shot on an Iphone XR in July 2019. It was taken through a window of the now derelict former Rozelle Psychiatric Hospital in Sydney, NSW.

What motivated or inspired this image?

It was a chance conversation with a stranger named Tony. Because Tony was very familiar with this former hospital, he told me a little about its history and which buildings held interesting memorabilia inside. Curiosity motivated me to look through the window of this derelict building.

I was totally surprised to see the lone wheelchair and where it had been placed.  I visit this old hospital site often to walk our dog but until that day had never looked through the windows of that particular building.

What led to you choosing to submit this image?

I chose this image for the SLA because it enables people to interpret the scene based on their own life experiences. Especially now since the global pandemic; much has changed since 2019 when this image was captured.

This image immediately takes me back to one of the most memorable 1970s movies ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’. I thought of all the souls who had sat in that wheelchair. I feel this image is a poignant reminder that for many in our society life is less than half full. Lest we forget, their days may be spent in a lonely and empty space.

Theresa Lee

Why is this image special to you?

The first person to see this image on my phone was my husband, Stephen. He intuitively felt this image was special partly because of his own disability. With his mastery of words, he gave me the title “Wheels of Misfortune”.

I love its stillness and it has a haunting quality. I went back to this place on three separate occasions to try different compositions and chose this image for its ambience.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I joined the AIPP last year as a General Member. As an amateur photographer my motivation for entering the SLA this year was to receive feedback on my entries. From here I hope to become a more accomplished photographer. Thanks to Tony the stranger, for inspiring this opportunity.

Interestingly, I did return to that window about a month later and the wheelchair was gone! Just goes to show the importance of seeing and capturing go hand in hand in the world of photography.

Finally, I would like to thank the event organisers, volunteers and the Smartphone sponsor Fujifilm for my amazing prize. I have long wanted to try the X-T30 camera and now I can.

Matt Palmer’s winning images were shot at Mount Hotham during the last large snow dump of the 2020 season.

What propelled you to shoot the image? What was your motivation or inspiration?

The series was part of a larger shoot documenting Hotham and surrounds in significant snow during the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns. [My partner] Mieke and I were fortunate that we were able to gain permission from the Government and Hotham Management to document the area in these unusual circumstances.

Was this a planned shoot or a surprise image?

Each image was spontaneously captured, however seeing the incredible snowfall forecast, and negotiating Covid-19 restrictions, we had to plan in advance to ensure we could gain access and operate safely.

I chose images that felt somewhat empty and had human graphic elements such as boundary poles, road markers and finally the village itself with a single person. I wanted to communicate the unusual feeling of being in this place that would typically be jam packed with people but was now empty except for a few locals.

Matt Palmer

Why is this image important or special to you?

The series of images are special to me as they were taken on one of Mieke and I’s first major outtings to photograph snow. We both worked hard on achieving access as well as braving / enjoying the conditions and I was extremely happy to have some success with imagery created alongside her.

What do you love in particular about the image?

I enjoy sparseness and emptiness in the mood of a photograph. This was reflected in my project Abandoned in Iceland where I documented farmhouses and other buildings abandoned in the harsh winters of Iceland. I see some of that aesthetic and attraction in the work I produced on Hotham and put together to create this story.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

A huge thanks to Panasonic for their incredible support for the AIPP and their generosity in providing this prize. I also want to thank all the other amazing sponsors for their support of the Silver Lining Awards 2021 too.

Joshua Holko’s winning image was shot in the Canadian winter of January 2020.

What propelled you to shoot the image? What was your motivation or inspiration?

This image was actually the result of a week long expedition to try and photograph Snowy Owls in Canada in Winter. I knew I wanted a photograph with really fantastic wing position that showed not only the size of the wings, but captured motion blur to show the speed and also that conveyed great overall emotion. 

Was this a planned shoot or a surprise image?

This was very much a planned shoot, or rather the intention was to try and find an owl to photograph in the snow. As it turned out, this particular owl hung around the area where I was staying for some days and I was able to photograph it on repeated occasions, although the owl never allowed me to approach too closely.

What made you choose this image for the competition?

The decision to include this photograph in the competition was a straightforward one for me. Out of the many thousands of images I made of this owl over the course of a few days, this was the one that bought all the elements together I was looking for.

Gesture, shape, form and emotion are all encapsulated in the photograph.

Joshua Holko

Best of all it invokes an emotional response in me, and I was hoping it would in the judges as well. I also feel it’s a very simple image and that any time you can tell a story with simplicity it shines brightly. 

Why is this image important or special to you?

I am very much an in-camera artist and try to capture as much of the finished photograph as I can in-camera. I don’t want to have to be a Photoshop technician and prefer to spend my time out in the field; so I guess this image means a lot to me as it’s pretty much straight out of camera. Just a white balance adjustment, white and black points and thats pretty much all that was required. The motion blur was achieved with 1/800th of a second at f5.6. The trick was to try and keep focus on the bird’s eyes and not on the wings.

What do you love in particular about the image?

For me, there is a wonderful sense of mystery about this photograph. The feeling is encapsulated in the gesture and position of the owl with the wing sweeping around the head and the intense eyes looking straight at the camera. I also really like the monochromatic colour palette that really helps emphasise the intense yellow eyes.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

My sincere thanks to the AIPP staff for their continued efforts, to the Awards Committee for their dedication and hard work and to Olympus and the sponsors for their support of the awards. It is a mammoth undertaking to run such a professional competition that sets the standard for the industry to follow. The AIPP should be congratulated for raising the bar for many other digital competitions.

This winning image by Sherryn Lowndes was shot during 2020 lockdown at Pakenham pool.

What propelled you to take the shot?

My son was studying Media at the time at secondary school and had a ‘lockdown’ assignment. So we drove around locally and as I watched him taking photographs of the abandoned playground and skate park for his assignment, I wandered over to the outdoor local pool to have a look. To my amazement it was half empty: really dirty and mouldy with some ducks living in the water. This was a great opportunity for me to take a photo and I knew that I had the drone packed in the back of the car just in case; this is what I do now when leaving the house – make sure all the gear is in the car! I was also fortunate enough to see the owner of the pool so that I could get the permission needed to put the drone up and get inside the venue.

Was this image surprise or planned?

This was definitely a surprise image. A lot of my best photographs have been taken by surprise and because of this I have learned a lot about going to ask the question [of permission to take the shot] so that I never die wondering about the shot that got away.

What made you choose this shot for the competition?

After editing and watching all the feedback sessions for my other landscape photos and entering them into other categories, this was the last image that I knew I had and it was a perfect fit for the ‘Home’ category. I began editing, taking on board all of the feedback from judges; things like “if it doesn’t add anything to the image then get rid of it”. I took this very literally for the editing of this image. It’s original format is 16” x 9” and it included a toddler pool on the side as well as the road intersecting the corner of the frame. Thanks to the feedback my fear of cropping had disappeared and I felt confident to be a little bolder with this image.  I cropped it square and then looked at the grungy green mouldy water and decided that the beauty was not in the colour of the water but the texture of the water itself, so I turned it black and white. Now it was time to straighten the image and this was another point I had picked up from the judges. So I painstakingly straightened up the sides of the pool and then cleaned up distracting spots with the clone tool.

Why is this image special to you?

It is special to me because I was able to share this experience with my son and teach him how important it is to take opportunities when they arise. He has watched this image begin with his mum insisting on going in to the local pool to capture a drone shot, and end with me watching feedback sessions for weeks, editing the images assiduously and asking his opinion for weeks on which one looked better – to now winning this category of the competition.

It is also special to me because I have been taking photographs for 20 years and just tinkering around on my own and to be recognised and given this type of validation – that one of my images is worthy of a win in such a high profile competition – is just priceless.

Sherryn Lowndes

I now feel very much a part of something bigger and cannot wait to get to know more about the AIPP and become more involved.

What do you love about the image?

I love that the image has evolved into something of beauty from such an unlikely place and time in Melbourne. I love that not everyone at first recognises it as a drone photograph of a pool and that I have to tell them what it is, and that when they find out it is the local pool they are a little shocked. I love that this image is the one that has gotten me my first win in a competition.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I have received my prize of the ASUS monitor and I am beyond excited at how good the images look on the screen and how I can now edit like a pro with two screens running at the same time. My family and I were so happy unboxing it together and I was amazed to see the difference in quality to the screen I was using before.

I am also so thankful for the support that the AIPP has given me over the whole SLA awards process. I couldn’t have felt more welcome and looked after from the judges’ feedback. To simply be on a zoom call with some of the most talented professional photographers was inspirational for me.

Pamela Morris captured her winning image in the city centre of Palermo, Sicily in the last week of February 2020, just as Covid-19 was flaring up in Italy.

What propelled you to shoot the image? What was your motivation or inspiration?

Palermo, Sicily is the home of the Mafia and we had just finished a bus trip listening about the history of the city and its Mafia roots. We were walking through a major park when we saw this gentleman walking in front of us. He was striding out, looking straight ahead, like a man on a mission. The day was warm and sunny and he looked so out of place dressed so formally in his overcoat, scarf and hat, walking briskly with an attaché case; he stood out in a park filled with people dressed casually in t-shirts and exercise gear. I quickly took two photos when I saw him: the first is just a snap shot with a cluttered background full of other people, but for the second shot I managed to isolate him from the other park attendees. The shot was from behind and not at all interesting. I knew I needed to isolate him against a background that complemented his attire and gave a sense of ‘place’.  To that end I ‘stalked’ him through the busy streets, however I lost him in the centre of town when the crowds became thicker. An hour later I had given up finding him when I suddenly saw him turn into a street in front of me. I resumed the ‘chase’ and when I walked around the corner he was standing with his attache case behind him as if he was waiting for someone. I lifted my camera and he immediately turned away from me. I waited and caught him just as he turned around to see if I had gone. As soon as I snapped it I disappeared into the crowd so to avoid confrontation.

Was this a planned shoot or a surprise image?

Only planned in that I had chosen my ‘subject’, but the final background and pose were of course a surprise.

I love photographing the architecture of foreign cities and usually find my background and point of view and then wait for a ‘local’ to walk into the space to add interest, scale and narrative.  This photograph was the complete opposite of my usual approach in that I ‘found’ a local and spent the next hour looking for a background.

What made you choose this image for the competition?

I thought this image captured the essence of what the judges were looking for: a sense of place that embodies the concept or spirit of travel or illustrates the cultures and customs of our planet. 

Why is this image important or special to you?

I have travelled widely to over forty countries in the past thirty years and I love finding new places and people to photograph. This image was taken two days before we ended our Mediterranean trip and just as the Covid-19 pandemic was declared. We still had more than two weeks booked to travel in the Middle East but we made a snap decision to cancel everything and fly back to Australia. Eighteen months later, the pandemic is still raging internationally and we look like we may be years away from safely and easily moving between borders. So the photo represents a point of time when we had the freedom to go wherever we wanted to photograph freely and safely.

What do you love in particular about the image?

I love the colours, the textures of the old buildings and particularly the narrative of the image and the questions it raises: who is this man?; who is he waiting for?; why is he dressed so formally (is he part of the Mafia)?; and what is the significance of the suitcase against the wall? 

The image also captures the essence of antiquity of Palermo. It feels like a painting, and you question if it is really an authentic scene in today’s world.

Pamela Morris

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I would like to congratulate and thank the AIPP awards committee with their innovative approach to solving the award print problem during Covid-19 and providing an online digital method to submit images and have them judged. Whilst the print competitions are still crucial to the spirit of photography, the digital space provides a very cost effect and efficient way for photographers to compete. It lowers the cost and time barriers to entry for all photographers. I would also like to thank the sponsors, especially Sony; without their ongoing support and encouragement Australia would not be able to produce such amazing photographers.

Anne Wilcox’s category winning ‘Drudgery’ is a composite panoramic image of 45 images shot between 2017 and 2019. The landscapes were shot around Hartley NSW, while the other composites were shot in various places in regional NSW.

What propelled you to shoot the image? What was your motivation or inspiration?

The Sad Iron (sad meaning solid) was with my grandmother’s belongings which I found when I was unpacking. The iron is a beautiful tactile item and the fact that it could be associated with burns and blisters, strained and tired arms was intriguing. I wanted to construct an image, to control the narrative, and the emotional and physical landscape, to depict “Drudgery”.

Was this a planned shoot or a surprise image?

This was a planned shoot although there was trialling with the different supports for the hanging laundry, model poses and the construction of this non-existent landscape before I settled on the final composition.

There was a discipline required to document each stage of the composite image, due to its size and complexity.  There were twenty-seven separate stages documented, which meant if I needed to go back I could.

I put my entire self into this image, from conception to the final version. I wanted to overcome the fear of exposing my art, and myself, to my peer groups. It was a challenge I set myself to see if I was successful in invoking an emotional response. This could only be achieved by letting it be seen and judged.

Anne Wilcox

Why is this image important or special to you?

I like to create stories by building a narrative, incorporating cues to arouse emotions and in doing so, take the audience on a journey.  This image is one of those stories and has given me the confidence to start the next story.

What do you love in particular about the image?

I loved the experience it gave me in working with the technical and magical aspects of post-production work. Also, exploring the subject matter and the narrative.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I would like thank AIPP and the judges, for their comments during the online critique and their feedback both online and in writing. So encouraging – and sometimes that is all you need to push you further.

A big thank you to Nikon for the wonderful prize. I am so thrilled, and cannot wait for the Nikon Z5 to arrive.

Finally, I want to thank TAFE Nepean Campus and Cath Barcan, Head Teacher, who has been so encouraging throughout my journey.

Bruce Moyle shot this category winner at home in July 2020.

What propelled you to shoot the image? What was your motivation or inspiration?

Spending time at home during 2020 really meant that you needed to go out and look at your local environment more than normal. I spent many hours just looking at the street I live on. The light at different times of day and what that does to objects in and around the house. I then just shot different textures, moods and light with little thought to end result. During this time I was also experimenting with more dynamic editing and glitching.

Was this a planned shoot or a surprise image?

Total surprise image. I was trying to workout (and I still am) the variables from the capture to my glitching and the combinations so that I can have a better idea where the end result might end up. At the moment it’s kinda analogue (in a digital domain) where the variables shift without you knowing expertly what you will get, and that is super cool.

What made you choose this image for the competition?

I choose this one because it’s feels dynamic, interesting and basically I just love the feel of it. It was too manipulated to be placed in the ‘Colour’ category, so ‘Art and Science’ being an open category was my next choice.

This winning image is part of an evolution of my work. You have so many images in your portfolio over the years that it’s small victories that let you know you are moving forward. This is one of them.

Bruce Moyle

What do you love in particular about the image?

The colour and the feel of movement. Colour is important to me but more than just being pretty, it’s about delivering emotion and mood. Complimenting texture of the lines and giving something to latch onto. A lot of my work really relies on contrast to push the viewer around, but this one really uses the colour to bring you in and this something I find interesting considering my past works.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

One of the things I tend to do since becoming a member of AIPP is to print my work for proofing. Epson has been a major part of that and having them as a sponsor of this category is amazing.

Bruce Moyle shot this winning image during the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020.

What propelled you to shoot the image? What was your motivation or inspiration?

I just needed to get the creative juices flowing again. Looking at the same walls and doing home schooling, it became a welcome distraction.

Was this a planned shoot or a surprise image?

The shoot wasn’t planned but the objects did have a bit of thought attached as a starting point to experiment.

What made you choose this image for the competition?

I entered a mix of images into the category with different styles of colour. With this one I was interested in subtle colour changes and not super saturated as an alternative to what the regular idea of a competition category like this would normally receive.

Why is this image important or special to you?

It’s simple, not over produced and created during a time when we were all going a little stir crazy.

The silky texture that matches the tones helps move the eye around and it’s abstract enough that it gives an impression of a different object and form than the original items.

Bruce Moyle

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

This category is super creative and congrats to everyone that entered it and experimented with what is “colour” in relation to photography. The sponsors Canson Infinity / Kayell Australia are amazing, and I have been using their paper for years for my fine artwork.

Thank you for joining us for these revealing conversations with the photographers behind these incredibly memorable images. Congratulations to the winners of each category, the finalists, semi-finalists, and every member who participated! And, of course, thanks to our sponsors and prize donors – without whom there can be no awards. We hope this post inspires and motivates readers to get out and shoot some cracking images for next year’s competition.

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