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2019 APPA - Australian Professional Photography Awards

APPA - the Australian Professional Photography Awards hosted by the AIPP has to be the biggest event in every Australian professional photographer's calendar each year.

With literally thousands of the best professional photographers from all genres across Australia converging at one time to put our best imagery forward for critique, scrutiny and scoring.

Hearts are swollen, hearts are broken, it's a major roller coaster of an experience with intense highs alongside stomach-churning low moments.

This is the third year that I have entered the awards and the first time I have attended the national event in person. I think I got hooked on the adrenaline rush the first year and it seems to get more intense each year since.

As my newborn portfolio won my title of Queensland Newborn Photographer of the Year, I decided this year that instead of entering for Family category as I have done the past two years, I would enter for Newborn category instead. I felt a bit out of my comfort zone to be honest, it is a very competitive category filled with incredible talent, and can be difficult to create unique, creative imagery within the strict rules.

I was a mess as I boarded the flight to Sydney on the morning of Newborn judging, I arrived at the awards venue with a few hours to spare and soon found some friends to help calm my nerves.

Watching photography awards might seem like a small thing from the outside, fun even, but when you have poured your heart into creating images that you love, that are unique and that you feel in your bones have that special something that other people will connect with, it is heart-pounding to watch. This meme popped up in my newsfeed and couldn't be more true - thanks Mel for letting me share!

I sat nervously, bouncing my knees with energy alongside fellow entrants, all of us nearly vomiting from the nerves of waiting to see how the prints would fall in the scores. I can totally see the intense nerves in my eyes here!

The first print of mine to come up was my highest scoring print from the Queensland awards - "Australia". In Queensland it scored 88, a Silver Distinction and had two judges scoring in Gold.

It includes every single baby I have photographed in the past 20 months. It signifies the cultural melting pot that Australia is and how this generation of babies will unite together in their future together.

Unfortunately, it was not so well received this time around and scored a High Professional Practice, just below award range but a good score to start the day all the same.

If you have had a newborn photoshoot in the past two years, then this image will be a bit of a "Where's Wally" - you can search for your baby in the image!

It wasn't long before my next print turned around - and this one I had taken a gamble.

This is my Sound Of Music image. I am a huge fan of the movie and I hadn't realised that not everyone else is. The image relies on the "aha" moment, and when you see it, you love it.

Did you get it?

The judges didn't. They missed the song "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string... " and scored well for technique giving High Professional Practice but still just outside of the award range.

So I was now nil for two awards.

But wait...

There was good news to come. Each year I like to include a graphical piece in my portfolio, and this year it was from a shell that my daughter Sophie had found at Bribie Island beach. A perfect spiral the size of my thumbnail. My family often bring me things to make photos with and I love it!

I created a few different images with this shell but in the end it was this high contrast spiral that I kept coming back to. It had scored a silver award at the state awards.

But this time, the judges saw my vision exactly as I had created it. That at first you see the elephant trunk curve, then realise it is inverted and is almost like baby is in the womb with the bumpy birth canal leading to the outside world.

They loved it. They loved it so much they gave it a Gold Award and I cried.

Lastly, I had a new entry for APPA that had not been to the state awards so I had no idea at all how this image was going to fare.

It is a conceptual image that came from an accident. I had found these leaves on our property that looked like angel wings and brought them to the studio to photograph. My daughter Sophie stood on one and when I looked down I noticed that it looked like a pregnant lady looking to her belly.

Many hours of trying things in photoshop and a few versions later, it had morphed into this delicate story image that people read in different ways.

For me, it is about that moment each month when you try for a baby and your mind flashes forward to imagine the end of the pregnancy, the alternate timelines of what could be.

Other people read different stories in the image that they resonate with and I think that is part of it's strength as an artwork.

It went immediately to a Gold Award and was quickly challenged up to Gold Distinction.

It scored 96.

I gasp-cried. I couldn't breathe. I was shaking so much I am actually surprised that I didn't pass out.

Across all categories there were only 14 Gold Distinctions given out, less than 1% of entrants received one. The highest scoring print in the overall competition received 97, just one point above my image.

After all was said and done I had tallied the highest scoring portfolio by ten points.

There was then a three day wait to hear how the category judging went in terms of finalists and winner. In these awards, the highest score does not mean you win. The top three scoring portfolios are compared as sets and an overall winner is selected from there, so while I was pretty sure I would be in the room, it wasn't a given by any means that I would win.

The three days of wait were loaded with fun, meeting new people, seeing amazing prints on the walls of the event, dancing and celebrating all things photography.

The big night rolled around and I was about as nervous as you could imagine. Dressed in a bright yellow dress, fancy hair and makeup, a big night ahead. Newborn category was judged quite late in the evening which made it hard to try and eat during the event!

Finally my category rolled around and I am so excited to share that I was named as finalist for Australian Newborn Photographer of the year!

A massive congratulations to Jodie Andrews who won the title for the third year in a row, a feat that has never been done before at the national awards. It was truly outstanding and a privilege to be on the podium with you.

The rest of the event was spent dancing off all the nerves, enjoying some bubbly and having an absolute smasher of a night out! Thankfully my hotel had given me a late checkout the next day!

Before and After...

Of course, there are loads of people to thank for making this experience all possible. My good friends Selena and Mark who both helped me prepare my award images, I am so grateful for all your advice, especially the parts I didn't want to hear!

To Kylie, Sarah, Jodie and Claire who supported me over these 3 very anxious days doing everything from holding my hand, stealing my phone (see below), overthinking everything with me and fixing my broken dress, you guys helped me through some of the most anxious days and you are all amazing women and super talented photographers.

That'll teach you xx

To the families who choose me as their photographer, it is a true honour to be trusted with capturing your life milestones and creating these wonderful memories for you all. Thank you for being a part of my artistic creations and for your support of my small business.

And of course, my family. For bringing me shells and leaves and paperbark and all sorts of inspirational items to photograph. I missed you guys all so much it hurt and I am so grateful for your support to be able to go away to events like this.

Trav, you are my Gold Distinction. I love you.

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