For the first time in the history of the Coraki Tea Tree Art Prize, a photograph won the $1000 Best in Show award and who better to take home the prize than Richmond River High School photography teacher, Stephen Blanch.
In his 20 years with the school Stephen has literally taught thousands of students (including this journalist) how to capture life through the lens of a camera. In an ironic twist, this year Stephen and friend John Newman sponsored a new youth photography section, which was won by none other than Stephens student Giitika Gunther. She took home the prize for a photo of her sister, Kavita, yet another student of Stephens.
Stephen has won more than 80 awards for his work both in Australia and overseas. He has travelled extensively in pursuit of that perfect photo, but more recently has been focussing on the beauty of his own backyard. His winning image is a large scale, time exposure of the Goanna Headland area of Evans Head.
I try and capture those special, fleeting moments when the atmospheric conditions are just right or indeed a bit different, Stephen said. The resulting images hopefully capture the essence, mood and spirituality of the place, reminding locals and visitors alike of the beauty that surrounds them and providing a reminder not to take it for granted. And talking of spirituality, I would also like to acknowledge and pay respect to the original custodians of this area, the Bundjalung people.
Stephen said he was honoured but also surprised to win the award, as his chosen medium had historically taken a back seat to more traditional media.
The judges were indeed very brave to have chosen my work, said Stephen. I thank them very much for showing initiative and for helping to elevate photography to its rightful place alongside the other forms of art.
If youd like to see more of Stephens work, visit www.imagecult.com.
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