Who is Australasia's Top Emerging Photographer 2017?

It's been the question on the lips of thousands of emerging photographers across Australia and New Zealand, and we can now reveal the winner of our annual contest to discover the next generation of the best emerging talent – Australia's Top Emerging Photographers 2017, now in its ninth year.

Over 800 entries later, across 10 categories, relying on the wisdom, experience and expertise of 38 of the world's finest photographers and professionals (with a total of 90 judging as many helped decide winners across multiple categories), the winner of the Portrait category, Paul Alsop, has also been named overall winner of Australia's Top Emerging Photographers 2017. See his winning portflio here.

Alsop's prize includes $3,000 plus a Fujifilm X-Pro2 & XF 35mm f/2 lens valued at $3,298, from our major sponsor, Fujifilm. Alsop said that he was "blown away" at having taken out the top honour. Speaking of the calibre of judges involved, Alsop said that "the thought of many of these photograpehrs reviewing my work makes me very honoured (among other emotions!)".

Capture May/June 2017 cover. Image by Paul Alsop. Australia's Top Emerging Photographers 2017 (Overall winner and Portrait category winner).
Capture May/June 2017 cover. Image by Paul Alsop. Australia's Top Emerging Photographers 2017 (Overall winner and Portrait category winner). "Manaia", a 4x5 inch tintype, is part of an ongoing series of portraits, "Children of Alchemy", all made with the wet plate collodion process.

The second most popular category after Landscape, winners and place-getters in the Portrait category were determined by 15 members from our judging panel. Jennifere Thompson came second place in the category, while Judi Turner-Buzer received third place.

In order to arrive at the winners, runners-up, and Top 10, a total of 450 votes were tallied, checked, re-checked, and then given weighted scores. In order to establish the overall winner, judges were asked to rate their top five category winners in order. The 175 votes cast were also tallied and weighted to reveal the overall winner. The results placed Jan Breckwoldt as overall runner-up in the contest, with Adam Levi Browne coming in third overall - with just a single point between them.

Keep an eye on the Capture website as category winners and runner-up are revealed later. To find out all the results and see some of the amazing work, the current edition of the magazine can be located at this link.

About the overall winner

At a time when digital photography and, primarily, the DSLR reign supreme, it is rare to find a photographic practitioner still fully relying upon the niceties of 35mm film, let alone medium format or large format view cameras. But for Paul Alsop, digital’s inability to reproduce the aesthetic of those photographers that inspired him, coupled with a love for the slower and more intimate portrait process, the age-old technique of wet plate portraiture has been his saving grace. Originally inspired by Richard Avedon’s series, In the American West, Alsop has fully embraced the wet plate collodion process to build a portfolio of pictures that instantly stand out against today’s sea of instantaneous imagery.

A self-taught practitioner, Alsop first picked up a camera around 15 years ago with the intention of being able to show off his coral reef tank with an online community. Frustrated with digital photography, he moved on to film and black-and-white darkroom printing techniques, but it wasn’t until he came across Chuck Close’s portraits of Kate Moss that an impetus for a technique change was found. Struck by the “honesty” of Close’s portraits, Alsop felt a compulsion to be able to produce portraits that reflected a similar honesty.

Working full-time as a GP, it’s only over the last four to five years that his photography has benefitted from a far more dedicated effort. Alsop has since exhibited throughout New Zealand and has been featured in the Sydney Morning Herald, PDN and PetaPixel.

What the judges thought

What I look for when judging a competition like this is the artist’s signature. What I mean by this is, how has the artist given something of themselves in the work, and essentially what makes the portraits unique to the photographer?

Obviously the technique used in these pictures was a big part of the overall look. Quite often a technique like this can distract from the subject matter if it is used as just that – a technique, but with this submission I felt the photographer’s interaction with his subject matter was honest and consistent within the body of work. The images left me wanting to see more in the series. – Simon Harsent

This is a mesmerising series of images. Fantastic subject matter and great use of selective focus and tonality. The children’s faces are passionate…they are innocent…they are unique, and they speak with their eyes. – George Apostolidis

These images are incredibly powerful. The photographer has chosen and directed their subjects beautifully. The way they have chosen to capture the photos aids in the timeless beauty of the images. I love the fact that this photographer has understood how to put a cohesive body of work together as well. We see here a selection of portraits that don’t fight each other for attention, but complement each other beautifully. The light, the size of the subject in the frame, and the direction of the talent, together, provide the viewer with an evocative and transcending body of work. Sally Brownbill

While these portraits are technically well executed, more importantly, I thought the photographer has frozen in a moment the confidence and unselfconsciousness of youth. Despite the subjects being in front of a large format camera (which can be a bit intimidating), the expressions he has captured on the faces of these children display their combination of innocence, assurance, and determination. Really well done. – Gary Sheppard

To our supporters and sponsors

Much thanks must go to our major sponsor, Fujifilm, and all our category sponsors: Billy Blue College of Design, EIZO, Momento Pro, National Portrait Gallery, QNAP, Sally Brownbill, SUNSTUDIOS, Tamron, Think Tank Photo, and WD for their immense generosity and commitment to supporting emerging photographic talent.

The success of this competition lies both with the stunning quality of entries received, and the involvement of the wonderful judges. Choosing the category winners is always a challenging task for our judges, and much thanks must go to the leading professionals for their time, wisdom and experience scrutinising the entries to help find the winners.

This year the total prize pool for Australia’s Top Emerging Photographers was worth over $21,000, with $13,500 in prizes, plus cash prizes of $7,500. The Emerging Photographer of the Year receives the grand prize Fujifilm X-Pro2 & XF 35mm f/2 lens valued at $3,298, plus $3,000. Category winners receive prizes from our category sponsors.