I'm a Wellington based photographer and I recently (a couple nights ago) was named Documentary Photographer of the Year at the prestigious national awards in Queenstown on 10th August 2015.
This was my very first time entering the NZIPP IRIS awards and so many times I thought about not entering and pulling out. I was a ball of nerves knowing how high a standard this institute is known to have and thought I might not compare. I had great support from fellow photographers in the Wellington region that encouraged me and helped me organise getting my images printed and then a family friend who works at Artbeat Gallery in Paraparaumu beach matted my images for me. The day I picked my images up from being matted it all felt so real and my images looked amazing.
When it came to drop my case to the post shop for the courier to take to Dunedin I froze and talked myself out of it and continued driving, going past the post shop. The very next day I got the courage to actually drop them off and away they went. That moment I felt some relief, it was finally out of my hands and there was nothing I could do about it from here.
Finally, Thursday arrives, the first day of the three day judging. I had one image in the landscape category which was being judged Thursday and then four birth images being judged Saturday in the Documentary category. I was excited to see they were going to live stream the judging last minute.
I was at my mums place so I grabbed the laptop and sat nervously counting down till my very first image came up for its turn to be judged. I was so nervous I almost couldn't watch, and then I hear them declare, Bronze. I leapt out of my seat with joy and hugged my 2 year old son who got a fright from my sudden movement after sitting frozen still for a while. That was it, the moment I knew I had a chance when it came to my birth images as that is where my true passion lies.
Saturday couldn't come fast enough; I could barely sleep or focus on anything I was meant to be doing.
Saturday morning I woke up, grabbed a drink and some snacks then went and sat at the computer, logged into Facebook and waited for the live stream to begin. I was so nervous, the day was finally here. I chatted away with a few others who were also nervously waiting for their images to be judged.
My first image comes up, suddenly I am holding my breath and can't watch. I hear them announce, bronze. My body relaxes and the smile grows across my face thinking, phew, that wasn't so bad.
More images go by and my second image was up, feeling more relaxed I sat and nervously watched and heard the number, my face dropped, that was not what I was expecting, I was shocked but still happy with the professional high standard they gave it, after all it was my first time entering and I could learn for next years. After that I was back to being a nervous ball.
My third image finally comes up, I think to myself "okay, I think this is my stronger image, I should be okay". Secretly I was hoping for a silver for at least one of my images but knew judging was tough and the chances were slim. I hear them discussing my image, hearing all these comments was making me beyond nervous, I heard the word gold mentioned and I started trembling, my Facebook was going crazy with notifications as the people I was chatting with were hearing the same thing, they were discussing the possibility of gold. I was trembling, could barely type while we all waited with anticipation. The judges put their scores in and it is confirmed, GOLD. That was when I lost it; I was trembling, crying happy tears and couldn't contain myself. I just got the very first GOLD for a birth image in the whole of New Zealand! My son and partner had gone off to swimming lessons so I was home alone with no one to celebrate with so I quickly rung my mum to tell her. I couldn't even dial her number my fingers were shaking so badly. I finally got through to her and she was on the train heading into a tunnel and I quickly blurt out "my image just got a freaking GOLD!!" I hear a shriek of joy then the phone goes all warped as she goes through the tunnel. We all couldn't believe it. Absolute shock and excitement filled me.
I had one more image to be judged and with the others on Facebook that I was talking with we were discussing the possibility that I might make the category finalists list if my fourth image places well which made me incredibly nervous.
It was show time, my fourth image was up. I hear the announcement of bronze and I was so happy! But then someone said that they actually wanted to challenge that score. It ended up being discussed with the potential of being silver. I loved hearing all the judges’ comments and thoughts on my image. The time came for the re judge and they announce, silver. I was over the moon! I couldn't believe how well all my images have done!
I was on such a high for the remainder of the day. I was also trying to figure out if I had made category finalist as some people mentioned they thought I should be getting a flight down to Queenstown for the Gala dinner where the winners were announced.
The very same evening while I was out getting dinner and a celebratory cider I was tagged in the category finalist announcement made by NZIPP on Facebook. I quickly looked; I saw my GOLD winning picture and my name under Documentary Category Finalist. Safe to say I freaked out, again!
I could barely put my phone down all night.
Sunday morning I decided I was going to go to the Gala dinner in Queenstown on Monday night. I wanted to go in celebration to making it this far as I never thought I would have. Then I thought, oh no! I don't have anything formal to wear so quickly out to the mall I went and found a dress just before the store closed. I was ready.
Monday morning arrives, my mother in law comes to pick up my son for the night, my mum and aunty arrive to get me to the airport (and mum was coming with me to Queenstown) and we were off.
I was getting rather nervous while getting ready for the night but kept telling myself just to enjoy the experience and the likelihood of winning was slim.
We arrive and sit at the table with the other wellington people. The food was amazing, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I spoke with another photographer who won a category last year and asked in the rare case that I did win, what should I say? I am not a confident speaker in front of a group of people in the best of times.
It was finally time to announce the category winners. They were going to go in alphabetical order which meant Documentary would be soon.
Documentary was up; I was so excited to see my name on the stage with my GOLD winning image. They pull the winners name out of the envelope and I didn't believe it when I heard and saw my name. I was completely blown away. I quickly pulled myself together, stood up and made my way to the stage. I accepted the crystal trophy and then was ushered towards the podium to speak. I froze, all I got out of my mouth was "wow" but the words eventually came flowing out and I thanked everyone then made my way back to my seat where I was grinning ear to ear. I was so happy and overwhelmed.
The rest of the evening was wonderful. Our table was on a roll, we were getting many awards. I ended up getting the Rookie award too and again I felt very happy.
Overall I am completely blown away that I won. For my first time entering I thought it would be great to get a few awards and be recognised for my work but I never expected to win. I am overwhelmed by all the support I have had from family, friends and clients. Being recognised for my work is a dream come true, it has given me the determination to continue offering my services to clients who are just as passionate about capturing the moments leading up to, during and after they meet their baby.
A massive thank you to all of my supporters and a special thank you to my awesome clients, I couldn't have done this without you so again, thank you!!