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APPAs: Offbeat portraits impress the judges

Melbourne photographer Damien Bowerman was named 2019 Australian Portrait Photographer of the Year for an eclectic portfolio of images of extraordinary individuals.

Pic by Damien Bowerman, 2019 AIPP Australian Portrait Photographer of the Year
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Pic by Damien Bowerman, 2019 AIPP Australian Portrait Photographer of the Year

Damien, 43, is a full-time portrait and wedding photographer in South Yarra, with a career stretching back over 20 years.

His winning portfolio is a long distance from typical suburban portriature, however. It includes low-key portraits of a sadomasochist, an 82-year-old gentleman, a shibari performer and a model with alopecia.

‘It sounds cliché, but the inspiration for my images comes from my interesting subjects and their stories,’ he said.

‘The tattooed guy has many body modifications and is a sadomasochist who’s into pain, intensity, blood and rope.

‘Everything he does is heavily negotiated, risk aware and consensual.

‘The girl with the ropes is a performer of ‘shibari’, which in Japanese means “to tie decoratively”,’ he explained.

‘It is a beautiful performance to watch; slow and progressive tying that results in a unique position.’

The final images were of an 82-year-old gentleman with a history of sailing who helped restore Australia’s oldest tall ship, and a model who suffers from the condition alopecia.

‘The model with alopecia was a conceptual image; having her play the bride while holding a bouquet of hair she no longer wears.

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Pic by Damien Bowerman, 2019 AIPP Australian Portrait Photographer of the Year

‘My portraits are not always traditionally flattering but I hope people can see the beauty in them,’ said Damien.

He is also a member of the National Gallery of Victoria and draws inspiration from his regular visits to the gallery.

‘If I’m lost for ideas, I will spend a few hours walking around enjoying the art; most of my inspiration comes from anything but photography.’

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