Matt Palmer’s 2019 AIPP Professional Photographer of the Year portfolio consists of four landscape images, taken in ordinary, ‘un-iconic’ Tasmanian locations which many would walk past without a second thought.
The photos aren’t the breathtaking, wild Tasmania that brings tourists in droves, with mountains hugging lakes, rocky cliffs falling into the Southern Ocean, or crystal clear bays. They are simple moments which ‘resonated with him’.
‘Even without winning awards I was incredibly pleased with my personal work this year and what I had created from scenes that are relatively unknown,’ he told Inside Imaging. ‘They aren’t lookouts, attractions, “secret spots” or in any way places that invite crowds to take “that shot”. I think the ultimate achievement as a photographer is to find your own moments and compositions that others perhaps walk past.’
He captured all the images with a new Sony A7R III, which he’s thoroughly enjoying. But he ain’t no fanboy, and acknowledges all manufacturers are designing quality gear – ‘we really are in a golden age of digital photography!’
Matt, 35, has been a professional photographer for over a decade, yet only felt confident in communicating complex and important social messages in the last five years. With bushfires recently wreaking havoc throughout Tasmania, the photographer’s ‘theme’ for his winning portfolio is climate change.
‘This generation doesn’t have a Great War or Great Depression to define us. We have the greatest threat to humanity that we have faced – climate change. My photographs this year speak to that, what we have lost, and what we stand to lose.’
While Tasmania is where he now calls home, Matt’s photographic roots were planted back in Queensland when he began photographing live music.
‘I took my DSLR to a free-to-attend live music gig and it really grabbed me as something I wanted to devote a lot of my free time to. Photographing Darren Hanlon at the Brisbane Powerhouse, using a telephoto lens to photograph his shoes bathed in red stage lights led to an obsession, which led to 10 years of photographing hundreds of live music performances. During that time I was photographing everyone from locals like Powderfinger to international acts like Metallica and Pearl Jam.’
While shooting gigs, Matt’s day job was graphic designer. The two skills complemented each other, as Matt regularly worked with photography and understood how it was edited for design projects.
Life in Queensland took a sharp turn for Matt after his marriage fell apart. Feeling trapped, Matt decided the only way to move forward was with dramatic change. So, in spring last year, he moved to Tasmania.
‘The breakdown of my marriage… felt like a huge life failure for me as I took my commitment as a husband very seriously,’ he said. ‘Honestly, at the time I just wanted to escape and put the emotional hardship to the side. It’s not something I’ve really discussed but I think it’s important to start talking about it and I hope others going through the same difficulty can see there is some light at the end of the tunnel, and we can make the best of the life we have right now.’
He arrived in Tassie with no contacts, family, friends, or a job. Plenty of ideas but few plans. It was a big risk, both professionally and personally, and could have been a failure. But he says that, ‘over time luck starts to change your way if you’re persistent and hang on, and keep doing what you are passionate about’.
It’s safe to say Matt’s riding on a big high and is a pretty happy camper now – whether shooting around his home in Geilston Bay, near Hobart, or out in Tasmania’s wilderness.
Reflecting on the APPA win, he says no one can do it by themselves.
‘We all stand on the shoulders of giants, and we’re all a creation both of ourselves and all the people that have helped us, and even the people that have hindered us. I am so appreciative for those that make this community great and for all of you out there that are genuinely passionate about photography. Through our photographs we have the power to give voice to things we care about, so get out there with your photography and shout!’
– William Shipton