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Alex Coppel wins Nikon-Walkley top prize

News Corp photographer, Alex Coppel, has cleaned up at the 66th Walkley Awards for Excellence in Photojournalism, winning the Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the Year, as well as Sport Photography category.

Photos: Alex Coppel.

The back drop of Coppel’s winning Press Photography portfolio is loosely connected by the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s primarily sports – the Olympic games – but also includes images of protests.

‘With a rock-solid body of work, Alex Coppel has displayed a true portfolio of news, sport and features,’ judges said. ‘From protests to the Olympics, across a breadth of work and a range of situations, each image is arresting. Coppel is a sheer all-rounder who has captured the emotion in all of his stories.’

Coppel’s Sports Photography portfolio, The Games That Had To Happen, is a five-picture series with the judges describing every shot as ‘a peak moment that Alex has nailed’.

Photos: Alex Coppel.

Fairfax photographer, Dean Sewell, won the Feature / Photographic Essay category for his 12-image series, Of Mice And Men. The series follows a farmer’s struggle to protect his property from the mouse plague, which wreaked havoc across NSW’s agricultural food bowl.

‘The well-edited series comprises 12 frames that highlight not only the photographer’s technical skills but also his storytelling ability. Every photo you would want is here,’ judges said.

Photos: Dean Sewell.

Like many of Australia’s top photojournalists, Sewell photographed and wrote the story for Of Mice and Men. Photojournalists ‘picking up the pen’,  or keyboard, is a growing phenomenon as dwindling newsroom resources requires total coverage of a story rather just stills. Australian photojournalist are more than capable of this task, with the likes of Kate Geraghty, Andrew Quilty, and Daniel Berehulak skillfully combine stills and writing to deliver in-depth award-winning multimedia news stories.

Fellow Fairfax photographer, Brook Mitchell, won the News Photography category for Sydney Anti-lockdown Protest, a five-images series showing protesters clashing with police.

Mitchell captured the photos on July 24, 2021, when Central Sydney was shut down for several hours as thousands of protesters marched against increasing lockdown restrictions. One of her images, showing a protester connecting his fist with a police horse, went viral and took on a life of its own through social media.

Photo: Brook Mitchell.

‘The fearlessness of this work is not to be underestimated,’ the judges said. ‘A reporter can sit on the edge of a protest like this, but a photographer is immersed. There is energy and dynamism in this set of images, and the photo of the horse had a huge impact.’

In selecting three finalists in each category, each year the Walkley judges look for newsworthiness, impact, creativity and technical skill. The winners were named at the Walkley Awards Gala Dinner in Sydney on February 25, 2021.

Two additional awards were announced in October last year when the Walkleys unveiled finalists, the Nikon Photo of the Year won by Kate Geraghty, and Nikon Portrait Prize won by Brian Cassey.

More than 3000 images were entered.

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