Three Wairarapa photographers achieved success at this year’s NZIPP Iris awards held recently in Wellington.

The Epson/New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography (NZIPP) Iris Awards attract hundreds of entries from around the country and overseas each year. The awards are highly contested and coveted as they have helped launch and establish many photographic careers.

All the entries are judged anonymously over three days by a panel of judges who include some of the most qualified and renowned local and international photographers.

Greytown photographer Esther Bunning was named the ‘NZIPP Portrait Classic Photographer of the Year’ at the prestigious national awards held in Wellington in June.

“I’m still pinching myself!” said Esther. “My work is all about people, and it’s their stories I tell  and my work simply wouldn’t exist without the lovely people I’m privileged to photograph. This category awards in-camera capture, rather than post production techniques, so it’s thrilling to have my work recognised in this way.”

A series based on a love of insects, of young Marco, age 7, (from Greytown) won Esther a Gold award. Esther’s portfolio of work stood out from the hundreds of other entries submitted into the Classic Portrait category.

She also picked up the overall highest scoring print award with a final average score of 99/100, (Gold Award with Distinction)  for an emotive series of a local Greytown woman and her husband, who both shaved their heads together one evening in her studio, just prior to the woman commencing chemotherapy. 

Judge Russell Hamlet scored Esther’s print 100/100.  “In 28 years of judging photography I have never given the ultimate score100 /100 . It is a scary privilege and responsibility analysing images of this calibre. A high score remains elusive for most . A perfect score virtually non-existent. I asked myself what is the ultimate purpose of an image but to communicate, to resonate, to share.  Esther ticked all the technical boxes with an obvious total control of her art . But she did way more. The courage of her subjects, the pride, the empathy, the honesty, the fear of the unknown and ultimately the love story that these two people represented were to me perfectly delivered. It made me instantly realise as I was transfixed by this image how much I truly loved my own wife. Congratulations Esther on a perfect marriage of your heart, your mind, and your skill. “

Esther was also a finalist in the inaugural ‘book’ category, with a Gold award for her self-published book featuring creative imagery from the Greytown dance theatre project collaboration with Justine Eldred called ‘Fire & Water’.

Featherston photographer Sharisse Eberlein received two silver medals and three bronzes at the NZIPP Iris Awards gaining her enough merit points to be awarded the honours distinction of Master Photographer.

“I was absolutely thrilled to be awarded two Silvers and three bronze awards this year and to achieve Master Photographer. It was even more special that my two silver awards were for images that mean a lot to me personally and were entered into categories that I don’t normally enter. It was great to be able to push my creative boundaries this year with some personal work and receive recognition for it. It was fantastic to see the images that I shoot on a day to day basis also being recognised with an award and as being above everyday professional standard ” said Sharisse.

Her winning images included a photograph of a group of children eating sausages after a hard game of rugby, entered in the Documentary Category. The judges awarded this image a silver award and enjoyed the interaction between the characters and the social commentary within the photograph. Her second silver award was entered into the Illustrative category and is a photograph about body image. It is a representation of how women can feel about their own bodies and the pressures to conform an idealised body shape that is portrayed all around us. Sharisse’s three bronze awards were awarded in the Classic Portrait category for her day to day client work.

Greytown photographer Rebecca Kempton received one Silver and two Bronze medals in the Landscape and Portrait Classic categories.

“It was so nerve racking watching four of Australaisia’s top photographers judge my work. I was over the moon to receive a Silver and two Bronze in the Landscape and Portrait Classic categories.  I loved the opportunity to think outside the box and get creative with my entries. It is great to be recognised in two categories that I am passionate about ,” said Rebecca.

Her winning portfolio included an abstract take on the Tararua Ranges with an emphasis on the stunning layers in the hills, a painterly, brushstroked effect to showcase the Petone Pier and a stunning Summer sunset at Lake Ferry provided the perfect backdrop for the silhouettes of two men there for an evening fish.

“The awards give photographers an opportunity to both challenge themselves and push the boundaries of photographic practice, also allowing them to benchmark their work against the rest of the industry. This, from an industry perspective, contributes to the raising of standards within the profession of photography.” said NZIPP Honours Chair Kaye Davis. “As a result, each year we see the standards getting higher and higher.”