21 October 2019

'A bit of chitchat between the boys' earns photographer national award

| Michael Weaver
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This image, named ‘A bit of chitchat between the boys’, won the People’s Choice Award at the Australian Photography Awards for Cooma photographer Michelle Brown. Photo: Michelle Brown.

An incredible image of two male brumbies battling for dominance in the Snowy Mountains took Cooma photographer Michelle Brown by surprise in more ways than one.

Not only did the moment of the two brumbies rearing up on their hind legs get her heart racing, but it did so again when the image won the People’s Choice Award at this year’s Australian Photography Awards (APA) in Melbourne recently.

Michelle’s husband entered her photo, taken near Kiandra in September 2018, hoping that it might be recognised among the thousands of entries put forward for the prestigious awards, which are open to anyone in Australia.

“It definitely took me by surprise and I’m very, very proud of that photo,” Michelle told Region Media.

“It was really just a case of being in the right spot at the right time to capture such a quarrel that these two brumbies are notorious for getting into.”

Michelle and her husband head into the back country of the Kosciuszko National Park most weeks. Over that time she has been building a rapport with the wildlife after picking up a camera only four years ago.

She regularly sees this pack of wild horses and has given most of them names.

“Those two stallions are quite passionate. The grey is Pale Face and the bay stallion is Poster Boy. They’re quite happy to live alongside each other, but when Paleface puts Posterboy in his place, that’s what happens,” Michelle says.

This is the first photography competition she has entered despite having many thousands of images of brumbies and other wildlife such as wedge-tailed eagles, wild dogs and of course, the scenery of the Snowy Mountains.

She says the reception to this particular photo, named ‘A Bit of Chitchat Between the Boys’ has been overwhelming.

“I didn’t make it down to the awards, but the lady at the APA said the round of applause that the photo got once it was called out as the people’s choice was quite deafening. I would have loved to be there to hear that.”

The photo was also highly commended in the ‘Wildlife’ category of the overall awards, where it placed thirteenth.

All entrants can select to be in the People’s Choice Award by sharing their entries through Facebook. The 20 images with the most votes were then added to a Facebook gallery.

After five days of online voting, Pale Face and Poster Boy had just shy of 3000 votes, giving Michelle the $500 prize.

Awards organisers Harriet Tarbuck and Tom Goldner say the Australian Photography Awards promotes social understanding and diversity through original, thought-provoking photography.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled for Michelle,” they say.

“Her image was an absolute stand out in this year’s campaign. The image received close to 3000 votes from the public, making it a clear winner for the 2019 Peoples Choice Award.”

While Michelle is still an amateur photographer, she is broadening her horizons to weddings, portraits and newborn photography. However, she says having recognition for one image very special.

“The show that they (the two stallions) put on was very quick. I pretty much had time to get the camera up, focus on them and capture what they were doing.” Michelle remembers.

“As a photographer, you always pray that it’s clear and that you’ve captured what you saw.

“When I loaded these shots on to my computer and saw the teeth bearing and their two faces connecting, I was like ‘woah, that’s not what I expected’. It really was just right place, right time and getting that shot was just phenomenal.

“Sometimes, you can go out and not even see a brumby and other times you’ll see four or five mobs grazing.

“It’s just something I love to do because I can showcase our folklore. These animals are our heritage – I grew up on The Man from Snowy River.”

You can view the other category winners on the Australian Photography Awards website, or view more of Michelle’s photography on her Facebook page.

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