EXCLUSIVE

Announcing the Clique Photographer of the Year 2016

Matthew Willmann's obsession with photography started with a pile of National Geographic magazines in the corner of his 3rd grade classroom in Papua New Guinea.

Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. <cite>Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique</cite>
Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique

"I would go through these magazines, which showed all these parts of the world, and my eye was drawn to these amazing images," Willmann said. "From that day, I often saw life as if it were a series of still images. The photographs in those magazines stayed with me."

Photography was always in the back of Willmann's mind, but he only took up the camera 12 years ago after the birth of his first child.

Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. <cite>Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique</cite>
Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique

"I just started taking documenting family life around that time and it went from there. Photography became this bottomless pit, I couldn't get enough of it."

Willmann, now 38, has been named Clique Photographer of the Year 2016 for the impressive images he submitted throughout 2016 as part of Clique's monthly Challenges. His Clique portfolio showcased a broad and accomplished range of styles and subjects, from landscape, to environmental portraiture and human observation.

An electrician by trade, Willmann lives in the Queensland town of Boonah with his family and said that he was always interested in rural and small town life and that this showed through his photographic work. He said his image of Boonah's bowling club was the perfect example of small community living.

"Everyone is familiar with the Australian bowling club but I liked to document it not because of the fact that it was an interesting building, in many ways it was actually quite boring and unassuming, but because it played with that quintessentially Australian idea of community.

Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. <cite>Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique</cite>
Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique

"How the bowling club was a hub for community activity, not just in Boonah, but around the country. That was what made it a fascinating place," Willmann said.

He wins a host of prizes including a Nikon photography kit valued at $7500, a one-on-one photography masterclass with award winning Fairfax Media photographer Nick Moir, travelling to various locations in south-east Australia, a one-month internship with The Sydney Morning Herald or The Age photographic department and products from Momento, PosterCandy and Adobe.

Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. <cite>Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique</cite>
Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique

Moir judged the competition with The Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review chief photo editor Mags King and The Age photo editor Leigh Henningham, and said of Willmann's work: "A quietly observant, well edited set of images which allowed the viewer to become a local in regional Australia. The different lighting situations and events were patiently captured by the photographer in a series of well composed images showing beauty in normality."

One of Willmann's favourite images of the year was captured while he was walking through the forest of Mount French National Park, which was shrouded in mist.

Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland.  <cite>Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique</cite>
Clique Photographer of the Year 2016. Winner. Congratulations Matthew Willmann of Queensland. Photo: Matthew Willmann/Clique

"The cloud was hanging very low to the bush, almost covering it. You had this soft light which faded all of the trees into shapes and tones in the background - rather than distracting you with details of the forest. The scene before me was very peaceful. I knew it was a nice image playing out in front of me."

Speaking of the photographer that most influenced him, Willmann said: "It would have to be the American photographer, Irving Penn. I like his work, not the fashion work so much as his ability to capture the ordinary, the common, and turn it into something interesting and extraordinary."

Clique wishes to congratulate the following members for their outstanding entries in the Photographer of the Year competition, and throughout 2016:

Highly Commended

  • Jonathan Armstrong, Sydney
  • Shane Blue, Newcastle
  • Simone Cheung, Sydney
  • Louise Firli, Bendigo
  • Brett Florence, Melbourne
  • Sandy Goddard, Barwon Heads
  • Paula Heelan, Indooroopilly

Finalists

  • Alan Coligado, Sydney
  • Todd Kennedy, Sydney
  • Rosie Kew, Alstonville
  • Corinna Lueg, Sydney
  • Rowena Meadows, Melbourne
  • Chris Riordan, Melbourne
  • Eva Schroeder, Canberra

Clique Photo Club is run by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age photography departments. It aims to inspire and teach better photography through monthly competitions, as well as workshops and events. To join, go to cliquephotos.com.au.