Illawarra Mercury photographer Sylvia Liber has been named the winner of two prestigious awards.
Liber was on Thursday night awarded the 2018 Nikon-Walkley Community/Regional Prize and the 2018 Nikon-Walkley Portrait Prize.
A portfolio of work titled “Sea of Emotions” won the veteran photographer the Community/Regional Prize.
“Life as a photographer is never the same from one day to the next,” Liber said in her entry statement.
“My work days generally start with finding powerful images in whatever job I’m assigned, from a simple weather photo to the extremes of the human condition.”
The main image submitted as part of the portfolio was an image Liber titled “Deep Love for Dance”.
The underwater shot depicted Brooke Macdonald and Olivia Mitchell, who choreographed a dance performed by 24 Kiama High School students at the 2018 South Coast Dance Festival.
Photographed in the ocean, their every move was challenged by the pull of the current, cold water temperature and the weight of their dresses.
“When you’re a regional photojournalist, versatility is essential,” the Walkley Foundation said.
“The judges loved Liber’s entry as ‘the package’, where every shot is strong. It covers news, action, documentary, sport. It’s creative, there’s diversity. She’s got it all … and it’s all done well.”
Images of Definition Fitness owner Daniel Knust, a police arrest and a surfer in action were also submitted as part of the portfolio.
Liber won the Portrait Prize for her photo “Trapped in the wrong body”.
The powerful image showed South Coast couple Aley Halverson and Charlotte Tortorella – two people on very different journeys of self-discovery, who came together in a love that transcends gender.
Liber said she learned a lot about the concept of being transgender through the Mercury project that saw her capture the powerful image.
“This image’s unwavering gaze reminds us that the best way to learn from and respect the trans community, is to see and hear them as they want to be seen and heard,” the Walkley Foundation said.
The judges praised the raw intimacy of the portrait, its engaging composition and its guts: “It’s brave, from both the subject and the photographer.”
This year dual award win takes Liber’s Walkley count to four.
In 2015, she won the Community/Regional Prize for a series of five pictures.
Among that collection was an evocative photograph showing Kanahooka woman Carrie Jewell-Dugo’s elaborate corset tattoo, which covers her scars following a double mastectomy.
In 2014, Liber took out the Portrait Prize for a photograph titled “Little Princess”.