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Tamara Dean wins Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize with “Endangered” May 8, 2019

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Former Sydney Morning Herald photographer Tamara Dean has won the $50,000 Moran Contemporary Photographic Prize with a painterly image entitled Endangered.

The winning image, which shows a group of naked swimmers diving underwater, was part of a series made last year when Dean was invited to visit the Heron Island Research Station off the Queensland coast to learn about the effects of climate change.


“I feel incredibly fortunate because the level of entries this year is absolutely outstanding,” she said. “I was not confident I would be sitting in this position.”

One of the three judges, photographer Stephen Dupont, confirmed the final field of 30, which also included work by Herald photographers Nick Moir and James Brickwood, was unusually strong.


“There were a few photographs that all of us judges really loved in terms of a winner. It was not an easy decision,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, Tamara’s photograph was chosen purely because it was so powerful. We kept going back to it. It’s a renaissance-looking, unsynchronised ballet.”

Dean used volunteers from the Heron Island visitors and scientists for the series.

“It’s a photograph I have wanted to make for a while,” she said. “I’ve seen photographs of single figures under the water but I had never seen that kind of thing. It’s very difficult as a photographer to make images that haven’t been made before.”

The image represents Dean returning to the environmental concerns that dominated her early 20s when she was involved in forest campaigns.

“Going on the trip with the Climate Council really reminded me where I started and put a rocket under me to use my visual language to communicate how deeply I feel about the environment.

“I find the images I see of the destruction of the environment incredibly important but I feel people can easily switch off and turn away from problems they think are too hard to confront.

“I wanted to make images people want to look at and to show the beauty of humanity and the environment and show just how much we have to lose.”

The Moran Contemporary Photographic Exhibition, until June 2, Juniper Hall, Oxford St, Paddington


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