Wildlife snaps with X factor
Striking skeletal images and vivid storytelling from the Kimberley have stolen the spotlight at the national Australian Photography Awards this year.
The APA’s wildlife category was won by a stunning milk white crane captured by Georgina Steytler, but Broome’s Benjamin Houston stole the show with some amazing X-ray photo skills.
The judges ranked his depiction of a kangaroo on the roadside third for the wildlife category from all national competitors.
“It’s the fragile side of nature, an instance in time that’s happened and that life has passed, it happens every day on Australian roads and I wanted to delve into that a bit more,” he said. “The animal is frozen stiff — I take up to 10 X-ray images and stitch them together in Photoshop. (The final images) take months to make.
“The idea just came to me one day in December last year, that it would be interesting to tell stories of wildlife through X-ray because usually I take portrait, corporate events or aerial photos.”
The competition’s third placing caps out a big year for the Broome snapper after receiving two silver with distinction and two silver awards at the Australian Institute of Professional Photography Awards in August.
X-ray entries for that event included a feral cat, which mirrored the burying of a beloved house pet with its favourite ball of wool, a depiction of time by positioning a crocodile and eggs in the footprint of a dinosaur, and one of a mother stork, which has consumed a fishing hook to create a striking gaunt image.
“The croc was more telling the story of the ages and how this creature has outlived the dinosaurs — some of the biggest creatures on earth,” he said.
“The cat was the third animal in the series and I wanted to create a tribute to the remembrance of a pet. The ball of wool signifies the owner’s memory of the cat’s favourite pastime.
“The stork was found on Demco beach and the final photo in the series. The hook was taken from a separate X-ray. I photographed the barramundi and eggs separately too.”
Houston maintains the four images as side projects while he works as a professional freelance photographer in Broome shooting commercial projects, portraits, weddings, landscape and travel photographs. Houston has previously won gold and silver awards at the Australian Institute of Professional Photography awards in 2016 and 2015 as well as scoring well in ACT AIPP Awards.
“These are personal projects —I don’t shoot them for the competitions. I come up with an idea and try to execute the idea and if there’s anything I think is quite striking that gives me an opportunity to get the work off the computer and get some feedback,” he said. “I checked in with all the laws and rules I had to abide by. I was really acutely aware of how the process went and that I was doing everything by the book to make sure the animals had respect. The animals went back to the places they were found, it’s all about the timing to capture the image and respecting the animals.”
All of the animals featured in the art had been found dead at various locations.
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