Emerging Australian photographic talent, Raphaela Rosella, has touched down in Amsterdam this month to take part in the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass.
The 25-year-old Queensland College of Art, Griffith University Honours graduate was one of only 12 chosen worldwide, selected from a long list of entries from 53 countries.
Growing up in Nimbin, New South Wales, and with two artists for parents, it’s no surprise Raphaela has “wanted to be a photographer for as long as I can remember”.
It was during high school however, that she discovered her passion to document her community and use photography as a catalyst for change.
“A passion for social change is the driving force behind my practice — to see another side outside of stereotypes and to hear the voice of those rendered voiceless is what powers my desire to be a visual storyteller,” she says.
It is this desire that has propelled Raphaela’s investigative documentary work, examining relationships between social class, stigma and gender among young women and men experiencing social disadvantage in Australia.
A combination of her projects: ‘We met a little early, but I get to love you longer’ and ‘You didn’t take away my future, you gave me a new one’, were submitted to the judging panel resulting in her selection for the Masterclass.
She hopes to expand upon her photographic, theoretical and conceptual practice during her time in Amsterdam, which comes at a pivotal point where she finds her work “at a crossroads”.
“Over the past four years, I’ve made it my priority to document my own community and personal experience through an exploration of poverty, disadvantage and stigma through the stories of young mothers,” she explains.
“While it is my aim to continue documenting these issues, I’m now looking for guidance in expanding the work and exploring new voices and approaches.
“I feel I’m ready to have my ideas and approach challenged and to work hard at locating and refining my photographic voice.
“To work with masters and peers seeking similar goals, whose experience collectively cannot be matched, is an ideal that I aspire to be a part of.”
During her time at the QCA, Raphaela was on the editorial board of The Australian Photojournalist; a non-profit publication dedicated to giving voice, celebrating the human condition and casting a critical eye on journalism and mass media practices.
“The opportunity to be a part of this publication as an elective in my degree was unrivalled,” she says.
“The inspiration and knowledge gained from my lecturers, tutors, contributors, supervisors and peers during my studies was invaluable.
“The whole experience has contributed significantly to my professional growth, confidence and maturity as an emerging visual storyteller.”
In the same year she graduated from the QCA, the stellar young talent joined leading Australian photography collective Oculi; was named Australia’s Top Emerging Documentary Photographer by Capture Magazine; and travelled to France where she attended the photography festival Les Rencontres D’Arles and a workshop with Magnum Photographer Alessandra Sanguinetti, courtesy of Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards (SOYA).
Raphaela is now represented throughout Europe by Agence Vu, and post-Amsterdam she plans to explore yet another aspect of her life.
“I have an Italian father so I’ve always dreamed of visiting Italy and meeting my family over there,” she says.
It’s a dream that will come to fruition when she touches down on Italian soil with her partner and young son in late November.
Following her arrival back home in Australia, Raphaela plans to continue investigating relationships, focusing closely on the cyclic and complex nature of poverty in Australia.
“With many disadvantaged communities experiencing entrenched poverty, racism, trans-generational trauma, violence, self- harm/suicide, addiction and a range of other barriers to health and wellbeing, the mistreatment of women is easily fuelled and normalized,” she explains.
“Rather than looking at the complexities of poverty and the realities of domestic violence for abused women, society blames poor families and poverty for deviating from the nuclear family image.
“As a result, women often shoulder the blame for being homeless, beaten, young or addicted to drugs.
“It’s this readiness to pass judgment, stigmatize and to stereotype that has driven me to broaden the issues I have been exploring throughout my work.
“I seek to connect an audience with the people I work with, providing a platform for their stories, choices, achievements and struggles to be heard,” she says.
This year’s World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass participants include: Bego Antón (Spain); Bryan Denton, Isadora Kosofsky and Bryan Schutmaat (USA); Meeri Koutaniemi (Finland); Giorgio Di Noto (Italy); Emilie Regnier (Canada); Raphaela Rosella (Australia); Naman Protick Sarker (Bangladesh); Akos Stiller (Hungary); Andrejs Strokins (Latvia); and Ilona Szwarc (Poland).