Raphaela Rosella has won one of the world’s most coveted photographic prizes.
The 26-year-old Queensland College of Art photography honours graduate was named the winner of the portrait category in the 2015 World Press Photo awards.
Raphaela was the only Australian finalist selected from the 97,912 entries submitted by 5,692 photographers from 131 countries.
Her award winning image was of a Kamilaroi girl named Laurinda, taken as she waited outside her home in Moree, NSW for a bus to Sunday School.
An international jury of leading photojournalism professionals began judging the entries at the World Press Photo office in Amsterdam on 1 February headed by jury chair Michele McNally, director of photography and assistant managing editor of The New York Times.
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.
Her two previous series ‘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 a judging panel last year, which led to her selection in the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass in Amsterdam.
Raphaela will soon be flown back to Amsterdam for the awards ceremony in April and her prize-winning picture will be presented in an exhibition set to travel year-round to about 100 cities in 45 countries.
Following these two international accolades, she now hopes to expand upon her photographic, theoretical and conceptual practice while continuing to investigate 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.
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 is co-editor of The Australian PhotoJournalist.