Awards for animals

TWO local photographers have snagged gongs in the state Australian Institute of Professional Photography Awards.

Alex Cearns from Houndstooth Studio in North Perth won WA pet/animal photographer of the year, and Mount Hawthorn’s Kirsten Graham took home the award for WA travel photographer of the year.

Cearns divides her time between her Perth studio — taking clean, pared back shots of beloved pets on black backgrounds — and globetrotting to capture exotic animals in their native habitat.

She takes budding photographers on cruelty-free animal photo safaris overseas, steering clear of any operations where there’s even a hint of animals being exploited.

Her last trip was leading a group through Sri Lanka, photographing everything from elephants to dung beetles.

“It’s a completely different type of photography than what I do for my clients,” Cearns says.

• Cat with Flower by Alex Cearns

Composite

“In the studio it’s very controlled, with consistent lighting, and I’m in charge of everything, whereas when you’re in a jeep photographing elephants anything can happen.”

The four photos that won the PPA award were a departure from her usual studio work, using composite images, edited and seamlessly stitched together, to tell stories.

Some are understated: Dog with Ladybug is “probably the closest to my day-to-day client work,” Cearns says, with a straight-forward image of a puppy with a surprised expression on its face and one minor addition: “I found a ladybug in the garden and gave her a photo shoot,” Cearns says.

“I felt that by adding her into the scene she complemented the surprised expression on the dog’s face.”

Most elaborate was “Cat with Flower”, a romantic scene of a kitty Romeo presenting a flower to his love.

It looks seamless, but it was created from nine photos blended together.

“I photographed each element individually: cats, flower, frame, background, skirting board, and then all of the images were meticulously composited together to create the final piece,” she says.

“I wanted to enter a quirky image that told a story, and which stepped outside of my comfort zone.”

by DAVID BELL

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