2023 Booooooom Photo Awards Winner: Wilhelm Philipp

For our second annual Booooooom Photo Awards, supported by Format, we selected 5 winners, one for each of the following categories: Portrait, Street, Shadows, Colour, Nature. Now it is our pleasure to introduce the winner of the Portrait category, Wilhelm Philipp.

Wilhelm Philipp is a self-taught photographer from Australia. He uses his camera to highlight everyday subjects and specifically explore the Australian suburban identity that he feels is too often overlooked or forgotten about.

We want to give a massive shoutout to Format for supporting the awards this year. Format is an online portfolio builder specializing in the needs of photographers, artists, and designers. With nearly 100 professionally designed website templates and thousands of design variables, you can showcase your work your way, with no coding required. To learn more about Format, check out their website here or start a 14-day free trial.

We had the chance to ask Wilhelm some questions about his photography—check out the interview below along with some of his work.

What is the story behind your winning image?

My winning image of Dev is from our series, A Near Miss With The Abyss.

On June 27th, 2021 Dev’s head hit the pavement at Hawksburn Station after bombing a hill on his skateboard around 11pm on his way home from a night out. Dev’s fall fractured his skull, resulting in bleeding on the brain on the right hand side of his head and residual damage to the front of his brain as well as subdural bleeding. Despite all odds, Dev miraculously made a full recovery from his injuries.

This body of work captures Dev over a 5-month period from pre-surgery to post-surgery. Highlighting the physical and mental transformations he experienced during this time, offering the audience an insight into his newfound appreciation for the world.

“What I do know is there is this certain flavour of introspection and to an extent torment that has consumed me, a burning urgency to living now. It’s shown me I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I thought I was, I’m now fascinated by the juxtaposition of an unceremonious death and the beauty of life.”

Can you share a little bit about finding your artistic voice?

It can be difficult to find your true artistic voice, just as it can be to find your place in the world. While these explorations of the soul are different in nature, I believe they both have overlapping characteristics that lead to the same discovery.

For me personally, a lot of these findings came from moments outside of photography. From losing loved ones, to heartbreak, struggle and grief, all these moments have been pivotal in learning more about the person I truly am, just as much as love, happiness, success and peace have.

What are the reasons for my happiness? What are the reasons for my disappointment? I put a lot of emphasis on taking notice of internal feelings and keeping these thoughts in the front of my mind, this has led me to an overall sense of clarity. With time and lived experience you begin to understand more and more about the reasonings for your existence and build upon the person you wish to become.

Luckily for me, photography has always been one of these reasons, but what I lacked for many years was feeling true emotion within the work. Once I concluded that I was unhappy with the photographs I was taking and the ideas I was chasing, I went to search for the moments that made me happy. And just as I did when learning to understand my emotions, I began looking for not only what takes my eye, but what makes me hold it.

There was a lot of trial and error during this period, many photos that have no place in the world, but it was the key to erasing the work that didn’t provide me with the sensation I was after. This process of elimination and exploration led me to create work that I feel evokes emotion within the audience and myself.

How would you describe your aesthetic these days?

It’s very tricky to say, I think my audience and critics would offer a more sound response to this question than I can.

If I had to describe it, however, I would say that my work seeks to document the beauty of the everyday world that is often overlooked and find the wonder of the people existing inside it. My photographs depict moments of the human condition and spirit, with themes that revolve around community, grief, home, life/death, individualism and love.

What specific things do you most enjoy looking at through your viewfinder?

I enjoy looking at clouds through my viewfinder which I have been doing very frequently recently. I love looking at their different forms and shapes, constantly changing and forever unique in their design. I think clouds are the one subject that I will never grow tired of shooting.

Of course, I also enjoy looking at all the different subjects that allow me into their worlds to take their portrait. Taking time to notice what features stand out, gestures that communicate and looks that display feeling. I am very blessed to be allowed into so many people’s lives and to hyper focus on their relationship with their environment and vice versa. Every person has a story that blows you away, shocks you, makes you laugh tears of joy and sometimes tears of pain.

Overall I look for feeling when pulling the viewfinder to my eye, I want the scene to give me that indescribable sense that can only be felt. An emotional touch that makes me feel truly alive, like I am within the world and connected to it. That is what I most enjoy.

Finish this sentence: “For me, photography is…”

…what makes me feel truly alive in this world.

What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you?

My grandfather told me that “civility costs nothing”, this is the best advice I ever received from someone. I hold those words very dear to my heart.

What’s one thing you’d like to accomplish in the next year or so?

The main focus of this next year is to release my debut solo exhibition in September 2024. I have worked towards this project for 5 years now and I am excited to put it out into the world, but more specifically my local community of Box Hill. This is my largest body of work to date, a milestone I am proud to achieve.

What about one thing you’d like to accomplish in your lifetime?

I’d like to make at least one body of work or take one photograph that holds some form of historical significance. That is the ultimate accomplishment to know that you have captured a moment or collection of moments that hold weight in the course of the history of the world, wherever that may be.

Call to Submit: Art & Photo Book Award

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Call to Submit: “Array” Photo & Art Features

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