The first Walkley award winning photograph

Unlike the 'first news photograph' image, there is no debate that the photograph shown here was indeed the first to win the newly-minted Walkley award for photography in 1956. It was taken by Maurice Wilmott of Sydney's Daily Mirror and won for the 'best news photograph'. But does the photograph show what it purports to show in such a moving way - an injured veteran remembering his fallen comrades? Not quite. John Hurst (1988: 174) explains how Wilmott's editors directed him to get something unusual that day instead of the standard images of the Anzac Day march. Wilmott saw the war widow planting the small crosses in the garden of St Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney and then searched for a wounded veteran who would appear in the photograph. He found the man drinking out of a bottle with his mates and Wilmott offered him a 'couple of quid' if he would pose in the photograph. The man agreed so long as his face would not be shown. After the photograph was taken, Wilmott asked the man which war he had lost his leg in. Neither, the man told him. It turned out that he had lost his leg in a tram accident in George St Sydney. Wilmott wasn't pleased but figured the photograph still conveyed the right impression. This photograph illustrates very well that ongoing debates about the 'staging' of photographs, 'chequebook journalism' and veracity are not new debates in press photography.

Reference: John Hurst (1988) The Walkley Awards : Australia's Best Journalists in Action, Richmond, Vic. : John Kerr Pty Ltd

Image provided courtesy of the Walkley Foundation