Newcastle Herald photographer Marina Neil wins a Walkley Award

SISTERS Nataliya and Laila Smith summed up how everyone felt during January’s searing heatwave.

With temperatures pushing into the mid-40s, the Hunter flocked to the water, and Newcastle Herald photographer Marina Neil was assigned the task of capturing the heat for the next day’s edition.

After spending more than an hour scouring the beaches for the perfect moment, there it was: a fast-melting chocolate Paddle Pop shared by two little girls against the “beautiful blue” backdrop of historic Newcastle Ocean Baths.

Neil moved fast and had the shot in the bag within minutes.

The photograph was this week named among Australian press photography’s best, with a collection of Neil’s pictures winning a Walkley Award in the community/regional prize category, backing up a great run for your Herald, which was recently named Newspaper of the Year. The broad body of work also included pictures from the Kurri Kurri bushfires, a police stand-off at Tighes Hill, Mia Gundy’s rise in the Aboriginal Model Search and a muddy shot from local rugby league.

The portfolio showed “the diversity of a regional photographer’s job”.

“Neil has a good eye and there is a lovely natural sense to these images,” judges said.

Neil paid tribute to her mother, Hetty Neil, who bought her first camera and “always encouraged me to do what I love”.

The Walkley Awards are Australian journalism’s highest honour.

IN THE FRAME: Newcastle Herald photographer Marina Neil's Walkley-winning body of work captured on assignment across the Hunter.

IN THE FRAME: Newcastle Herald photographer Marina Neil's Walkley-winning body of work captured on assignment across the Hunter.