Kelly’s cloud has silver lining

Music: Endless, Dana Boulé. Licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial License. http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Dana_Boule/Blue_Piano_1544/Endless

Rohan Kelly, News Photo of the Year winner at the PANPA Awards, chat about his award winning work and documenting tragedy in this multimedia profile.

Rohan Kelly had just wrapped up a photo shoot and was leaving a Bondi Beach car park when he saw a menacing storm cloud. Time and time again, he’d been in the wrong place whenever a storm hit Sydney. This time he wasn’t going to miss his chance. The resulting photo of a colossal cloud invading Bondi Beach as a carefree sunbaker played with her phone has been celebrated across the world. ‘Storm front on Bondi beach’ took out accolades at the World Press Photo Foundation Awards, the Kennedy Awards and won News Photograph of the Year at the PANPA Newspaper of the Year Awards (metro and national titles category).

Rohan Kelly's 'Storm front on Bondi Beach' won News Photo of the Year (national) at the 2016 PANPA Awards.

Rohan Kelly’s ‘Storm front on Bondi Beach’ won News Photo of the Year (national) at the 2016 PANPA Awards.

Kelly, a photographer at The Daily Telegraph, has a history of his snaps going global. His photo of an emotional refugee during the 1999 East Timorese election crisis gained international attention. That was the moment when he knew he was in the right job. “What I like about the news side of photography is being the person who become the vehicle that others can see the story through,” he says. “ . . . To be able to tell people stories and spread it out, and be the person to show what’s going on through the photos.”

A distressed East Timorese man waits to be processed in the customs queue following the country's 1999 crisis.

A distressed East Timorese man waits to be processed in the customs queue following the country’s 1999 crisis.

Kelly’s has covered many events with variety extending from the 2004 tsunami, cyclones in Darwin to the antics of crocodiles. His toughest job was aboard to HMAS Kanimbla in 2005 off the coast of Indonesia island Nias in the aftermath of an earthquake. One of the ship’s helicopter’s disappeared on the first day of the mission while it was delivering supplies to a remote town on the island. “Their crew didn’t know what was going on and then they discovered (the helicopter) had crashed and quite a few of the crew had died,” Kelly explains. “They were pretty upset because they were a close-knit crew” “The captain was fantastic and made sure we were welcomed on board, but obviously we needed to be very careful because the second helicopter crew had lost all their friends.”

Australian defence force personnel during the memorial service aboard ship HMAS Kanimbla.

Australian defence force personnel during the memorial service aboard ship HMAS Kanimbla.

Kelly is an avid traveller. In fact, it was a trip to Africa that transformed his photography hobby into the pursuit of a career. He decided to go to TAFE while working on his family’s farm in Western Australia. He soon got work at community newspapers and The Sunday Times before securing his first full-time gig working for News Corp in Darwin in 1998. “For the 2000 Sydney Olympics,” he recalls, “they put a team together from all of the News Corp photographers and I managed to get on that team,” Mr Kelly says. “The Olympics allowed me to meet some of the picture editors in Sydney and they offered me a job the next year.” Kelly is passionate about news and sports photography with a love for portraiture. “I always like doing portraits of people of influence. Just people with character,” he says.
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