By Grace Frost
Hidden Valley’s Deanne Marchant is kicking goals from the footy sidelines, with her photograph named as a top 10 entry in the AFL’s #FootyFocus22 photography competition.
The competition offers photographers a platform to showcase their photographs that ‘capture the essence of Australian football at a grassroots level’.
The major prize offered this year was an opportunity to shadow the AFL’s chief photographer while shooting an AFL match at the MCG during round one of the 2023 Toyota AFL Premiership Season.
Ms Marchant’s photograph was selected as one of 10 top entries from almost 10,000 images, earning itself a feature on the AFL’s official Instagram page and website.
Ms Marchant said she did not expect such high praise, having only just begun a photography course this year, hoping to better her camera abilities and take higher quality images of her son’s football teams.
Ms Marchant’s son Bobby Marchant plays for Kilmore under 14s, Assumption College under 14s and was a Northern Football Netball League development squad representative, most recently recognised with two best and fairest awards.
Ms Marchant committed to photographing the action in all three of her son’s teams, as well as the under 13 Kilmore Junior Football Club grand final, racking up a total of more than 60,000 photos throughout the 2022 season.
She worked to edit about 4400 shots for the boys and their opposing teams to access by the end of the season.
Ms Marchant said her husband, who played semi-professional rugby in England, had only about five photos from his sporting career, so it was important to her to capture more for her son to hold onto in years to come.
“I wanted it to be different for Bobby and his mates. I want these photos to be precious memories for the boys, doing what they love,” she said.
“The boys really love having action shots of themselves: taking a hanger, a powerful tackle, a brilliant contested mark or booting a goal.”
Ms Marchant was required by her photography course to post her images to Instagram, which is where she first heard of the AFL’s #FootyFocus22 competition.
“I began tagging my photo posts and to my great surprise and delight, the producer of the competition Sarah Morton, invited me to officially enter my image of the boys,” she said.
Entitled ‘Pregame Focus’, the awarded photograph captures the under 14 Kilmore footballers deep in thought pre-game in the change rooms at Whittlesea, preparing themselves for ‘the most important game of the season’ – one that would win them a place in the finals.
Ms Marchant said when she downloaded the images from the game, she knew right away she had captured a special moment.
“Each of the boys was listening intently to coach and was fully focused on their task ahead, full of concentration and emotion,” she said.
In the photo, Hudson Farley is seen staring, stoic, down the barrel of the lens.
However, Ms Marchant said Hudson had no idea he was being photographed.
“I asked Hudson Farley afterwards why he didn’t smile at the camera. He said he didn’t actually see me there, he was picturing himself kicking the winning goal,” she said.
Hudson did in fact go on to kick the winning goal for Kilmore in that game, earning the team their place in the finals.
AFL photographer Dylan Burns praised Ms Marchant’s photograph, saying the composition was ‘fantastic’, and that ‘it truly encapsulates mateship and connection’.
“Deanne’s image is a powerful image showing a group of young players who are about to take to the field,” he said.
“You can see the players are focused on their task and this image displays their emotion and determination.”
Mr Burns said it was Ms Marchant’s use of space, shooting tight on the players, which allowed her to avoid unnecessary distraction, earning her a top 10 position.
“We like that Deanne has decided to retain the players on the left in the photo and the fact they are out of focus, which gives the image some foreground interest,” he said.
“This creates depth which then leads the viewers eye to the player in focus on the right who is staring down the lens.”
Ms Marchant said she was ‘honoured’ to have been selected, though nervous and hesitant to be at the centre of attention.
“The competition was fierce and to be included amongst some amazing professional photographers is next level,” she said.
She added that being involved in the competition itself had been ‘brilliant’, bringing her opportunities to get to know other photographers of all levels, build a network and improve her skills.
“I wouldn’t have this [network] without the competition – I’m very grateful,” she said.
“It’s actually helped me with my own photography, I’ve worked that bit harder to try and capture the perfect image.”
Despite not taking out first place, Ms Marchant’s image was a fan-favourite and deserving of its place as a finalist, with many people commenting on the AFL’s Instagram post that it was their preferred winner.
Melbourne-based photographer Bernie Wright took out the overall win, photographing Lee Munungurr engulfed in a team huddle, the AFL commenting it encapsulated mateship, camaraderie, community, and connection.