Q&A with Stawell Gift photographer Luke Hemer

Date: 13th February 2020

We asked Luke Hemer why he loves shooting the Stawell Gift

“I’m documenting a small part of the history of the Gift.”



How long have you been working on the Stawell Gift and what have you enjoyed about this particular job?

I have been the official photographer for the Stawell Gift since 2014. It’s an event I always look forward to on the calendar. For a photographer the colours of the runners and the perfect green grass of Central Park provide some great creative possibilities. Finals Monday can be intense as I need to edit and send the images for media use almost as they are taken, but there are always some great moments to capture.

What do you think is so special about the Stawell Gift?

It oozes history. Each year when I arrive I make sure I take some time to sit in the grand stand and soak in some pre Gift atmosphere. It’s important to remind myself that when I photograph the races, especially the finals. I’m not just taking snap shots or making artistic works. I’m documenting a small part of the history of the gift.

What are your top highlights?
My first Gift was such a buzz, photographing something new for me. The colours and characters at Central Park got me hooked from the beginning. I also got to photograph history as I photographed when Grace O’Dwyer was the first to win the $40000 in the women’s gift. The chaos of the Easter egg hunt is always fun to photograph too.

You picked your favourite image, tell us why you love this one?

I’ve been lucky to photograph some incredible finishes at the Gift but Isaac Dunmall’s superman dive across the line always sticks in my mind. I normally use the big screen during the start of the race to see who is looking like they will win but this one was so close, I had my lens focused on Dunmall and couldn’t believe my luck as he dove through the finish. In the photo he is horizontal to the ground, such a dramatic moment for a final.

What other jobs/sports to do you cover?

During the year I work as a freelance photographer covering a lot of different sports including Aussie Rules (AFL/VFL/local leagues), Soccer (A-League, NPL), Cricket (BBL, local clubs) and many more. I also work with the Star Weekly newspapers in Melbourne covering local news.

What do you do in your down time?

I’m pretty lucky to have my creative passion as my career, and at the moment my family takes any time I’m not working. I make sure I try to sneak a chocolate egg from the Easter weekend home for them.

Something no one knows about you? 

I was most improved u12’s at Strathalbyn Little Athletics in 1992. If my memory is correct…




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