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Love of photography leads to Portrait Prize honour for student

02 May 2016

Sandra Lamonaca’s photographic career is a textbook case study for the concept of serendipity.

She has always been interested in photography, but before enrolling at Melbourne Polytechnic she didn’t have the technical knowledge to pursue it as anything more than a hobby.

She decided to do a 5 week Basic Photography course at Melbourne Polytechnic, and was then encouraged by her teacher Gunter to continue with the Diploma of Photo Imaging.

Further study hadn’t really been something Sandra was planning on. With a young child and a partner who was often overseas for work, and no family in Melbourne to help out, she had enough on her plate. But it felt right, and though it was tough to fit in part-time study, she was able to do it with help from her neighbours and friends.

Entering competitions also wasn’t something she was planning on doing. Sandra’s friend, another student in the Diploma, encouraged her to enter competitions, and after a while she became more comfortable doing it.

“It’s a way to show your work, get it out there. Because that’s what you want, people to see your work, to spark a reaction in them,” she says.


Being named as a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize was both a surprise and a considerable thrill. The photo of her son, William, captures an intimate and beautiful moment, as he gazes into the camera with his arms crossed over his chest in an instinctively protective gesture. Sandra said her son naturally struck the pose when he agreed to have the photo taken.

“It was a shock when they called to let me know I was a finalist. I couldn’t process what they were saying, at first. It was totally unexpected,” she said. “My family is really excited and very supportive; my son loved being recognised when we were in Canberra for the announcement. He’s not always keen on being photographed.”

Sandra will be completing her diploma this year, and is currently working on her portfolio for the course, which she chose for its flexibility.

“The Melbourne Polytechnic course was really convenient; I did it part-time, in the evenings. It enabled me to continue to work during the day and also balance it with my family responsibilities.”

Sandra is still in the running for the National Photographic Portrait Prize ‘People’s Choice Award’, which closes in June. If you’d like to vote for Sandra’s beautiful portrait of her son William, please follow this link. The winner will be announced on 28 June, 2016.  


Media enquiries should be directed to Melbourne Polytechnic Media Officer, Anita Coia, on 03 9269 1251 or ua.ud1477107262e.cin1477107262hcety1477107262lopen1477107262ruobl1477107262em@ai1477107262dem1477107262

Melbourne Polytechnic operates across six campuses and five specialist training centres throughout Melbourne. The institute delivers high quality vocational and higher education in industry-standard facilities.