MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Rob Griffith, a Sydney-based Associated Press photographer, has won the 2015 News Photography award from the Walkley Foundation for his coverage of the hostage crisis at a Sydney cafe in December 2014.
The annual Walkley Awards recognize excellence in Australian journalism across all media.
The winning image was of a hostage running to freedom into the arms of an officer.
The photo, seen around the world, was just one of almost 50 that Griffith filed in the 19 hours he stayed at the scene.
Griffith knew the photo was "the one" — the crying Lindt Cafe employee clinging to the officer. Apart from the expression on her face, there was something in the way she latched onto the officer that communicated the terror of the situation more than any words could, Griffith said.
Griffith was on a train commuting to work that morning when he saw a news alert on his iPad about the standoff, which started when a shotgun-wielding man, Man Monis, took 18 people hostage and issued a series of demands, including that he be delivered a flag of the Islamic State group. The standoff ended when police stormed the cafe. Monis was killed, along with two hostages.
Armed with a full camera kit — including a 200-400mm zoom lens — Griffith headed directly for the cafe and became one of the first journalists on the scene.
He set up from a position some 130 yards (meters) from the establishment — more than the length of a football field away.
For seven hours Griffith stayed put, filing images over his iPad and keeping his eyes peeled for any action. The crowd grew so thick that moving was out of the question, even for bathroom breaks. After taking the defining image, Griffith stayed on the story and continued to file images until the siege ended hours later.
Griffith, 49, became a staff photographer with the AP Sydney bureau in 2001.