Lismore photographer Elise Derwin has won the people's choice award after being named a finalist in the prestigious Australian Life Photography Prize.

'PURE JOY': Elise Derwin's people's choice winner, It Always Rains Before Kick-off.
'PURE JOY': Elise Derwin's people's choice winner, It Always Rains Before Kick-off.

Lismore photographer Elise Derwin has won the people's choice award after being named a finalist in the prestigious Australian Life Photography Prize for her photograph of a young Tiwi Islander at the footy.

Titled It Always Rains Before Kick-off, the photograph depicts then 10-year-old Wayne at the annual Tiwis' Aussie Rules grand final on Bathurst Island, 80 kilometres to the north of Darwin.

Wayne happened to be standing beside Derwin under a small marquee during a huge downpour when he turned his face towards the sky and let the rain stream over him.

"I knew when I took it there was something special about it; that feeling of innocence and youth and pure joy that it evokes," Derwin said.

SHARING THE JOY: Lismore photographer Elise Derwin, who is splitting her prizes with Wayne, the subject of her winning picture.

SHARING THE JOY: Lismore photographer Elise Derwin, who is splitting her prizes with Wayne, the subject of her winning picture.

"I'd photographed the grand final over a number of years because I was working at the NT News in Darwin - it's an epic game of football, it's so wet and it's always raining; and it's the hottest game of football to photograph, you're covered in sweat from head to toe from the moment you step on the island."

Derwin was among 28 finalists in the City of Sydney-run competition, one of Australia's richest photography prizes.

It was won this year by 19-year-old Georgia Brogan of Sydney for a photograph she took of her 11-year-old sister in the backseat of a car during lockdown in 2020.

Other images ranged from cabbage leaves hanging on a Sydney clothesline and a toddler cooling off in an esky in Broome, to Rohingya refugees embracing on a cliffside and kids trampolining in Manning River floodwaters.

The finalists' work is usually enlarged and exhibited in Hyde Park, Sydney, but this year the show has been online only.

Nevertheless, more than 3000 people voted in the competition's inaugural people's choice award - and Derwin said she was "shocked" to be announced the winner.

"I felt really really happy and really excited and honoured," she said.

Derwin gave half of her $500 prize money for being selected as a finalist to Wayne, who she hears is planning to buy something online with it.

She is also in the process of working out how she can donate half of her people's choice prize - $5000 worth of camera equipment - to Wayne, who is now in Year 8.

"Wayne is the star in this image and I wanted to share the joy of being selected as a finalist with him," Derwin said.