Fairfax photographer, Alex Ellinghausen, was last night named as Press Gallery Journalist of the Year at the Mid-Winter Ball in Canberra.

Ellinghausen was working on the night he received the award, as shown by this photograph of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Jenny Morrison arriving for the Mid Winter Ball at Parliament House. Photo: © Alex Ellinghausen

This is the first time a photojournalist has been awarded the coveted award. The Mid-Winter Ball is an important event on the federal parliamentary calendar because it is a time when MPs and journalists can put aside politics, and raise money for good causes.

In nominating him for the award, his colleagues in the bureau testified: “Alex employs an acute eye, a singular ability to home in on the essence of the subject matter he tackles, and an unusually perceptive mind to grant his audience new and deeper comprehension of current events. He does what all excellent journalists have always done. He gets out of the office and gets in close to the action.

“As a press gallery photojournalist, Alex’s pictorial studies of the heat, the confusion and the quiet of the House of Representatives and the Senate afford his audience access and context to the parliamentary process that is unmatched.

“His numerous images of unguarded moments – distillations of complex moods and emotions, many of them small scoops in their own right – embody the old idiom that a picture is worth a thousand words. Alex captures and freezes at the critical moment images that otherwise would be nothing more than a blur to the rest of us, if we were to see them at all.”

Alongside his technical skills, Alex had also amassed “a deep knowledge of political history and current events, and an empathy for public figures. His stories – which regularly manage to surprise, sometimes to shock, and always to reveal  truths otherwise invisible to the rest of us – are above all intelligent and balanced.”

The judges agreed: “In a strong field of quality work by brilliant veterans and rising young stars, Alex Ellinghausen’s stunning photojournalism was the standout entry this year. Alex’s work consistently captures the fine detail and drama of political events. It often does as much – and often more – than any piece of writing to analyse, break news, highlight the atmosphere and expose the unvarnished truth of a story. His work goes to the psychology and mood of the people in his images – both those who tread the political stage and others beyond the nation’s capital.”

Ever-humble, Alex said only a few words in accepting the award in front of a full Great Hall in Canberra, simply thanking his colleagues in the bureau – he said that he just genuinely loves what he does each day.