Father and daughter share the spotlight

photo contest people's choice award

A People’s Choice Award winner during last year’s Canadian Armed Forces Photography Contest, “Eskimo Girl” is Able Seaman Rommel Billanes’ first submission to the annual contest.

Able Seaman Rommel Billanes has, for the second time, been recognized during the Canadian Armed Forces’ Annual Photography Contest for being one of the major award winners in Best in Show (Advanced Category), with his photograph entitled “War Child.”

This year he won first place in Portrait, third place in Special Effects, and an Honorable Mention in Environment, all in the Advanced Category.

Last year he took home several awards in the Amateur Category, including Photographer of the Year (Novice Level), second place in Portrait, second place in Animal, third place in Open Theme, and the People’s Choice Award for his photograph “Eskimo Girl.”

AB Billanes uses his self-taught photographic proficiency to take photos alongside the Image Technician during events such as Family Days, Fleet Mess Dinners and Remembrance Day ceremonies onboard HMCS Protecteur.

He has been interested in photography since he was in college, but, he says, “The turning point was in 2011, when I got posted to CFB Esquimalt after my BMQ. I was away from my family in Ontario, so I decided to buy a Digital Single Lens Reflex camera to make myself busy and express my creative skill.”

It was at that time he read a notice in The Lookout that the Department of National Defence holds an annual contest for both amateurs and professionals.

“I decided to try my luck by submitting various images of different themes,” he said. “I won second prize in the Amateur category in Portraits, entitled ‘Little Miss Sunshine,’ and I also bagged the People’s Choice Award out of 48 entries.”

Like last year, AB Billanes had the opportunity to include his daughter in the photography project. She represented the “Eskimo Girl” last year and the “War Child” this year.  

“My daughter has this innate ability to be empathetic with any character we want to do. For one, when I explained the War Child project, she knew right away the exact feelings that I wanted to capture on camera,” AB Billanes said.

His wife and daughter attended the awards ceremony last year. “My daughter gasped to see her winning picture on the big screen and photo gallery. She was definitely thrilled and happy when she learned that her image won an award again this year.”

The year’s piece was inspired as an image dedicated to all children in war-torn countries who are deprived of happy childhood memories, education, shelter, justice, and love that they deserve.

“This image aims to increase awareness of their existence so that people out there may extend their assistance by any means they can,” AB Billanes explained. “Some non-profit organizations have already stepped up and created some noble and proactive movements to join the cause, which you can learn more about at www.warchild.ca.”

There were a total of 2,377 entries submitted for the contest from 378 participants this year. The two-day judging session took place on Oct. 9 and 10 in Ottawa by a panel of three judges. All the winning photos are now displayed at www.cafphotocontest.ca.

-SLt Noelani Shore, HMCS Protecteur

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