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Story of a combat cameraman in the often overlooked British Army Film and Photographic Unit wins $20,000 Nib Literary Award

Story of a combat cameraman in the often overlooked British Army Film and Photographic Unit wins $20,000 Nib Literary Award

Helen Lewis has won the $20,000 Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award for her book The Dead Still Cry Out, an investigation into her father’s life through the photographs he took during World War II as a paratrooper and combat cameraman.

Lewis’s father, Mike, captured wartime atrocities and victorious moments such as the liberation of Bergen-Belsen on film. As a child, the author discovered photos Mike had taken during the war hidden in an old suitcase, and as an adult she used the images to reconstruct and reimagine her father’s life.

‘Writing is a solitary endeavor and when a piece is finished you are always wondering whether others will understand it the way that you intended,’ Lewis said at a ceremony in North Bondi this morning. ‘Winning is affirmation that they do.’

Lewis said she wanted to explore the nature of how we consume images as a society in her book, and also wanted to draw attention to the Army’s Film and Photographic Unit, who captured footage and stills of the war that continue to be aired regularly without proper accreditation.

The other five books on the shortlist for the Nib Literary Award – which rewards research in literary fiction and non-fiction – were Bri Lee’s Eggshell Skull, Roger Averill’s Relatively Famous, Sarah Krasnostein’s The Trauma Cleaner and Call of the Reed Warbler by Charles Massy.

The Nib Literary Award was established in 2002 by Waverley Council and is the only literary prize offered by a local council. The prize, now sponsored by Mark and Evette Moran, dishes out a total of $30,000 in prize money.

Bri Lee won the people’s choice award for her hybrid memoir about how the court system is stacked against victims of sexual assault. She said that being shortlisted for the Nib Award, with its focus on praising the research that goes into a book, made her feel like she was being taken seriously as a writer.

‘This incredible research is stuck in textbooks and can’t get to people that need it most,’ Lee said of the legal research she continues to undertake, and opined that it is essential for writers to bring research out of its academic ‘bubble’ so it can be understood by a general audience.

Ben McKelvey’s The Commando won the Nib’s Military History Prize, a category of the Nib Award established in 2015.

See more:

Read our interview with Roger Averill, author of Relatively Famous

Listen to our podcast interview with Bri Lee, author of Eggshell Skull, on Soundcloud or Apple Podcasts