Local photographer, 12, becomes youngest Olive Cotton finalist

The list of finalists for the Olive Cotton Award in 2017 features many of the biggest names in Australian portrait photography, but it has also continued the emergence of a talented young local.

In 2014, Ari Messina was a winner in Tweed Regional Gallery's Les Peterkin prize for portraits for local primary school children.

Fast forward just three years and Messina, now aged 12, has become the youngest finalist for the Olive Cotton Award, which has been touted as Australia's leading prize in portrait photography.

His piece, Dark Side of a Girl, hangs among the other 71 finalists for 2017, on exhibition in Tweed Regional Gallery until Sunday 8 October.

 Ari Messina, right.

Ari Messina, right.

Messina said his selection as a finalist was a "really big surprise".

"I wasn't expecting it to be a finalist. I was shocked at first but it felt so good," he said. "At the time I took it, I didn't have any intention to enter it in the Olive Cotton Awards, but after I looked at it on the computer, my mum and I knew it would be good to enter."

Messina said he was exposed to photography from a very early age because his grandfather and uncle are both photographers.

"Being immersed in it really got me to enjoy taking photos," he said.

Messina says he does not have any particularly ambitions with his photography. "Right now I am just enjoying taking photos and learning how to use my camera."

 Ari Messina's  Dark Side of a Girl

Ari Messina's Dark Side of a Girl