National Photographic Portrait Prize

The National Photography Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery, 6 March – 10 May, is one of Australia’s most popular art exhibits, showcasing some of the country’s best photographers. The artworks reveal the diverse culture and stories of Australia.

Opening in March the photography prize is joined by the inaugural Darling Portrait Prize, which honours the influential legacy of Leonard Gordon Darling and his enduring cultural efforts on the NPG. Judged by Professor Denise Ferris (Head of the ANU School of Art & Design), Tony Elwood AM (Director of the National Gallery of Victoria) and National Portrait Gallery Director Karen Quinlan AM, $75,000 will be awarded to the winner on the 5th March.

Eileen Kramer is a Dancer, 2019, by Hugh Stewart

The National Photography Portrait Prize is now in its 13th year, with a prize totalling over $50,000. Submissions must be of a living person, or persons, judged by influential people in the art industry. This year by National Portrait Gallery Curator, Penelope Grist; artist and photographer, Naomi Hobson; and Curator of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Art at the Art Gallery of South Australia, Nici Cumpston.

Some of the finalists this year mirror the transient moments of life including Hugh Stewart’s tender portrait of centenarian dancer Eileen Kramer and Andrew Baker’s intimate captured moment of Aboriginal writer Bruce Pascoe. Chris Riordan and Klarissa Dempsey both catch beautiful, and affectionate, portraits of their daughters.

Farmer, Fisher, Scholar and Scribe, 2019, by Andrew Baker

In Writing on the Wall (2019), artist, Christian Thompson uses his self-portrait amongst a colourful native floral scene to add a climate-based cultural comment. “This self-portrait references the collective anxiety and uncertainty of the climate threat that defines our times” the artist shares. “The title is a well-known colloquialism for a situation both impending and unavoidable.”

Writing on the Wall, 2019, by Dr Christian Thompson AO

Alana Holmberg won the last National Portrait Prize with her sister’s portrait Greta in her Kitchen, 36 weeks. Holmberg captured a moment of her growing family, from a very personal and reflective place. The photographer manages to depict a quiet moment that revealed an inner world. Interestingly, the Highly Commended award also went to another female-artist who reflects motherhood, abet, in a highly juxtaposing way. Alex Vaughan’s Sumbawa pride – life on a boat with eleven kids captures a busy scene —as the title explains— with the mother feeding her new-born baby central to the composition. Both photographs avoid a particular time; both could be from 50 years ago, as much as today.