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National Photography Prize 2024

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Nathan Beard
King Mongkut (1956)
, 2022,
National Photography Prize 2024, MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Every two years the National Photography Prize offers an opportunity to consider the vital role of photography in contemporary art in Australia. The National Photography Prize brings together artists from across Australia who are developing and challenging photographic language and techniques.

Generously supported by the MAMA Art Foundation, the National Photography Prize offers a $30,000 acquisitive prize, the $5000 John and Margaret Baker Fellowship for an emerging practitioner, and further supports a number of artists through focused acquisitions.

The Prize provides a forum for artists working with photography to present cohesive selections of work, or works in series, offering a depth of critical reflection that recognises the complexities and nuances of the history of the photograph and its contemporary manifestation.

In consideration of the medium's fluid history, the National Photography Prize encourages artists working across all areas of the photographic field to enter. This includes artists working in traditional forms of light based, chemical production through to those dealing with hybrid and expanded fields of photography and image making.

The 2024 National Photography Prize finalists include leading Australian artists and collectives Alex Walker & Daniel O’Toole, Ali McCann, Ali Tahayori, Ellen Dahl, Ioulia Panoutsopoulos, Izabela Pluta, Kai Wasikowski, Nathan Beard, Olga Svyatova, Rebecca McCauley & Aaron Claringbold, Sammy Hawker, and Skye Wagner.

Judge
Nici Cumpston OAM, Artistic Director, Tarnathi and Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art at Art Gallery of South Australia.

Finalist selection panel
Bala Starr, Director, La Trobe Art Institute, Bendigo
Tiyan Baker, 2022 National Photography Prize Winner
Nanette Orly, Senior Curator, Murray Art Museum Albury

Winners
Ellen Dahl was the recipient of the prestigious Murray Art Museum Albury National Photography Prize 2024.

Olga Svyatova was the recipient of the John and Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship and will receive a cash award of $5,000 for her work, Они/They, 2022.

Alex Walker & Daniel O’Toole: Anti-lens

Alex Walker and Daniel O’Toole’s practices reside at the intersection of analogue and digital processes. Building on a common interest in natural phenomena and the properties of light, this installation works with analogue modes of image manipulation and abstraction derived from the visual language of lenses.

Anti-lens presents a series of experiments and their outcomes which re-imagine the lens as a tool for degrading and distorting the recognisable rather than focusing and clarifying an image.

In these experiments the artists employ synthetic materials, architecture, and mirrors to alter light waves and create a series of light-based experiences within the space. Walker and O’Toole have used industrial methods of fabricating and finishing to create objects that illustrate the visual language of lenses.

Alex Walker & Daniel O’Toole
Anti-lens, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Alex Walker & Daniel O’Toole
Anti-lens, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Alex Walker & Daniel O’Toole
Anti-lens, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Alex Walker & Daniel O’Toole
Anti-lens, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ali McCann: from the series Joy

The series Joy is an ode to 'The Joy of Photography’ – a popular guidebook for beginners, published by Eastman Kodak Company in 1979. Through various modes of appropriation, Ali McCann attempts to recreate images which once provided her with a respite from the tedium of her formal education.

Part adolescent fantasy, part sentimental gesture to the photographic medium, the suite of almost hallucinatory images has taken shape as if through the mind of the artist’s teenage self.

Inspired by recurring imagery, motifs, and romantic tropes from ‘The Joy of Photography’, McCann constructed makeshift, alter-like sets in the studio using found and custom-made objects and backdrops. Using an old studio camera from the mid-1970s, the works were then captured on film in a single frame utilising special lighting effects and filters.

Ali McCann
from the series Joy
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ali McCann
from the series Joy
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ali McCann
from the series Joy
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ali Tahayori: IMPOSSIBLE DESIRE

IMPOSSIBLE DESIRE consists of a video and a series of hand-painted photographs captured inside a public toilet in Ali Tahayori's hometown, Shiraz, where he had his first intimate experience as a teenager.

Unable to return to Iran to visit this place, Tahayori asked a friend to photograph the space as it is now. Looking at his friend's photographs, he realised they did not correlate with his memories of the site. The project initially aimed to revisit and reconstruct a past queer memory. Later, it became about the experience of a place and a time that was no longer accessible.

Tahayori used his own bodily fluid to express his feelings of loss and longing for a past that was disrupted and a future that never followed. His bodily fluid mixed with gouache paint aims to queer the image, reimagining a future where being queer is not shamed or penalised anywhere in the world.

Ali Tahayori
IMPOSSIBLE DESIRE, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ali Tahayori
IMPOSSIBLE DESIRE, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ali Tahayori
IMPOSSIBLE DESIRE, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ellen Dahl: from the series Four Days Before Winter

Ellen Dahl works with landscape in a range of manners. In Four Days before Winter she explores the peripheral Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, known for its remoteness and stunning Arctic environment. It is also one of the fastest warming places on earth and has a long history of coal mining that is still occurring today.

Collapse is a close-up detail of terrain collapsing due to the melting permafrost. The large, suspended element brings focus to the inherent colossal ecological scale within this detail. Two Sides of the Same Place and Arctic Coal Diptych are from the Russian Svalbardian mining ghost town, Pyramiden. The black mountain and the nearby shrinking glacier lay bare the conflicting duality between coal mining in the Arctic and the profound impact of global warming on the area. Here/Now responds to a fleeting moment captured in the Arctic fog, revealing deep geological time at an edge of the world.

Ellen Dahl
Field Notes from the Edge / Here Now, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ellen Dahl
Field Notes from the Edge / Arctic Coal Diptych, 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ellen Dahl
Field Notes from the Edge / Collapse, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ellen Dahl
Field Notes from the Edge / Two Sides of the Same Place, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Nathan Beard: A Puzzlement

Courtesy of the artist and sweet pea, Perth

A Puzzlement draws from archival material with Thai provenance from various British cultural institutions, questioning how these collections might influence broader perceptions of ‘Thainess’. In this installation, Nathan Beard combines ethnographic and botanical imagery with publicity material for The King and I, which heavily dramatises an account of King Mongkut’s court as the kingdom adopted a period of modernisation to defend its sovereignty.

The subjects of these portraits include A.F.G Kerr, the so-called ’founding father’ of Thai botany; and Prince Chulalongkorn, whose portrait resides in the Wellcome Collection, UK. Also featured is a film production still of King Mongkut and a Broadway playbill portrait of his chief wife Lady Thiang, played by Yul Brynner and Terry Saunders, respectively.

Surrounded by Buddhist statues from the British Museum and imagery of Thai orchids from the Kew Gardens library, these portraits are hand-embellished with over 92,000 Swarovski Elements. The specific names of these crystal shades each contain Siam; an antiquated term for Thailand now commodified as a signifier of exotic beauty. The painted wallpaper draws from a mural in a shrine erected for the 2017 cremation ceremony of King Rama IX in Nakhon Nayok, the home province of the artist’s mother.

Through montage and juxtaposition, A Puzzlement suggests the porous and precarious nature of ‘Thainess’ as it sifts through a range of eras and references.

A Puzzlement has been supported by the Western Australian Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, and PICA’s Art Commissioners.

Nathan Beard
King Mongkut (1956), 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Nathan Beard
A Puzzlement, 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Nathan Beard
A.F.G. Kerr (1939), 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ioulia Panoutsopoulos: from the series Collapsar

Ioulia Panoutsopoulos weaves together photographic, drawing, and sculptural practices to embrace both the analogue and digital realms. Seeking to bring spatial propositions and light into dialogue with quantum and material inquiry, her works explore the expansion of perception and consciousness.

Collapsar is a series of new works that were made in the studio and on analogue film. Negatives were scanned and displayed on a monitor, with the final work constructed by shooting her monitor with an analogue camera. Embracing screen flare, hotspots and subtle banded pattern overlaying the screen, these works aim for an open expanded pictorial nervous system.

Ioulia Panoutsopoulos
Packed Matter VII, 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ioulia Panoutsopoulos
from the series Collapsar, 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Ioulia Panoutsopoulos
from the series Collapsar, 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Izabela Pluta: Shadowing #4-5

In the series Shadowing, Izabela Pluta critiques the aesthetic sensibilities of found images lifted from genre-specific Reader’s Digest publications, notably the 1980s ‘Scenic Wonders of the World’. The emergence of these publications can be attributed to a growing market of middle-class readers with the means and desire to travel internationally, as well as technological advances in photography, printing, publishing, and distribution. The compilation of images into coffee table books were an attempt to evoke the unique qualities of world locations. Ironically, such collations do the exact opposite, flattening difference and presenting a visual parade of postcard views, devoid of any context.

In Pluta’s collages, pages have been sliced and spliced into fragments where air, land and water converge. Violently abstracted, they disorientate and dislocate the geographies from which they are drawn. The collages have a three-dimensional quality, as sections of cut paper curl away from the support to reveal shadowing beneath.

Izabela Pluta
Shadowing #4-5, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Izabela Pluta
Shadowing #4-5, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Kai Wasikowski: from the series Bounded in a Nutshell / King of Infinite Space:

Bounded in a Nutshell / King of Infinite Space began as a research project concerned with 19th century landscape photography, environmental conservation, and the ways in which both serve the settler colonialist agenda. Kai Wasikowski utilised 3D spatial software – technology typically used in architecture, mapping, and the natural sciences – to create photographic works at local conservation sites. This revealed a crude rendering of space: for a process that created so much data, there seemed to be an abundance, if not an equal measure, of blankness.

This project is part of the artist’s ongoing interest in how a critical approach to photography and environmental conservation might render visible (or invisible) the colonial logics that afforded settlers a sense of romantic communion with nature and sense of belonging.

Kai Wasikowski
Bounded in a Nutshell King of Infinite Space, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Kai Wasikowski
Bounded in a Nutshell King of Infinite Space, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Kai Wasikowski
Bounded in a Nutshell King of Infinite Space, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Olga Svyatova: Они/They

Они/They is an ongoing photographic project that explores connections between time, relationships, and archival images. Olga Svyatova appropriates their own personal experience of differing cultures and histories to invite reflections on the connections that sustain all our lives. The subjects in these black and white photographs are the artist’s blood family from Russia and their chosen family and friends in so-called Australia.

Looking through family albums with their babushka, Svyatova found a likeness between an early photograph of their family, taken during an annual summer trip to Makhachkala in 1962, and a recent sending-off party that they hosted before a long awaited, post-pandemic trip to the motherland in 2022. They continued to notice more of these strange similarities between old family photographs taken before their birth and photographs they had personally taken decades later, mostly on their iPhone.

Они/They is a collection of candid moments, celebration, portraits, and silly times intentionally paired together to reveal notions of past and present connections that explore the intricacies of relationships across time and space.

Olga Svyatova
Они/They, 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Olga Svyatova
Они/They, 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Olga Svyatova
Они/They, 2022
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Rebecca McCauley & Aaron Claringbold: Here's what we know

Here’s what we know is sort of about driving and tourism and extraction and technology and fantasy. About setting out for very long walks, the visual identity of highways, and the vernacular of the plaques and carved stone that mark the way. About trying to make sense of it all. It’s a slide show of things we’ve seen, and things we think we know; about 21st century mobility and colonial place-making; ice-creams and tesla chargers; and living in this place, at this time, in this way.

Rebecca McCauley and Aaron Claringbold are based between the southwest and the southeast of Australia. As artists they are interested in the role of images in seeing and imagining the world and using photography as a tool for thinking and feeling a way through the “mess of now”.

The installation features a looping 35mm photographic slideshow with an accompanying sound work and narration, and two sculptures playing digital slideshows – a meditation on the experience and politics of ‘passing through’. Together, these elements speak to the vernacular of contemporary leisure, tourism, and car culture; situating them in the mess and conflict of lives lived within ongoing colonial extraction.

The artists acknowledge that Here's what we know was imaged and conceived across many locations within the lands of the Wurundjeri Woi-Wurrung, Whadjuk Nyoongar, Jinigudera, Yapurarra, Pindjarup, Nyaki Nyaki, Kalarko, Ngadju, Kaalamaya, Wongatha, Mirniny, Wirangu, Barngarla, Kokatha, Arabana, Arrernte, and Meintangk people. Sovereignty was never ceded.

This project was originally made possible through generous support from Yarra City Arts Annual Grants Program, and the City of Melbourne’s COVID-19 quick response grants. The artists thank Tristen Harwood for the generous conversations, Bonnie Cummings for the sound design, and Marcello Rotar for the headrest stand fabrication.

Rebecca McCauley & Aaron Claringbold
Here’s what we know, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Rebecca McCauley & Aaron Claringbold
Here’s what we know, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Rebecca McCauley & Aaron Claringbold
Here’s what we know, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Sammy Hawker: from the series Material Resonance [beyond the veil]

Chromatography is a photographic process invented in 1900 and commonly used by scientists to understand the chemical makeup of soil. Sammy Hawker has been testing the process’s capacity to facilitate the visual expression of a wide range of vibrant matter. Expectations must be set aside, as the hues and patterns that form as the solution spreads over the silver nitrate-soaked paper cannot be predetermined or controlled.

In Material Resonance [beyond the veil] the chromatograms speak to the memory inscribed within materials. A chromatogram made with drowned caterpillars found in a trough has the ethereal markings of a moth wing. A chromatogram made with a dehydrated placenta feels like life bursting forth out of an abyss. The artist also receives requests from those who wish to memorialise the lives of loved ones. This series is bookended by a chromatogram made with the ashes of a stillborn baby and a chromatogram made with soil from environmental philosopher Val Plumwood’s natural burial grave.

These chromatograms raise questions about a person’s ability to express themselves from beyond the veil. Disintegration can also be thought of as metamorphosis and sometimes it feels like the essence of a material (or being) is not necessarily tied to form. A notion as mysterious and effervescent as a chromatogram made with water from a sinkhole within the forest of takayna.

The artist acknowledges Caterpillars in Metamorphosis was created on Wiradjuri Country and Chromatogram of Val Plumwood’s grave was created on Walbunja Country. The artist has ongoing relationships with the custodians of these areas and permission to work with materials from Country. Beyond the Veil was created on palawa Country within takayna, lutruwita while the artist was visiting the site to create work for the Bob Brown Foundation. The personal chromatograms have been granted permission to be exhibited publicly.

Sammy Hawker,
Material Resonance [beyond the veil], 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Sammy Hawker,
Material Resonance [beyond the veil], 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Sammy Hawker,
Material Resonance [beyond the veil], 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Skye Wagner: Before Orange Peel, After Loose Teeth, Now Peanuts

Before Orange Peel, After Loose Teeth, Now Peanuts is a wall configuration complicating the idea of photographic capture. It mobilises assemblage, fragmentation, and remediation strategies to play with and against photographic containment. Skye Wagner’s suite of photographs reinterprets a sculptural assemblage originally built in Sydney from images, objects, food, and armature, and expanded on during a research residency in Rome.

Image genres like the still-life, product shot, instructional photograph, and food packet are enacted and recanted. Assembled images relating to bodies, handling and digestive processes are cut up and regenerated into associative and strange rhythms, resulting in an encounter that unsettles our understanding of what is being seen and felt.

The photographs play with digital language – cloning, liquifying, scaling – despite being straight photographs of 3D materials in physical space. Through the analogue construction and remediation of the assemblage, the photos confuse image with object and spatial distinctions. Wagner is interested in how assemblage, re-photography, and translation strategies can challenge ways of seeing and making sense.

Skye Wagner
Before Orange Peel, After Loose Teeth, Now Peanuts, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Skye Wagner
Before Orange Peel, After Loose Teeth, Now Peanuts, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

Skye Wagner
Before Orange Peel, After Loose Teeth, Now Peanuts, 2023
National Photography Prize 2024 MAMA
Image Jeremy Weihrauch

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