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More about the National Photographic Portrait Prize

Judges comments NPPP 2016
Video: 6 minutes and 12 seconds

This year the judges Dr Christopher Chapman, Senior Curator, Penny Grist (National Portrait Gallery Assistant Curator) and Narelle Autio (Photographer) faced the task of selecting the 49 finalists from over 2,000 entries.

In her essay for the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2016 catalogue, Penny states: 'The National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition for 2016 is a quiet revelation and a subtle revolution. Wouldn’t portraits reflecting the part of the adventure that is full of peril be more relevant and exciting? ‘True fascination arises from what perplexes us, not what confronts us,’ writes Paul Ardenne in Face to Face. Roland Barthes considered that ‘Ultimately, photography is subversive not when it frightens … but when it is pensive, when it thinks’. Anger, grief and heartache undoubtedly transform lives, but these portraits demonstrate that calm and imagination transform the world in which lives are lived. The world of cubbies as castles is still the same world we inhabit when we grow up. Fantasy, imagination, myth-making, narrative and emotional ritual bring us closer to the realities of life that are beyond our conscious comprehension. This year, the National Photographic Portrait Prize takes you on an adventure in the astonishing otherworldliness of everyday magic.' 

Of the winning portrait, the judges said:

'Life Dancers by Elizabeth Looker is an enchanting and mysterious scene that pushes the boundaries of portraiture. Set in Australian suburbia with the aesthetic of a fairy tale, this portrait of two children in a WA garden captures a moment that could feed memory or metaphor. Life Dancers reminds us of the place that imagination can continue to have throughout our lives, if only we let it.' 
- Penelope Grist (judge, NPPP)
 
'From the moment I saw this photograph it captured my attention and in the end it didn’t let go. Beautifully composed it offers a stunning tableau of childhood, a moment grabbed out of the bustle of family life. But it also asks me a question. The young girl hangs from the tree like a cocoon or a flower about to bloom. At the same time suggesting the fading of childhood and the mystery of the adult she will become. She is ambiguous, does she want to hang on or let go? Her expression is knowing but only to her. The small boy returns to the tree he has emerged from not ready to start the journey. This enigmatic portrait of a girl offers up a wistful reflection on the passing of time but it is also a beautiful interpretation of that moment where we are caught between who we are and who we will become.'
- Narelle Autio (judge, NPPP)
Video transcript

Related information

Life Dancers, 2015 by Elizabeth Looker
Life Dancers, 2015 by Elizabeth Looker
Life Dancers, 2015 by Elizabeth Looker
Life Dancers, 2015 by Elizabeth Looker

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2016

Previous exhibition, 2016

The National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition is selected from a national field of entries, reflecting the distinctive vision of Australia's aspiring and professional portrait photographers and the unique nature of their subjects.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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