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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 both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2023

The National Photographic Portrait Prize 2023 provides a rich, diverse and insightful glimpse of the past year through the lens of Australia’s professional and aspiring photographers. All art works were created between 1 December 2021 and 1 February 2023.

Celebrating its 16th year, the NPPP 2023 invites you on an amazing journey across Australia and beyond.

We encourage you to look, to feel, to think, to question and most importantly, to identify and connect.

The winner

The winning photograph, Shea Kirk’s portrait of Ruby, was chosen by three judges in a three-stage process. First, each judge looked at all of the entries online (there were about 2400!) and selected their long list. Second, the three judges met and looked at this long list of about 200 works on a large screen. They had access to the artists’ names, how the works were made, and the size of the works. From this, the judges selected 47 finalist works. Finally, the artists were invited to send their works to the Gallery, and the three judges looked at the framed photographs and chose the winner.

In making their decision, the judging panel – distinguished Australian photographer Tamara Dean; Director of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Photography Daniel Boetker-Smith; and the National Portrait Gallery’s Senior Curator Joanna Gilmour – said the work was a celebration of photography. ‘While Shea makes the portrait look effortless, this is a masterful and technically complex work where the sitter has no self-consciousness. It is as if the artist and sitter are participating equally in the transaction.’

What do you think of the winning work and why?


Not all photographs are made the same way. Artists use different techniques to create a particular effect or achieve a level of clarity or texture.

Look at the labels and find three photographs that have been made using different processes. Look for similarities and differences between the images.

1 blood/memory: Brenda & Christopher I (Gurindji/Malngin/Mudburra; Mara/Ngarrindjeri/Ritharrngu; Anglo-Australian/Chinese/German/Irish/Scottish) 2021, 2022 Brenda L Croft, Prue Hazelgrove (Photographic Assistant). 2 Portrait of My Mother As An Ethno-Futurist Icon, 2023 Sammaneh Pourshafighi. 3 'Sunju Calabrese' #2, 2022 Renato Colangelo.

Who are you hanging with?

A lot of time goes into designing the placement of the photographs in the NPPP exhibition. Some photographs have been placed together because they tell a similar story, sometimes it’s about the process, sometimes it’s about the mood conveyed.

Looking closely, choose two photographs you like and think about what connects them.

Identify why you like them side by side – are they similar in colour, story or the process?

1 Strong Avenue, Graceville, Brisbane, 2022 Stuart Miller. 2 Yarnangu, 2023 David Darcy.

Tasks for students or family groups

  • Find the portrait Mum helping with canvas by Sarah Enticknap. Photographs of friends and family help us to remember special moments. Think of a memory captured in a photograph. Write a short story about your memory.
  • Find the portrait Self portrait with my mother and sister by Anne Moffatt. A tree was planted as a seedling in the artist’s backyard and grew up alongside her. Do you have a pet or tree or sibling that is growing up with you? Design some photographs of you together.
  • Some NPPP photographs were not taken in Australia. Let’s travel across to Ethiopia in Africa to meet Abraham Admasu, a year 11 student. Take a moment to look at Abraham’s stance, what does this convey? How would you pose in a portrait? What would you like people to see when looking at your portrait? Experiment with different poses and consider what they communicate.
1 Mum helping with canvas, 2022 Sarah Enticknap. 2 Self portrait with my mother and sister, 2022 Anne Moffat. 3 Abraham Admasu (School of St Yared student, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), 2022 Dylan Le’Mon.

Drawing activities – pencil and paper

  • More than one! Let’s look at Marawa the Amazing by Jo Duck. Sometimes ​stories are better told with more than one photograph – in photography, we call this a photo essay.
  • Take a pencil and lots of small pieces of paper. Think of a simple subject like a ball bouncing and draw the object on each piece of paper, each time changing its position slightly. Then staple it together to create a little animation flipbook.
  • Look closely at the diversity of portraits in the NPPP, what makes them unique? Think about what makes you, you and draw a self portrait.
  • There are lots of black and white artworks in the NPPP. Do you think some images are stronger than others? Consider the artists’ choice of black and white or colour. Draw two images the same, add colour to one and leave the other black and white, then compare and contrast.

For older students and groups

There are many different themes and approaches in NPPP 2023.

  • In creating Serenity, Forough Yavari was influenced by a poem by Langston Hughes. Think about what influences you and talk to your group to see if you have similar or different thoughts.
  • Téa-Anna Parvathy Murrin questions cultural identity in Australia, asking ‘what does it mean to be an Australian?’ Discuss in a group how Australian identity is evolving and what roles we might play.
  • Jimmy Widders Hunt’s Our First Lesson encourages us all to learn from our First Nations Elders. Traditionally possum skin cloaks were given at birth and added to as the owner grew. In this photograph, we can see Peter Peckham’s possum skin cloak is of great importance to him. How has the artist captured this?
  • Read the label on Nathan Dyer’s Anne and compare this photograph to Our First Lesson by Jimmy Widders Hunt. Discuss the similarities and differences. Consider the cultural influences and the impact they have on you.
  • Choose a photograph and write your own statement without reading the label. Compare your statement with the artist’s and discuss.
1 Serenity, 2021 Forough Yavari. 2 Téa-Anna Parvathy Murrin – Australian cultural identity, 2023 Franca Turrin. 3 Our First Lesson, 2022 Jimmy Widders Hunt. 4 Anne, 2022 Nathan Dyer.

Unable to make it in to the National Portrait Gallery to see the NPPP?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to miss out, you can join us on online for a Photographic Exhibition virtual excursion for years 10–12. Learn about the artworks and explore the different aspects of the exhibition process with our staff.

See more information on the programs offered and make a virtual excursion booking via Book Canberra Excursions on a date and time that suits your teaching schedule.

© National Portrait Gallery 2024
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Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency