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The 2023 National Photographic Portrait Prize

16 June 2023

Shea Kirk’s portrait of friend and fellow-artist Emma Armstrong-Porter has won the 2023 National Photographic Portrait Prize.

Ruby (left view), 2022 Shea Kirk
Ruby (left view), 2022 Shea Kirk

Announced today by the National Portrait Gallery, the portrait, titled Ruby (left view), is half of a stereoscopic pair from Kirk’s ongoing series Vantages.

“Over the past 6 years I have been inviting people over to my home studio to sit in front of simple backdrops and make portraits,” Kirk said. “This portrait is of my now good friend Emma, which we made together during our first meeting. I wanted to create the idea of the body as a record. We are our faces as much as we are our limbs, extremities, our nooks and crannies. The self and sense of a person in a portrait for me is often thought of more than just a face and hands, it’s an essence of the whole,” Shea said.

Shea Kirk takes home $30,000 cash from the National Portrait Gallery and $20,000 worth of Canon equipment thanks to Imaging Partner Canon Australia.

Emma Armstrong-Porter (she/they), who is also an NPPP finalist, said Shea’s portrait reflects their changing attitude to their body and how it fits within society. “I’ve always struggled with the size of my body, from being extremely underweight to now being overweight. Over the past few years working with other photographers, making portraits, I’ve been processing my feelings about the transformation. I’m starting to feel more at home in my big queer body,” Armstrong-Porter said.

2023 NPPP Judges - National Portrait Gallery Senior Curator Joanna Gilmour, Daniel Boetker-Smith, Director of the Centre for Contemporary Photography, and critically acclaimed photo media artist Tamara Dean, 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,” judges said.

Renae Saxby was awarded the Highly Commended prize, for her work Bangardidjan 2022, a photo of proud Kine, Rembarrnga, and Dalabon women Cindy Rostron on the road in remote Central Arnhem Land. Rostron is photographed in the family car with a buffalo skull painted by her father Victor Rostron strapped to the roof. Renae’s prize is a ColorEdge CG2700S 27” monitor valued at almost $4,000 courtesy of EIZO,

Judges said the work had “exceptional cinematic quality, encapsulating an entire story, and while there is so much to see from a narrative point of view, it is the sitters gaze which draws you in.”

Bangardidjan, 2022 Renae Saxby
Ugandan Ssebabi, 2022 David Cossini
1 Bangardidjan, 2022 Renae Saxby. 2 Ugandan Ssebabi, 2022 David Cossini.

David Cossini’s portrait of Ugandan man Godfrey Baguma, titled Ugandan Ssebabi, is the 2023 Art Handlers Award winner, which was announced on Friday 9th June, with a $2000 cash prize courtesy IAS Fine Art Logistics.

Established by the National Portrait Gallery to support and celebrate photographic portraiture in Australia, the NPPP was first awarded in 2007 and has since become a highlight of the National Portrait Gallery’s annual calendar, attracting thousands of entries each year from amateur and professional photographers around the country.

Bree Pickering said the exhibition reflects the distinctive vision of Australia's aspiring and professional photographers. “The NPPP is a beloved and important national prize that supports the Australian photographic community and enlarges our collective experience of the Australian people, from the well-known and celebrated, to local heroes and identities. We look forward to welcoming visitors to this popular annual event, which reveals many rich examples of photographic portraiture.”

This year, judges selected 47 finalists from a pool of almost 2400 entries. Joanna Gilmour said the idea of going below or beyond the surface was one of the themes that emerged most strongly for the 2023 judges. “Each of the works reveal sitters who have presented their quirks or flaws or vulnerabilities, and photographers who have gently yet uncompromisingly allowed their sitters to be themselves,” she said.

The National Photographic Portrait Prize opens Saturday 17 June.

The finalists for NPPP 2023 are: Adam Ferguson, Anne Moffat, Bahram Mia, Ben McNamara, Brenda L. Croft, Bruce Agnew, Cassandra Scott-Finn, Charlie Bliss, Charlie Ford, Cindy Kavanagh, David Cossini, David Darcy, Dylan Le'Mon, Elliot Brown, Emma Armstrong-Porter, Forough Yavari, Franca Turrin, Francis Cloake, The Huxleys, Gerwyn Davies, Grace Costa, Isabella Melody Moore, Jacob Nash, Heidi Margocsy, Jacqueline Mitelman, James Bugg, Jay Hynes, Jimmy Widders Hunt, Jo Duck, Julian Kingma, Lily Hatten, Martine Perret, Meng-Yu Yan, Nathan Dyer, Renae Saxby, Renato Colangelo, Rohan Thomson, Sammaneh Pourshafighi, Sarah Depta, Sarah Enticknap, Sean Slattery, Shannon May Powell, Shea Kirk, Stuart Miller, Tajette O'Halloran and Teva Cosic.

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