Debra Phillips wins 2020 National Photography Prize

Debra Phillips, The Good. The Just. The Beautiful. 2017 - photo by Jeremy WeihrauchSydney based artist Debra Phillips has been announced as the recipient of the prestigious Murray Art Museum Albury National Photography Prize 2020, winning a cash prize of $30,000 for her work The Good. The Just. The Beautiful.

An artist who works primarily in photography, Phillips is interested in charting knowledge systems and instances of natural and man-made patterns of order. The Good. The Just. The Beautiful. was instigated during a visit to the National Metrology Institute of Germany to observe the processes of manufacturing a perfect silicon sphere, as part of the international Avogadro Project.

The Avogadro Project aims to determine a new standard definition for the kilogram based on data instead of on a physical object. The objects in these works are associated with the production of the perfect silicon sphere; silicon offset from the production process, a glass ring used in the polishing process and a digital 3D printed model produced to calculate sphere diameter topographies. Each element focuses our attention to moments when knowledge systems, including measurement, collide with material objects, presenting us with new ways of conceiving the world.

The 2020 National Photography Prize was judged by Elias Redstone, Artistic Director, PHOTO 2021. “The Good. The Just. The Beautiful is incredibly compelling; its passionate about the subject matter and the role photography plays in the world today,” said Redstone.

“This photographic project looks at how knowledge systems are used in the world and how they are shifting from a physical world to a digital one. This is a beautiful study of understanding how we come to control the world through measurements and how that can be visualised in a photographic project.”

Bree Pickering, Director, Murray Art Museum Albury added “This series exemplifies both the technical precision and conceptual depth of Debra’s practice. She is an extraordinary artist and we are thrilled to acquire these works into the MAMA collection.”

In addition to the National Photography Prize, Photographer Hayley Millar-Baker has been announced as the recipient of the John and Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship and will receive a cash prize of $5,000 for her work, A Series of Unwarranted Events, 2018.

The selection panel for this year’s Prize included Isobel Parker Philip, Senior Curator Contemporary Australian Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales; Michael Moran MAMA Curator; and Amanda Williams, recipient of the National Photography Prize 2018.

Bringing together the best photographic practice from across Australia, all 12 finalists’ work has been exhibited physically at MAMA since 21 February and online during the pandemic closure. With MAMA opening this week, the exhibition dates have been extended to Sunday 14 June 2020.

The finalists included: Anthea Behm, Danica Chappell, Elise Harmsen, Ali McCann, Hayley Millar-Baker, Kent Morris, Sarah Mosca, Phuong Ngo, Lillian O’Neil, Emma Phillips, Debra Phillips, and Justine Varga.

The National Photography Prize is a biennial prize supported by the MAMA Art Foundation with a $30,000 first prize. As the oldest acquisitive photography prize in Australia, it has been instrumental in building MAMA’s strong photography collection. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Debra Phillips, The Good. The Just. The Beautiful. 2017. MAMA Installation View, National Photography Prize 2020 – photo by Jeremy Weihrauch