Ellen Dahl wins $30,000 National Photography Prize

MAMA Ellen Dahl Winner National Photography Prize 2024 - photo by Jeremy WeihrauchMurray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) has announced Ellen Dahl as the winner of the $30,000 National Photography Prize for 2024 and unveiled the finalist- exhibition, open until 1 September 2024.

Selected from 12 finalists by judge Nici Cumpston OAM, Ellen Dahl’s winning work Four Days Before Winter is part of the ongoing project Field Notes from the Edge exploring the peripheral Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard – the fastest warming place on earth.

The four-part work presents close-up details of collapsing terrain due to melting permafrost as a result of ongoing coal mining in the region. The series not only brings into question the devastating effects of climate change, but also considers photography’s intrinsic involvement in how we see and feel about the world around us.

“The series Four Days Before Winter brings together multiple aspects of concerns and ideas within my practice; exploring the expanded photographic field to extract a sense of place and affect, geological imagination, time, and how to assemble ecological meaning in the time of climate change,” said Ellen Dahl.

“The final work presented in the National Photography Prize is a reflection of all this, and I consider my process a three-way collaboration between the site of Svalbard (and what it chose to reveal right at the cusp of winter), the camera optics and the artist.”

“For Four Days Before Winter to be acknowledged in this way by judge Nici Cumpston, amongst such an incredible cohort, within a highly respected photographic prize – one that considers a body of work rather than just a single image – feels incredible and humbling.”

Established in 1983, the National Photography Prize is Australia’s longest running acquisitive photographic award and offers a unique opportunity to consider the vital role of photography in contemporary art in Australia.

The biennial award showcases the work of leading and emerging artists from across the country who are pushing the boundaries of the photographic medium, and challenging existing languages and techniques.

The $5000 John and Margaret Baker Fellowship has been awarded to Olga Svyatova for their work Ohn/They, an ongoing photographic project that explores multiple connections between time, relationships, and archival images.

Svyatova appropriates their own personal experience of differing cultures and histories to invite reflections on the intricate connections that sustain our lives across time and space.

Selected by an expert panel comprising Nanette Orly, Senior Curator, Murray Art Museum Albury, Bala Starr, Director, La Trobe Art Institute, Bendigo, and Tiyan Baker, 2022 National Photography Prize Winner.

The 2024 National Photography Prize finalists include 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.

The finalists’ works touch on themes of the environment and its degradation, cultural and familial histories, and connection to time and place. Developed in close consultation with the MAMA curatorial team, they span large-scale installations, collages and assemblages, archival and chemical processes, to more intimate and personal moments.

“The National Photography Prize brings together some of the most outstanding contemporary artists working with photography in Australia, and the calibre of this year’s prize continues to raise the bar,” said Blair French, MAMA CEO.

“The Prize is one of the foundations of our renowned contemporary photography collection, and we are proud to present a platform that supports both established and emerging artists, recognising the achievements of artists today as well as investing in the future of experimental photographic practice,” said French.

“The 2024 National Photography Prize is a dynamic showcase of contemporary photography today. I’d like to congratulate all the finalists and thank them for continuing the tradition and evolution of the photographic medium,” said Nici Cumpston OAM.

“Congratulations to the overall winner Ellen Dahl for her heartbreakingly beautiful images from the series, Four Days Before Winter, sharing the harsh reality of global warming on the Arctic environment in the Norwegian Archipelago of Svalbard.”

“Congratulations also to Olga Svyatova for winning the John and Margaret Baker Fellowship for their uncanny juxtaposition of archival biological family photographs from Russia, alongside more recent images of their chosen family and friends. The images are quirky and humorous and openly share a sense of humanness across time and place,” said Cumpston.

“It was an honour to work so closely with each artist in the presentation of their works for the National Photography Prize 2024. This year’s finalist exhibition is representative of how incredibly diverse contemporary photographic practice is in Australia today,” said Nanette Orly, Senior Curator, MAMA.

“There are wonderful moments of connection between the works conceptually and aesthetically that challenge and complicate photographic processes, while respecting the history and contributing to the future of this artistic medium,” said Orly.

Previous National Photography Prize recipients include Tiyan Baker (2022), Debra Phillips (2020) and Amanda Williams (2018), and John and Margaret Baker Fellowship recipients include Sara Oscar (2022), Hayley Millar Baker (2020), and Ioulia Panoutsopoulos (2018).

The National Photography Prize exhibition is now on display at Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) until 1 September 2024. For more information, visit: www.mamalbury.com.au for details.

Image: Ellen Dahl, Winner, National Photography Prize 2024, Murray Art Museum Albury – photo by Jeremy Weihrauch