Winners of the 2024 National Photography Prize and the Darling Portrait Prize Announced

NPPP2024 Amos Gebhardt Lit entirely by moonlightNow in its 17th year, the National Photographic Portrait Prize provides a powerful visual record of the year that was, reflecting a particular time in Australian culture, both socially and artistically.

Open to both established and emerging artistic talent, the prize was conceived by the National Portrait Gallery to support and celebrate photographic portraiture in Australia.

Lit entirely by moonlight, Amos Gebhardt’s winning portrait captures acclaimed Waanyi author Alexis Wright peering towards the night sky.

“As Alexis is a storyteller who dares to imagine future cosmologies in these dystopian times, I sought to pair her with the elemental power of the moon, a symbol of dreams and illumination,” said Gebhardt.

“Reflected in Alex’s eyes are tracings of the moon itself created through subtle movement of the human body in dialogue with the Earth’s rotation.”

Amos Gebhardt (they/them) lives and works on Kaurna Country in regional South Australia. An artist and filmmaker whose practice is focused on challenging dominant narratives around marginality, representation and more-than-human ecologies, Gebhardt was awarded the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize in 2022 and was also a finalist in the 2022 National Photographic Portrait Prize.

This year’s judges – Isobel Parker Philip (Portrait Gallery Director, Curatorial and Collection), José da Silva (Director of Sydney’s UNSW Galleries, and curator of the 18th Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art) and Pippa Milne (Curator PHOTO Australia) – said that this year’s field was exceptionally strong.

Of the winning work, the judges were taken by the sparse, yet powerful relationship created between the moon, the subject and the camera. “Alexis Wright is a noted First Nations author whose work collapses linear time and connects to ideas of the cosmos, and Gebhardt’s portrait, lit only by the moon, speaks directly to the sitter’s work,” they said.

“Created through a long exposure, the pair of photographs turn Wright and the moon into echoed forms. Instead of a singular snapshot in time, what is represented is an extended moment.”

Gebhardt takes home a cash prize of $30,000 from the Gallery and Canon equipment valued at $20,000 courtesy of the Gallery’s Imaging Partner, Canon Australia.

DPP2024 Noel McKenna William Nuttall with horses in field 2023The Darling Portrait Prize is a prestigious $75,000 biennial prize for portrait painting, established to honour the legacy of National Portrait Gallery founding patron L Gordon Darling AC CMG. The prize offers a platform for artists to explore the evolving notion of Australian identity.

Noel McKenna’s winning work, William Nuttall with horses in field, 2023, is a portrait of the artists’ long-time agent William ‘Bill’ Nuttall. McKenna, who lives and works on Gadigal country in Sydney, won the Sulman Prize in 1994 and has taken out the Art Gallery of New South Wales Trustees’ prize for watercolour five times.

He is known for his spare linear style and paintings of everyday scenarios often depicting the relationship between humans and animals. Several of his paintings from The Popular Pet Show featured at the National Portrait Gallery in 2016.

Judges Bree Pickering (Director of the National Portrait Gallery), art critic and historian Tara Heffernan, and Erin Vink (Curator, First Nations art (local and global) at the Art Gallery of New South Wales) said McKenna’s painting is an assured, well-executed work.

“This is an energetic and unexpected portrait. The subject shares the work with animals and the landscape. It is joyous in its execution and demonstrates the skill of an established Australian artist whose practice is assured in every way,” they said.

Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Bree Pickering said “great portraiture is compelling, fascinating and sometimes challenging and all of this is represented in this year’s Darling Portrait Prize and National Photographic Portrait Prize.”

“The artworks will stimulate conversation and encourage contemplation about art and identity in Australia that I know our visitors will embrace,” said Pickering.

Earlier this week, the team responsible for looking after the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and hanging the exhibitions selected their favourite works from both prizes.

Shelley Xue’s portrait, ah Yi, 2023, taken of her mother after a three week visit following years apart, was their favourite work from the National Photographic Portrait Prize. The team said this “this beautiful and poignant photograph articulates the complex and bittersweet feelings of time and opportunities lost with the joy and excitement for future intimacies.”

Nena Salobir’s Self portrait on washcloth 2024 was the Art Handlers’ choice for the Darling Portrait Prize. The work was created by pressing a ‘painted face’ onto cotton, which the artist describes as reminiscent of a Victorian death mask but also acknowledges the self-portraits so many of us paint on our faces, day in and out.

The team were struck by how Salobir has captured the ephemerality of a moment in time. “There is an inventiveness in how Salobir upends our expectation of portrait painting, imprinting herself literally and figuratively onto the work,” they said.

The National Photographic Portrait Prize and the Darling Portrait Prize exhibitions are now on display at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, until 13 October 2024.

Images: Amos Gebhardt, Alexis with moon, 2024 | Noel McKenna, William Nuttall with horses in field, 2023