Portrait of 'silent strength' wins $50,000 National Photographic Portrait Prize

Comments Comments

Wayne Quilliam’s portrait Silent Strength 2021, depicting Aurukun man Eric Yunkaporta in ceremonial head-wear, has won the 2022 National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP).

Wayne Quilliam, Silent Strength 2021.
Wayne Quilliam, Silent Strength 2021.

Quilliam is a leading Indigenous photographic artist, curator and cultural advisor and describes the portrait as like capturing Mother Earth. 

“In its purest essence, the evolution of culture connects us to Mother Earth. My role as a storyteller continues to evolve and this capture is akin to a trickle of water merging into a small stream then into the ocean. This image of Eric Yunkaporta from Aurukun is Culture”. 

In making their decision, the judging panel - made up of award-winning press photographer Nick Moir together with Sandra Bruce, the National Portrait Gallery’s Director of Collection and Exhibitions and Associate Curator Rebecca Ray - said Quilliam’s portrait was a work of immense power and beauty.

“Everything about this portrait is exceptional.  The composition, the contrast, the richness of the colours in the ochres and feathers, and also the sense of pride the subject is portraying – all of these layers and details carry such power in connecting the subject and his story with the audience.”

Quilliam wins $50,000 in prizes: $30,000 cash from the National Portrait Gallery and $20,000 worth of Canon equipment, and has announced he will gift more than half back to the Indigenous community.

In addition, NSW born, New York based photographer Adam Ferguson has won the Highly Commended prize for his portrait of Guatemalan migrant Carlos Soyos and his eight-year-old son Enderson, taken at the migrant shelter on the Mexican/United States border. The image was one of a series also recognised in this year's Sony World Photo Awards, capping a stellar year for the photographer. 

Adam Ferguson, Carlos Soyos, 34, a migrant from Guatemala City, Guatemala and his son, Enderson Soyos, 8, take a se by Adam Ferguson
Carlos Soyos, 34, a migrant from Guatemala City, Guatemala and his son, Enderson Soyos, 8. Image: Adam Ferguson.

Ferguson describes the work as the subject’s own self-portrait.

“I mounted a medium-format camera onto a tripod with a cable release and then stepped back, allowing the migrants to choose the moment of capture.  Through a collaborative process I attempted to give the migrants agency in their own representation and story,” he said.

The judges described the portrait as a striking example of the extraordinary work Australian photographers are doing around the world, with Ferguson’s image capturing a quiet moment of calm between two people in extremely difficult circumstances. 

“The gesture of allowing the subject to choose the moment gives the image emotional power – a moment of respite between a father and son, made even more meaningful considering one of the subjects was able to collaborate by pressing the trigger,” 

Sandra Bruce said this year’s NPPP never fails to deliver a range of emotions. “Australia is a country with myriad faces, and as we continue to live in disruptive times, this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize offers a sweeping view across the nation’s experience, one that reminds us that our lives continue on regardless of wider circumstances.” 

The NPPP is on display at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, until Sunday 9 October 2022. More info here.

comments powered by Disqus