A chance encounter at an Indigenous dance festival in far north Queensland has resulted in this year’s winner of the National Photographic Portrait Prize.
Indigenous photographer Wayne Quilliam was taking photos at the Laura Quinkan dance festival, a showcase of Indigenous history through dance, when he spotted a familiar face – that of Aurukun man, Eric Yunkaporta.
“I looked at him and said, ‘Brother, you look so familiar’. And we started to get a bit of a thread and we realized that I had photographed his grandfather, his community, his uncles and aunts for many, many years,” he said.
Quilliam said he quickly took two or three photos of the “very quiet, incredibly strong young man” wearing ceremonial headgear before thanking him and watching the traditional dance.
The resulting portrait, Silent Strength, has been named the winner of the National Portrait Gallery’s 15th prestigious portrait award.
Sandra Bruce, National Portrait Gallery’s director of collections and exhibitions and a jury member for the competition, said the portrait won by unanimous decision.
Quilliam said he planned to create a foundation or program to donate the $20,000 worth of photographic equipment he won from the competition.
He said he hoped to give the equipment to Indigenous communities across Australia to help them capture their culture and history in a similar way.
“I want to make sure that our culture is captured and shared with not only our own people, but also people around the world,” said Quilliam.
Portrait of Guatemalan migrant with son wins critically acclaimed award
The National Portrait Gallery has also awarded a highly acclaimed award to New South Wales photographer Adam Ferguson, who captured a striking portrait of Guatemalan migrant Carlos Soyos and his eight-year-old son Enderson.
The portrait was taken at the migrant shelter on the Mexican/United States border, and was captured in a collaborative process.
“You can see the cable release in front of the camera in the portrait where Adam gives the nanny the decision when they do the portrait of themselves,” said Ms. Bruce.
Ferguson said allowing Carlos to take the photo was a conscious effort to give him agency in telling his own story in a situation where his future was so uncertain.
The winning portraits, as well as the rest of the 2022 finalists, will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery in the coming months and will travel to regional and rural areas next year.
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