Veteran Indigenous photographer Wayne Quilliam has won the $50,000 National Photographic Portrait Prize with an image of Aurukun man Eric Yunkaporta that he says captures “the essence of who the man is.”
“Eric is such an incredible man and he is very silent,” said Quilliam, who has photographed many of Yunkaporta’s extended family over the years. “English is his third language, but he doesn’t have to say much to tell you much.
“My role as a storyteller continues to evolve and this recording is akin to a trickle of water flowing into a small stream and then into the ocean.”
Quilliam, a self-taught photographer who grew up in Hobart, has spent 35 years documenting Indigenous communities across the country. He is now an adjunct professor of photography at RMIT University.
In their statement, the jurors for the award, on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, said every aspect of the portrait was “exceptional”.
“The composition, the contrast, the richness of the colors in the ochres and feathers and also the sense of pride that the subject portrays – all these layers and details carry such a power in connecting the subject and its story with the audience ,” she added.
Quilliam sees his work as a continuation of more than 60,000 years of indigenous storytelling, just in a different way.