THE $25,000 National Photographic Portrait Prize for 2014 has gone to Sydney photographer Andrew Cowen, it was announced this evening by National Portrait Gallery director Angus Trumble at gala event that also launched the new celebrity portrait show, “Promo: Portraits from Prime Time”.The portrait of Cowen’s friend, cartoonist Matthew Martin, was praised by Trumble for its “disarming intensity” and by guest judge, photographer Greg Weight, for its minimalism and elegant composition. Cowen told “CityNews” that although Martin was on the surface “a bright and breezy guy”, the three-quarter on, downward-looking stance he had chosen suggested that there was “another person inside” the cartoonist. Cowen said the pose and the deliberately asymmetrical composition suggested introspection.
For the first time in the history of the award, Trumble announced, there was a “highly commended” award. This went to Melbourne photographer and tram driver, David Apostol, for his dark self-portrait, completed in his own kitchen.
Apostol took the photograph after he’d discovered the term “Enantiodromia” while reading Carl Jung. He had also been reading Sylvia Plath’s poetry at a time of deep personal anxiety. Nonetheless, he liked to think of the portrait not as his regular self, but as his “unconscious opposite”.Rumble told those present that this was the seventh National Photographic Portrait Prize, but his first since coming to the gallery as director. In his view the prize, which he said catered to both professional and aspiring Australian photographers had already become “embedded in the cultural life of the nation”. The proof lay in the fact that the final 45 portraits had been selected by judges Sarah Engledow, Chris Chapman and Weight, from over 1400 entries, all of which would be on view digitally at the gallery.
The Portrait Prize exhibition, Trumble said, would later travel to Wagga Wagga, Cowra, Wangaratta and Devonport.
The National Photographic Portrait Prize 2014 exhibition and “PROMO: Portraits from prime time”, at the National Portrait Gallery until June 9.
The final 45 portraits are listed at portrait.gov.au/site/nppp.php