Digital portraiture prize snapped up by the ‘Selfie Factory’

“Selfie Factory by Ralph Kenke and Elmar Trefz, 2017, mixed media installation.

THE National Portrait Gallery has today announced the winners in the 2017 Digital Portraiture Award an annual celebration of screen-based narratives and digital technology.

Ralph Kenke and Elmar Trefz receive $10,000 cash, courtesy of the Portrait Gallery, and an artistic residency valued at $15,000 at the State Library of Queensland’s community maker-space, The Edge.

Daniel Flood, creative lead at The Edge and one of the judges for this year’s award, said he was impressed by the innovative approach taken by Kenke and Trefz, explaining: “We selected ‘Selfie Factory’ as the winning entry for the Digital Portraiture Award because it is a great example of the use of new media, pushing the idea of ‘digital’ to include live computation.”

The installation is a set of five machines capable of printing selfies directly from Instagram using #selfie. Kenke describes the experimental art installation as “a temporary visual experience exploring online behaviour…What started as part of my research studies at University of Newcastle, evolved into a number of small-scale prototypes and a collaboration with Elmar, which eventually turned into a working installation.

He said that “Selfie Factory” had always been intended to be situated in a public or exhibition space to attract people while they use their smart-phone and now the public would have the opportunity to visit and engage with Selfie Factory at the National Portrait Gallery for the next two months.

“Eileen” by Sue Healey, 2017, HD digital video, photo Noel Ruby, images from Bodenwieser Ballet, cinematographer, Judd Overton, composers, Darrin Verhagen and Justin Ashworth

This year’s judges, Flood, George Khut, from UNSW,and Karen Vickery, director of learning and visitor experience at the NPG, chose the work of nine finalists – Josh Owen from the ACT, Timothy Hillier and Samantha Sommariva from Victoria, Gutiŋarra Yunupiŋu from the NT, Patrick Bell from Queensland and Ralph Kenke and Elmar Trefz, Sabella D’Souza and Sue Healey from NSW.

Healey, well-known here as the former director of the company Vis a Vis Dance Canberra and now a flourishing director of dance-based films, was singled out as a finalist for her 2017 digital video “Eileen,” showing the 102-year-old artist Eileen Kramer dancing. Healey says that a “lovely portrait” of Kramer by surgeon Andrew Greensmith was a finalist in the 2017 Archibald Prize, but notes, “it does not move… this portrait does.”

2017 Digital Portraiture Award, at the National Portrait Gallery until February 18. “The Selfie Factory” will be available for public interaction using the hashtag #selfiefactory from 10am to 11am, 1.30pm to 2pm and 3.30pm to 4pm daily while the exhibition is on display. All of the finalists’ works can be viewed at



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