Polly Borland awarded the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award

The coveted Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award substantially increased its cash prize this year, attracting more than 300 entries and offering what is now the biggest award in Queensland and second in Australia for contemporary photography.

On Friday 8 September, Chris Saines, Director of Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) announced Polly Borland as the 2017 winner, receiving $25,000 for her work Two Heads A (2016), to be acquired as part of the Gold Coast City Gallery collection.

Polly Borland, Two Heads A, 2016, pigment print. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney

Of her work Borland says she ‘wants things to be difficult to look at’. Her photographs are contradictorily beautiful and disturbing – reminiscent of traditional portraiture with a nod to the surreal.

“Polly Borland’s Two Heads A is a compelling, edgy and uncanny photograph. It is a deserving winner of the Josephine Ulrick & Win Schubert Photography Award 2017. Simultaneously enigmatic and fetishistic, its subject’s upper torso and head is pressed into a stretched stocking. This wilful distortion of the portrait convention gives the figure the outline of a babushka doll, whose image is mirrored (Rorschach blot-like) top and bottom rather than side by side. It’s an intriguing essay in pictorial and psychological contradiction and, as if engaged in some wilfully corrupted version of the Narcissus myth, I found it hard to look away. It was, in the end, the photograph to which I found myself returning most often,” said Saines.

Darren Sylvester, Broken Model, 2016, lightjet print. Courtesy the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf, Sydney

With an additional $25,000 for acquisitions, Darren Sylvester’s Broken Model and Danie Mellor’s The distance (envisioning Girrugarr) were also selected to be part of the gallery’s collection of contemporary Australian photography.

Danie Mellor, The distance (envisioning Girrugarr), 2017, Lambda print on metallic paper. Courtesy the artist and Jan Murphy Gallery, Queensland

A finalists’ exhibition, including the winner, is currently on show Gold Coast City Gallery and runs to 22 October 2017. Audiences can expect a diverse range of themes including portraiture, landscape, abstract and fashion, along with a strong representation of contemporary topics affecting 21st century Australians such as climate change, gender representation and shifting economic and technological landscapes.

2017 Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Photography Award finalists are;
 Melissa Anderson, Dane Beesley, Scott Belzner, Fabrice Bigot, Polly Borland, Tammy Boyce, Aaron Bradbrook, Madeleine Burke, Anna Carey, David Chatfield, Dale Collier, Sean Coyle, Gerwyn Davies, Donna Davis, Shoufay Derz, Jeremy Drape, Merilyn Fairskye, Liss Fenwick, George Fetting, Ursula Frederick & Katie Hayne, Natalie Grono, Nina Hanley, Lee Harrop, Petrina Hicks, Jon Lewis, Tim Levy, Abbey McCulloch, Danie Mellor, Helen Okey, Camille Serisier, Darren Sylvester, Hiromi Tango, Linda Wachtel and Emma Wright.

An initiative of the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation, in 2017 the award honours the memory of Win Schubert AO (1937-2017) and her extraordinary generosity as a lifelong custodian of Australian photography, art and creativity.