2020 National Photographic Portrait Prize winner announced

Rob Palmer’s portrait, The mahi-mahi (2019), a depiction of Sydney whole-fish chef Josh Niland deftly handling a dolphinfish, is the winner of the 2020 National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP).

Palmer, a professional lifestyle and food photographer based in Sydney, describes his subject as a trailblazer. ‘Josh is reinventing what can be done with fish and ­most importantly ­with every part of the fish, in a huge effort to drastically reduce wastage,’ Palmer said.

Rob Palmer, The mahi-mahi, 2019

In making their decision Judges Penny Grist (Curator, National Portrait Gallery), Nici Cumpston (Curator, Art Gallery of South Australia) and artist Naomi Hobson admired the portrait’s ‘majesty and power’, and its ‘painterliness and composition. The sitter’s embrace of the fish so eloquently conveys his identity as a chef,’ they said.

Hugh Stewart received the 2020 NPPP Highly Commended award for his portrait of 105-year-old dancer Eileen Kramer. Judges noted, ‘Eileen Kramer is a dancer held on to us. The colours and her gesture made us feel the warmth of the sitter’s presence even though her eyes are closed.’

Now in its 13th year, the NPPP offers audiences an insight into the work of some of Australia’s best portrait photographers.

NPG Director Karen Quinlan AM describes the NPPP as, ‘one of our most popular exhibitions, offering equal billing for amateur and professional photographers. This year we see works of astounding quality and breadth from across the nation ­ many pushing the boundaries of photographic portraiture, and each reflecting quintessentially Australian stories.’

Hugh Stewart, Eileen Kramer is a Dancer

Jason McLean, Director ­ Canon Imaging & Services, Canon Australia: ‘The NPPP is an opportunity for every Australian to celebrate excellence in the purist elements of photography ­ the portrait and the print. I am thrilled to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Rob Palmer, Hugh Stewart, and the 46 finalists for their achievements, and hope this collection of portraits inspires Australians to pick up their camera to capture and print moments that matter to them.’

Palmer takes home the first prize of $30,000 courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery plus $22,000 worth of photographic equipment from Canon, including an EOS-1D X Mark III, EF 85mm f1.4 L IS lens, and ImagePROGRAF Pro-2100 large-format printer and Broncolour Lights from SUNSTUDIOS. Highly Commended winner Hugh Stewart collects an Eizo ColorEdge CG2730 27″ monitor valued at $3245. And, the photographer who receives the most public votes during the exhibition run will receive Fine Art printing valued at $2,200 thanks to SUNSTUDIOS.

The announcement of the 2020 NPPP winners comes a week after the NPG announced Anthea da Silva’s portrait of Australian contemporary dance pioneer Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM as the inaugural winner of the Darling Portrait Prize. Both exhibitions are currently on display at the National Portrait Gallery.