Debra Phillips wins the National Photography Prize

Congratulations to Sydney based artist Debra Phillips; recipient of the Murray Art Museum Albury National Photography Prize 2020 for her work The Good. The Just. The Beautiful, receiving a cash prize of $30,000.

This year’s judge, Elias Redstone, Artistic Director, PHOTO 2021, said ‘The Good. The Just. The Beautiful is incredibly compelling; its passionate about the subject matter and the role photography plays in the world today. This photographic project looks at how knowledge systems are used in the world and how they are shifting from a physical world to a digital one. This is a beautiful study of understanding how we come to control the world through measurements and how that can be visualised in a photographic project.’

‘This series exemplifies both the technical precision and conceptual depth of Debra’s practice. She is an extraordinary artist, and we are thrilled to acquire these works into the MAMA collection,’ adds Bree Pickering, Director, Murray Art Museum Albury.

Phillips is an artist who works primarily in photography with interested in charting knowledge systems and instances of natural and man-made patterns of order. The Good. The Just. The Beautiful. was instigated during a visit to the National Metrology Institute of Germany to observe the processes of manufacturing a perfect silicon sphere, as part of the international Avogadro Project.

The Avogadro Project aims to determine a new standard definition for the kilogram based on data instead of on a physical object. The objects in these works are associated with the production of the perfect silicon sphere; silicon offset from the production process, a glass ring used in the polishing process and a digital 3D printed model produced to calculate sphere diameter topographies. Each element focuses our attention to moments when knowledge systems, including measurement, collide with material objects, presenting us with new ways of conceiving the world.

Hayley Millar-Baker, A Series of Unwarranted Events, 2018. MAMA installation view. Photograph: Jeremy Weihrauch

The selection panel comprised of Isobel Parker Philip, Senior Curator Contemporary Australian Art at Art Gallery of NSW, Michael Moran MAMA Curator, and Amanda Williams, recipient of the National Photography Prize 2018. The trio also awarded photographer Hayley Millar-Baker with the John and Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship. She will receive a cash prize of $5,000 for her work A Series of Unwarranted Events (2018).

The National Photography Prize is a biennial prize supported by the MAMA Art Foundation with a $30,000 first prize. The 2020 finalists included: Anthea Behm, Danica Chappell, Elise Harmsen, Ali McCann, Hayley Millar-Baker, Kent Morris, Sarah Mosca, Phuong Ngo, Lillian O’Neil, Emma Phillips, Debra Phillips, and Justine Varga.

Bringing together the best photographic practice from across Australia, all 12 finalists’ work has been exhibited physically at Murray Art Museum Albury (MAMA) since 21 February and online during the pandemic closure. The exhibition dates have been extended to Sunday 14 June, with MAMA reopening on Monday 1 June 2020.