The William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize promotes excellence in photography across all photographic media and stylistic genres by both established and emerging artists with work produced within the last year.
The 2018 judging panel – Dr Michael Brand, Director of the Art Gallery of NSW; Melbourne-based artist Dr David Rosetzky; and Anouska Phizacklea, MGA Director – made the winning selection from 50 finalists whose work reflect the diversity and depth of photographic practice in Australia.
This year’s winner of the $30,000 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize is Melbourne-based, Iranian-born artist is Hoda Afshar for her photograph, Portrait of Behrouz Boochani, Manus Island (2018).
Afshar’s photographic practice sits knowingly between conceptual, staged and documentary photography, and often reflects on questions of representation, displacement, gender and identity politics. Her winning work depicts Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, writer, filmmaker and refugee currently held on Manus Island. His gaze projects ‘the fire that burns behind him, the way his body is positioned’, describes Phizacklea; provides ‘a deep understanding of photography, its history and how powerful photography can be.’
‘[It] shows the viewer what has happened to this person, how this person has gone from being a writer and film maker to becoming a refugee, and what that has done to him as an individual. We think it’s wonderful that this one photograph could show this, and hopefully connect with a very broad audience in Australia,’ says Brand.
‘Through its performative and collaborative process, it questions ideas of authorship and truth in documentary photography, it blurs distinctions between photographic genres and also, importantly – presents a human face to the horrific situation endured by the men detained on Manus Island as a result of Australia’s refugee policy,’ adds Rosetzky. ‘It is a visually striking and sophisticated photograph that addresses a series of complex questions at the forefront of current debates in art, culture and politics today.’
An exhibition of all finalists is now on display at MGA until 18 November 2018. Gallery visitors are encouraged to vote for their own favourite in the Sotheby’s Australia People’s Choice Award.