It means the world to have such a personal image selected as the winner of the 2019 National Portrait Prize. Below is a short excerpt of my acceptance speech but first, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which the National Portrait Gallery sits: the Ngunnawal people and their elders past, present and emerging. I failed to do so on Friday night so wanted to do so here.
This image is part of a series documenting my family in the months leading up to my nephew’s arrival - the first of the next generation. I think all of us felt that monumental shift, that undeniable progression of time as each of us took on new roles as parents, grandparents and aunts. I photographed that time simply to create a record of a time.
For me personally, this image represents the beginning of an intentional shift away from documenting other places, other cultures and other people to make work that is intrinsically linked to my place in the world and my experiences. I want to challenge myself to make work in an environment where I am not a visitor or an outsider, and where there was an equal power dynamic between photographer and subject. Family seemed like a logical place to start.
I also consider this image a celebration of women’s bodies and motherhood. Greta’s self-love and complete lack of inhibitions when it comes to nakedness has, in equal parts, inspired and challenged those around her for many years. Perhaps this image will do the same, as I consider her attitude alone a revolutionary act.
Big thanks to the kind and meticulous Peter Hatzipavlis at The Print Shop @ PSC who collaborated with me to make the final print. It was also a pleasure to frame the work with Maurizio at Deans Picture Framers in Thornbury. Thank you also to the RMIT Alumni Residency, a studio space I’ve had access to these past months but haven’t used enough, though it was location for many many dust-spotting hours for this image.
Thank you to the National Portrait Gallery and Canon for the generous support of portraiture in Australia and to the remarkable jury - photographer and visual artist Hoda Ashfar, Senior Curator at National Portrait Gallery, Chris Chapman, and Annie O’Hehir, Curator of Photography at National Gallery of Australia.
The exhibition of all the finalists is now open at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra and will travel to several galleries in Australia over the coming year. Power, representation and diversity were key considerations for the jury and I feel the finalists, their subjects and images very much represent this thinking. Go see!
And finally, thank you to Greta for her collaboration, participation and openness throughout this experience. The night before the announcement I asked her how she was feeling about this image being online and she said: “I have zero hesitations or apprehension. I look at this image and I feel so proud of what my body did. I also see my old self and my pregnant self in this image, not engulfed by baby like some of your other images. It shows me I’m still there inside this new role and identity I have taken on.”