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February 6, 2023

Intriguing portrait wins $20,000 award

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Trent Parke's winning 'Candid portrait of a woman on a street corner' in which the subject is 'not immediately visible'.
Trent Parke’s winning ‘Candid portrait of a woman on a street corner’ in which the subject is ‘not immediately visible’.

One of Australia’s best-known documentary photographers was last night announced winner of the $20,000 Olive Cotton Award to a packed audience at the Tweed River Art Gallery in Murwillumbah.

Trent Parke won the acquisitive prize for his work ‘Candid portrait of a woman on a street corner’, described by the judge as a ‘very unusual work, the subject isn’t immediately visible and so our notions of portraiture are challenged’.

The judge, Helen Ennis, who is head of the School of Art at the Australian National University, said she was delighted to judge the Olive Cotton Award, having a particular connection to Olive, as her biographer.

Ms Ennis said that in Parke’s portrait ‘the viewer is invited to actively work with the image in order for the face of this unknown woman to become apparent’.

Award co-ordinator Anouk Beck said the photographer was elated at the news ‘and to receive an award for this work marks a new direction for him and his first foray into portraiture’.

Parke was the first Australian to join the prestigious Magnum Photos Collective.

The gallery foyer was filled by photographers, award entrants and art enthusiasts eager to hear who had won this year’s prestigious award.

The exhibition features the work of 91 finalists from all Australian states and territories, and includes 19 photographers from the NSW northern rivers, Gold Coast and Brisbane area.

It features entries from emerging and established photographers selected from 381 entries Australia-wide.

The award is funded by Olive Cotton’s family in memory of one of Australia’s leading 20th century photographers.

In deciding the winner, Ms Ennis shortlisted a selection of works awarding four Highly Commended awards to works which held her attention due to the ‘clarity of the photographers’ approaches to portraiture and the different kinds of relationships they had with their subjects’.

These awards were made to:

Petrina Hicks of Sydney for Ornament – ‘a haunting image of a young woman from another realm, rendered in muted colour’.

Tamara Dean of Sydney for Brothers – ‘a very moody and memorable image of teenage brothers photographed in a gloomy bush setting’.

Lee Grant of Canberra for Kristy – ‘a slightly awkward portrait of a young actress who belongs emphatically to the present time’.

Narelle Munro of Sydney for David – ‘a very sympathetic close-up portrait of the New York-based Australian artist David Rankin’.

Through the generosity of the Friends of the Gallery, gallery director Susi Muddiman selected four works for purchase for the gallery’s permanent collection.

Her selections were: Self portrait with cactus and telephone 2013 by Raimond de Weerdt of Lismore; Bob Katter MP 2011 by Russell Shakespeare of Currumbin; Barry Jones and the ancestor 2012 by Imogen Hall of Melbourne; and Noah 2013, a portrait of actor Noah Taylor by Sahlan Hayes of Kangaloon and Sydney.

Upcoming events

On Sunday 15 September at 11am, Dr Doug Spowart will present a floor talk on the Olive Cotton Award 2013 exhibition.

Spowart’s reviews have been published in publications such as Art Monthly and the popular magazine Better Photography. All are welcome to attend.

At 1pm on Sunday 15 September Dr Spowart and Dr Victoria Cooper will be discussing The Artist and Social Media – making connections and making art.

Drs Cooper and Spowart are interdisciplinary visual artists who have adopted social media and blogs as a medium and integral part of their contemporary arts practice.

Using social media platforms they post reviews, profiles, opinions and collected writing about issues in the broader arts community which are then accessible and invite dialogue from a wide online community.

Both have lectured nationally and their work has been acquired for the artists’ books, rare book and manuscript collections in Artspace Mackay, State Libraries of Queensland and Victoria, the National Library of Australia and in the Carleton College Collection in the USA.

Complementing the 2013 Award is the ABC Open digital exhibition 100 Faces, the best of ABC Open’s Snapped: Faces.

This is a small selection from over 1000 portraits, captured by amateur and professional photographers throughout regional Australia, for the ABC Open June photography challenge Snapped: Faces.

The exhibition continues until Sunday 29 September. The gallery and gallery cafe are open Wednesday to Sunday 10am-5pm.

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