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Alana Holmberg wins 2019 Portrait Prize

Melbourne documentary photographer, Alana Holmberg, has won the 2019 National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP) for her photo Greta in Her Kitchen, 36 weeks.

Alana Holmberg’s portrait, Greta in Her Kitchen, 36 weeks

Alana documented her sister’s pregnancy last summer as part of a larger photobook project, with her winning frame captured during a photo shoot break when Greta went for a glass of water.

‘I spotted that incredible light coming through the windows – so I quickly set up … [I got] about four frames,’ Alana told ABC. ‘I got the film back and I couldn’t believe that frame; it brought so many different elements into one single image.

Alana, a finalist in last year’s NPPP, has won a $30,000 cash prize and $22,000 worth of photography gear.

‘This unconventional portrait is quiet and contemplative,’ said National Portrait Gallery senior curator, Dr Christopher Chapman. ‘The judges agreed that a compelling portrait photograph could be one that conveys a reflective moment experienced by many. The quality of light, the composition of the image and the subtle communication of the narrative combine to create an inner world. The judges agreed that this is a joyous family portrait.’

Alana has worked across the Asia-Pacific region with non-profit charity organisations, covering issues like climate change, conflict, gender equality, food security, and health.

She says that on a personal level, her winning image represents a shift back to documenting matters that are linked to her experience and place in the world.

‘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,’ Alana wrote. ‘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.’

Sydney-based portrait photographer, Alex Vaughan, received the Highly Commended award for her image, Sumbawa Pride – Life on a Boat With Eleven Kids.

Alex Vaughan’s portrait, Sumbawa Pride – Life on a Boat With Eleven Kids

The $2000 Art Handlers’ Award was won by Perth photographer Elizabeth Looker for her portrait, A Calm So Deep. (below)

NPPP 2019 was jury panel consisted of Dr Christopher Chapman, photographer Hoda Afshar, and National Gallery of Australia curator of photography, Annie O’Hehir.

The National Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 exhibition is open until Sunday April 7, after which it will tour around Australia.

The exhibition showcases the 40 finalists that were selected from more than 3,000 entries, and votes are currently open for the People’s Choice Awards.

Elizabeth Looker’s portrait, A Calm So Deep.

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