Canberra photo artist, Sammy Hawker, has won the 2022 Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize (MCPP) for her work, Mount Gulaga, which was made using traditional photographic techniques.
Hawker captured a picture of Mount Gulaga on the NSW South Coast with 4×5 film, according to her artist statement, and processed the negative with ocean water collected from the site.
‘When processing film with salt water the corrosive properties lifts the silver emulsion and the representational image is rendered vague,’ Hawker’s artist statement says. ‘However, an essence of the site is introduced to the frame as the vibrant matter paints its way onto the negative. A ghost of Gulaga looms behind the abstraction ~ felt rather than seen.’
Hawker describes her approach as exploring ‘co-creation’, whereby she processes pictures by using natural materials from the site in an attempt to ‘interact with the more-than human in the creation of the visual image’.
‘The unpredictable input of more-than human agents in the processing of film disrupts her authorial control and breaks open the permanency of the photograph,’ her website states. ‘When working with a site Sammy will often work closely with Traditional Custodians, scientists, ecologists and other relevant practitioners. These collaborative engagements assist her in interpreting quantitative and qualitative data as well as developing ecological literacy and a cultural understanding of the site.’
The fourth MCPP is organised by the Australian Photographic Society (APS), an umbrella organisation for Australian camera clubs. The grand prize won by Hawker is an impressive $15,000 cash, making the MCPP a major Australian photo contest.
The MCPP provides photographers carte blanche in how they create their entries. An entrants work presentation can be ‘unrestricted’, with the only requirement is the image has been ‘substantially… produced by photographic means’. Judges are looking for a work that ‘illustrates an abstract idea and/or emotion’. This leads to an eclectic mix of finalist images, including some straight photos through to pictures which photography purists would claim has no place in a photography contest.
Previous winners have included ‘photo encaustic mixed media’ by Deb Gartland, as well as graphic abstract images by Judy Parker and Ian Skinner. There must be something in the water around Canberra that feeds the conceptual photographic mind, as three of the four winners are from the the relatively small capital city.
This year the contest jury consists of curator Heide Romano, NSW contemporary artist Alex Wisser and freelance photographer Bill Bachman.
An exhibition of the MCPP finalist work is showing at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre (MRAC) in the NSW Upper Hunter Region.
Here’s a selection of finalist images, with the top three awarded Honourable Mentions.