Ballarat International Foto Biennale announces winners of the Martin Kantor Portrait Prize & Alane Fineman New Photography Award

The Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BIFB) has announced Penelope Hunt's Finding Focus – a portrait of Australian artist and ceramist Alan Constable, the winner of the $15,000 Martin Kantor Portrait Prize. A series by Yichen Zho, Daily Talk, has received the $10,000 Alane Fineman New Photography Award. The second year of the Martin Kantor Portrait Prize, the winning image is one that is considered to be an exceptional photographic portrait of a significant, living Australian, distinguished in art, letters, science politics, or sport.

© Penelope Hunt. Finding Focus, 2019. 2019 Martin Kantor Portrait Prize.
© Penelope Hunt. Finding Focus, 2019. 2019 Martin Kantor Portrait Prize.

Judged by Susan Van Wyk (Senior Curator of photography at NGV), Max Delaney (Artistic Director at ACCA), and Pippa Milne (Senior Curator at MGA), of Hunt’s winning image, the jury said: "Alan Constable is a distinguished artist whose work has been exhibited widely nationally and internationally. Penelope Hunt’s portrait gives a strong feeling for the very tactile nature of his ceramics sculptures and drawings. The portrait is an intimate, complex representation of the subject, and its unorthodox framing and composition aligns strongly with Alan Constable’s work.

"The relationship between viewing devices (cameras and binoculars) and sight is a recurrent theme in Alan Constable’s work and life experience. The return of the photographer’s (and by extension the viewer’s) gaze is also important, as is the awareness, participation (and possibly resistance) of the subject in this process.

"We were also pleased to learn Penelope Hunt has worked with Alan Constable for over a decade, and this relationship, intimacy and understanding is apparent in the work."

This year’s shortlisted works included portraits of celebrated author Helen Garner, Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, human rights advocate and ASRC founder Kon Karapanagiodis, legendary Indigenous actor David Gulpilil, Serwah Gyekyewah Attafuah, lead singer of anti-colonial death metal band DISPOSSESSED, singer Paul Kelly, and a strikingly unconventional portrait of former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

Click here to see the gallery of finalists.

The 28 shortlisted works will be exhibited at this year’s Ballarat International Foto Biennale, a two month-long festival event that immerses the historic town of Ballarat in photographic art from August 23 – October 20. This year, the event will be headlined by an Australia-first exhibition of the work of Chinese photographer and social activist, Liu Bolin, and a career-spanning retrospective of the work of celebrated artist and Badtjala woman, Dr Fiona Foley.

© Yichen Zho. Daily Talk #1. Alane Fineman New Photography Award.
© Yichen Zho. Daily Talk #1. Alane Fineman New Photography Award.

In 2019, the BIFB launched the inaugural Alane Fineman New Photography Award. Its focus is on photographic artists working throughout the Asia Pacific region and seeks out artists whose work is beginning to receive critical attention. This year’s winner, Yichen Zhou, was born in Inner Mongolia and raised in Beijing, China. Her series, Daily Talk, is of photographs that collect daily personal thoughts, inspired by the current contradictions in Chinese society. The series includes self-portraits, street photos, performances, daily objects, and family archives.

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