Winner of $30,000 Bowness Prize revealed
Melbourne-based, Iranian-born artist, Hoda Afshar has been named the winner of the $30,000 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize for her photograph, Portrait of Behrouz Boochani, Manus Island (2018). The image was selected from 50 finalists whose work reflect the diversity and depth of photographic practice in Australia by the judging panel which included Dr Michael Brand, Director of the Art Gallery of NSW; Melbourne-based artist, Dr David Rosetzky; and Anouska Phizacklea, Monash Gallery of Art Director. The judges were unanimous in their decision.
"Winning the Bowness Photography Prize with this portrait of Behrouz Boochani is not only a glorious moment in my career as an artist, but also a confirmation of the trust that I have always placed in the power of art to change the world through changing the way we see it,” Afshar said. “I hope that winning this prize will contribute, in some way, to redrawing the lines that divide us and those who have been placed outside the safe borders of our human community.”
Anouska Phizacklea commented that “Afshar’s portrait of Behrouz Boochani is compelling and powerful. It is a haunting portrait that speaks to the history of photography.” Brand said that the portrait is a great work of art, and further that it “doesn’t just preserve the dignity of the subject, but shows the viewer what has happened to this person, how this person has gone from being a writer and film maker to becoming a refugee, and what that has done to him as an individual.”
Behrouz is a Kurdish-Iranian journalist, writer and filmmaker. He fled Iran in 2013 seeking asylum, and arrived on the shores of Australia on his thirtieth birthday – four days after the Rudd Government announced its offshore detention plan.
I sent this portrait to Behrouz after I returned from Manus in April 2018, and called him. I said, this is you, Behrouz, with your passion, your fire, and your writer’s hands. It symbolises your resistance. He heard this, and paused. You are right, he said. But I do not see myself in this picture. I only see a refugee. Someone whose identity has been taken from him. A bare life, standing there beyond the borders of Australia, waiting and staring. He fell silent, then said … This image scares me.
About the artist
Hoda Afshar (b. 1983) is a Melbourne-based artist from Tehran, Iran. She has a Bachelor degree in Fine Art–Photography from Tehran and is currently completing a PhD in Creative Arts at Curtin University, Perth. She contributes regularly to academic and art journals, and lectures at Photography Studies College, Melbourne.
In 2006, World Press Photo selected Afshar as one of the top ten young documentary photographers in Iran. Since moving to Australia in 2007 her work has been exhibited widely both locally and internationally and published online and in print.
In 2015, she won Australia’s National Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery. Afshar has been shortlisted for many prestigious prizes and was a finalist in last year’s Bowness Photography prize for a work from her internationally recognised series, Behold. She has most recently joined Eleven, a new collective of contemporary Muslim-Australian artists and thinkers whose aim is to disrupt current politics of representation and hegemonic discourses around Islam and Islamic identities.
Hoda Afshar’s photographic practice sits knowingly between conceptual, staged and documentary photography, and often reflects on questions of representation, displacement, gender and identity politics.
Three photographers – Shelley Horan, Darren Sylvester and Cyrus Tang – were the recipients of the 2018 Colour Factory Honourable Mentions.
An exhibition of all finalists is on display at MGA until 18 November 2018. Gallery visitors are encouraged to vote for their own favourite in the Sotheby’s Australia People’s Choice Award with the artist of the winning image receiving $2,500.
Hoda Afshar, Robert Ashton, Sofi Basseghi, Alison Bennett, Devika Bilimoria, Tom Blachford, Aaron Bradbrook, Danica Chappell, Rowan Conroy, Michael Cook, Tamara Dean, Marian Drew, Amos Gebhardt, John Gollings, Linsey Gosper, Lee Grant, Janina Green, Ponch Hawkes, Hego , Petrina Hicks, Shelley Horan, Leah King-Smith, Katrin Koenning, Sandra Lamonaca, Mathew Lynn, Kirsten Lyttle, Isobel Markus-Dunworth, Ben McGee, Joseph McGlennon, Rod McNicol, Jacqueline Mitelman, Nasim Nasr, Polixeni Papapetrou, Matthew Portch, Clare Rae, Julie Rrap, Melissa Spiccia, Nathan Stolz, Natalya Stone, Ian Strange, Darren Sylvester, Samuel Szwarcbord, Cyrus Tang, Di Tang, Natalie Tirant, Justine Varga, James Verdon, Martin Walch, Amanda Williams, and Anne Zahalka.
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