Debra Phillips awarded National Photography Prize 2020

31 May 2020

Sydney based artist Debra Phillips is the recipient of the prestigious Murray Art Museum Albury National Photography Prize 2020.

Debra Phillips has been awarded a cash prize of $30,000 for her work The Good. The Just. The Beautiful.

Photographer Hayley Millar-Baker is the recipient of the John and Margaret Baker Memorial Fellowship and will receive a cash prize of $5,000 for her work, A Series of Unwarranted Events, 2018.

The biennial prize has been judged by Elias Redstone, Artistic Director, PHOTO 2021.

Elias Redstone said ‘The Good. The Just. The Beautiful is incredibly compelling; its passionate about the subject matter and the role photography plays in the world today.  This photographic project looks at how knowledge systems are used in the world and how they are shifting from a physical world to a digital one.  This is a beautiful study of understanding how we come to control the world through measurements and how that can be visualised in a photographic project.’

The Good. The Just. The Beautiful, a series by Debra Phillips

Debra Phillips, The Good. The Just. The Beautiful. 2017. MAMA Installation View, National Photography Prize 2020. Photo: Jeremy Weihrauch.

Bree Pickering, Director, Murray Art Museum Albury said ‘This series exemplifies both the technical precision and conceptual depth of Debra’s practice. She is an extraordinary artist and we are thrilled to acquire these works into the MAMA collection.’

Debra Phillips is an artist who works primarily in photography. Phillips is interested in charting knowledge systems and instances of natural and man-made patterns of order.

The Good. The Just. The Beautiful.was instigated during a visit to the National Metrology Institute of Germany to observe the processes of manufacturing a perfect silicon sphere, as part of the international Avogadro Project.

The Avogadro Project aims to determine a new standard definition for the kilogram based on data instead of on a physical object. The objects in these works are associated with the production of the perfect silicon sphere; silicon offset from the production process, a glass ring used in the polishing process and a digital 3D printed model produced to calculate sphere diameter topographies. Each element focuses our attention to moments when knowledge systems, including measurement, collide with material objects, presenting us with new ways of conceiving the world.

The selection panel for this year’s Prize included Isobel Parker Philip, Senior Curator Contemporary Australian Art at Art Gallery of NSW, Michael Moran MAMA Curator, and Amanda Williams, recipient of the National Photography Prize 2018.

Two black and white images

Hayley Millar-Baker, A Series of Unwarranted Events, 2018, MAMA Installation View. Photo: Jeremy Weihrauch

Bringing together the best photographic practice from across Australia, all 12 finalists’ work has been exhibited physically at MAMA since 21 February and online during the pandemic closure. The museum reopens on 1 June, with Exhibition of Finalists extended until 14 June 2020.

The finalists included: Anthea Behm, Danica Chappell, Elise Harmsen, Ali McCann, Hayley Millar-Baker, Kent Morris, Sarah Mosca, Phuong Ngo, Lillian O’Neil, Emma Phillips, Debra Phillips, and Justine Varga.

See all the finalists work online or visit the exhibition online in our Virtual Tour.

The National Photography Prize is a biennial prize supported by the MAMA Art Foundation with a $30,000 first prize. As the oldest acquisitive photography prize in Australia, it has been instrumental in building MAMA’s strong photography collection.