National Photographic Portrait Prize 2013

Susan Sontag once said “All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”

Janelle Low, winner of this year’s National Photographic Portrait Prize, with her photograph Yhonnie and Indiana 2012, describes her photo as being “for anyone who has ever loved and lost a pet.” It is a tender portrait of her friend, aboriginal glass artist Yhonnie Scarce, and her beloved cat Indiana. According to Janelle, “When Indiana’s health took a turn for the worse, just short of her 19th birthday, Yhonnie made a personal request that I capture a portrait of them together. Unfortunately it was only a couple of days after I took the portrait that Yhonnie had to make the decision to put [Indiana] down.”

Low said that the picture was not composed, but was “organic”, and that the fine green vessel was the 18 year old cat’s regular food bowl.

National Photographic Portrait Prize curator and judge Joanna Gilmore, who grew up in the Blue Mountains and who gave a floortalk at the opening of the exhibition at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre last night, has described the work as “a tiny photograph that punches above its weight”. It is a “very resonant little photograph about love and death and loss and attachment, and all these sorts of things we can relate to.”

Having won the prestigious $25,000 prize, one of the first things Janelle wants to do is take images of her elderly grandmother, Nellie Beng, who lives in Singapore. “She is a wonderful grandmother and a dear person and I am keen to have images of her.”

The Blue Mountains Cultural Centre is the first stop on the National Tour of the exhibition. The 53 photographs that are touring were selected from a national field in excess of 1,000 entries and the exhibition will be on display until the 11th August.

One of the photographers who attended the exhibition opening in Katoomba last night was Daniel Arnaldi … here he is being photographed by his partner in front of his image of Wyatt – a swimmer setting himself the challenge of swimming the English channel and acclimatising himself in a pool of water at 12 degrees celsius as part of his training.