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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

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The National Photographic Portrait Prize: 2021 Living Memory

1 September 2020

National Portrait Gallery (NPG) Director Karen Quinlan AM announces significant changes to the 2021 edition of the popular annual photographic prize exhibition, including a larger, longer exhibition, themed to reflect our experience of events that have occurred in this historic year.

“The National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP) is known for capturing the uniquely Australian experience and spirit in any given year, and this year has been extraordinary. We want to mark this important period in our history with a special edition of the NPPP,” Ms Quinlan said.

“For the first time in the history of the NPPP, we are inviting photographers to consider the concept of Living Memory with a special focus on 2020. 

It would be fair to say that the vast majority of us have never experienced the events, change and upheaval in our lifetime as we have experienced during this unprecedented year.  

The Gallery is looking forward to seeing works submitted that capture the small and large, the everyday and the extraordinary moments and experiences of Australians brought about by events this year – from global impacts to local resonances. 

The isolation, constant change, and also the resilience and strength we’ve seen in our communities despite the difficulties and challenges posed by these events are elements we are sure we will see expressed through the lens,” Ms Quinlan said.

Ms Quinlan said changes to the 2021 NPPP exhibition also acknowledge and respond to the impacts the pandemic has had on the creative community. The call for entries has been extended and opens 1 December, and when the exhibition opens in late July next year, it will be significantly larger, allowing more artists to be included in this long-running national event.

“The NPPP is extremely popular and also important – a way artists can have their work shown in a national gallery, alongside their peers. This year, we have increased the exhibition space in order to extend this opportunity to more artists, and for the first time we are also offering all finalists a supporting payment to contribute to the cost of participating, such as framing and freight,” Ms Quinlan said.

“We will also extend the duration of the exhibition, to allow for more people to visit. As is our usual practice, all finalists’ works will be included on our website.”

A stalwart of the NPG’s annual calendar, the NPPP offers substantial cash and equipment prizes for professional, amateur and aspiring Australian photographers. The 2021 edition will offer the four usual prizes, including the Winning Prize, Highly Commended and the Art Handlers and People’s Choice Awards. Additionally in 2021, the Gallery will be offering a professional development opportunity to an emerging photographer.

“We hope that this special edition of the NPPP will offer a powerful and historic visual record of the year that was, and will capture the unique ways in which we as individuals, and as a nation, responded to it,” Ms Quinlan said.

Key dates for NPPP 2021 – Living Memory
Call for entries: 1 December 2020 – 2 March 2021
Finalists announced: 2 April 2021
NPPP winner announced: 30 July 2021
Exhibition opens 31 July and closes 7 November 2021

Related information

Drought story, 2020 Joel B. Pratley
Drought story, 2020 Joel B. Pratley
Drought story, 2020 Joel B. Pratley
Drought story, 2020 Joel B. Pratley

Living Memory

National Photographic Portrait Prize

Current exhibition

Currently closed

The exhibition is selected from a national field of entries, reflecting the distinctive vision of Australia's aspiring and professional portrait photographers and the unique nature of their subjects.

Portrait of Minika, 2013 by Grace Costa
Portrait of Minika, 2013 by Grace Costa
Portrait of Minika, 2013 by Grace Costa
Portrait of Minika, 2013 by Grace Costa

Portrait Photography - How to Pose Everyday People

with Grace Costa: Photographic Artist

1:00pm, Sat 15 Jan

Join photographer Grace Costa in the Gallery as she shares practical portrait-posing skills for beginner or mid-career photographers.

© Forough Yavari
© Forough Yavari
© Forough Yavari
© Forough Yavari

Fine art portraiture: from concept to execution

with Forough Yavari

10:30am, Sat 5 Feb

Join award-winning photographer Forough Yavari on a journey to learn how to create intricate, gallery-style fine art portraits from scratch.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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