Established in 2006, the Bowness Photography Prize has quickly become Australia’s premier photography prize. Presented by the Monash Gallery of Art (MGA) and an initiative of the MGA Foundation, it aims to shift our focus on photography as a medium, pushing its boundaries and supporting artists working in this vibrant contemporary practice.
What perhaps differentiates this award from others is that it is extremely open: there are no size restrictions for entries; no thematic restrictions, no rigid genres, and brings together those new to the medium alongside established artists who are shaping photography today.
MGA director Anouska Phizacklea told ArtsHub: “It’s such a vital art form, and the more profile photography is reaching mainstream audiences, showing how powerful and integral it is in everyday life and as a means of communicating the topics that shape our lives”. , the best.’
As permanent judge of the award, Phizacklea said the award is an anchor for the gallery’s annual program.
“There are many prizes out there, but the bonus of the Bowness Photography Prize is that it seeks to continue to engage with artists, not just with acquisitions for our collection, but through the Wai Tang Commissioning Award.”
As a participant in the award, you can be up for the Major Acquisition Prize of $30,000, a generous People’s Choice Award of $5,000, and the Wai Tang Commissioning Prize of $10,000 to develop a new body of works.
The advantages of entering
Quite simply the best benefit of any award is getting your work seen.
“The works are placed in front of us and as a collecting institution we see artists that we don’t know, that we don’t see maybe because they are regional or not represented. This in turn leads to an expansion of our exhibition program,” said Phizacklea.
Every year we look at the award and ask ourselves how do we want to work with these artists, and how do we want to grow our collection for the future?
She continued, “As judges, you have to work together as a panel, to bring those hundreds of entries down to 50-60 finalists. We all have to agree on what’s going on, so there’s an element of discussion. And with different judges each year, this diversity changes the conversation and ensures that new perspectives enter the award.
“…it also means that your work is placed in front of some of the best curators, directors and photographic artists in Australia,” added Phizacklea.
She recalled that it is possible that all finalists will be part of this prize pool thanks to the generous Smith & Singer People’s Choice Award.
“It’s important at $5,000; it really impacts an artist, and people need to realize how voting for the award can really help an artist’s practice and allow their work to grow,” Phizacklea explained.
While $5,000 is amazing to win, “$30,000 is a game changer,” she continued of the main prize, “and that’s a lot for an artist!
She added that while such wins get work done, they also allow time and space to stop, “something they can’t otherwise manage financially.”
In addition to wins on the table, the Wai Tang commissioning award is a golden professional development opportunity for a photographer, at any stage of their career.
The MGA curatorial team will nominate four artists from the Bowness Photography Prize 2022 exhibition to be considered for the prize. One will receive a $10,000 commission to develop a body of work to exhibit at the MGA in 2023.
‘The Wai Tang Commissioning Award is really exciting! We wanted to add another element to the award that would support an artist’s practice,” Phizacklea told ArtsHub.
Wai Tang served on the board of MGA (2018-2020). Phizacklea said the commission in his name reflects “his passion for photography and contemporary art.” She witnessed the entire journey of the award with the organization. We really wanted to pay homage to that by helping an artist take the next step.
Tips for entering
Regarding the trends seen in recent years, Phizacklea said, “Obviously, works that address current issues – the psychological, the social and the environment always stand out.” She added that over the past two years, many artists have been restricted in their practice.
“They couldn’t do things they usually did, such as working with live photo models, or lockdowns requiring them to work in domestic interiors. As a result, many experimented with other forms of photography; some returned to the darkroom, while others took digital form.
Phizacklea said he has also seen changes as technologies have evolved, helping audiences rethink what photography is today.
“We’ve seen a change in scale and scope as it’s become cheaper to do things, like large wallpaper jobs. Artists continue to embrace and adapt, and that’s key to the award,” she added.
This is where the value of the acquisitive foundation of this award comes in. Through this, MGA has amassed one of Australia’s most interesting collections of contemporary photography, as a boost for the medium.
His advice? “If you think your work is powerful and purposeful, then give it a try!”
Opening of registrations: Wednesday, May 11, 2022
Deadline for entries: 5:00 p.m. (AEST) Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Announcement of finalists: Thursday, July 28, 2022
Exhibition dates: September 29 – November 13, 2022
Prize announcement: Thursday, October 6, 2022
Prizes include: a cash prize of $30,000 for the winning entry; a $5,000 People’s Choice Award supported by Smith & Singer, and the 2023 Wai Tang Commissioning Award for exposure opportunity.
The award is open to all Australian citizens or residents working in still photography and with work created within the last 12 months.
To read the input specifications and find the answers to your questions.