Sammy Hawker wins the Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize
July 12, 2022
Canberra Artist Photographer, Samy Hawkerwon the 2022 Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize (MCPP) for his work, Mount Gulagaproduced using traditional photographic techniques.
Hawker captured a photo of Mount Gulaga on the NSW south coast with 4×5 film, according to his artist statement, and processed the negative with seawater collected from the site.
“When treating film with salt water, the corrosive properties lift the silver emulsion and the representative image is rendered vague,” says Hawker’s artist statement. “However, an essence of the site is introduced into the frame as the vibrant material paints its way onto the negative. A Gulaga ghost looms behind the abstraction ~ felt rather than seen.
Hawker describes her approach as exploring ‘co-creation’, whereby she processes images using natural materials from the site in an attempt ‘to interact with the more than human in the creation of the visual image’.
“The unpredictable input of more-than-human agents into the processing of the film disrupts its authorship control and shatters the permanence of the photograph,” its website states. “When working at a site, Sammy often works closely with traditional custodians, scientists, conservationists and other relevant practitioners. These collaborative engagements help him interpret quantitative and qualitative data as well as develop ecological knowledge and cultural understanding of the site.
The fourth MCPP is organized by the Australian Photographic Society (APS), an umbrella organization for Australian camera clubs. The grand prize won by Hawker is an impressive $15,000, making MCPP a major Australian photo competition.
The MCPP gives photographers carte blanche in how they create their photos. Submission of an entrant’s work may be “unrestricted”, with the only requirement being that the image has been “essentially…produced by photographic means”. The judges are looking for a work that “illustrates an abstract idea and/or an emotion”. This leads to an eclectic mix of finalist images, ranging from straight shots to images that photography purists would argue have no place in a photography competition.
Past winners have included “encaustic photographic mixed media” by Deb Gartland, as well as graphic abstract images by Judy Parker and Ian Skinner. There must be something in the water around Canberra that fuels the conceptual photographic mind, as three of the four winners come from the relatively small capital.
This year’s competition jury is made up of curator Heide Romano, contemporary NSW artist Alex Wisser and freelance photographer Bill Bachman.
An exhibition of the MCPP finalist work is on view at the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Center (RMAC) in the NSW Upper Hunter region.
Here is a selection of finalist images, with the top three honorable mentions.