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.

The soup is in place! by Ben Blick-Hodge.
While recovering from the floods in Lismore, I helped clean a friend’s house. In all the flooded objects, we encountered a carousel of family slides. I offered to take them and restore whatever I could. Through the process of scanning, retouching and restoring the images, I came across this image, deciding to leave it in the poetic state in which I found it. 35mm slide recovered during the 2022 Lismore floods by Claire Conroy.
‘Moth’ is from the SMOTHER series, a reinterpretation of the life of Lady Bushranger Jessie Hickman (1890-1936) who adopted roles and disguises as a young circus performer and later as a bushranger. By photographing the people of Kandos in places frequented by Hickman, I reveal his elusive identities in historical context, where women move like ghosts through the archives with ever-changing names and roles. Just like the mysterious in-camera double exposures emerging from negatives in a darkroom. “Smother” is circus lingo for a disguise. Exploring identity, the mythology of bushranging and the unseen history of women, these images pay homage to the solitary and camouflaged figure of Hickman. Butterfly by Julie Williams.
River, Mud & Silver Studded Boots are part of a larger Light Drawings project. This project began in response to the lockdown period in 2021 and continued through 2022. Each unique chemigram originally created on silver gelatin paper encapsulates ideas of chance and uncertainty, a expression of the unknown and of what was felt during this period.
This work is also inspired by personal stories, growing up in rural Australia in the late 80s and early 90s, the blending of textures and imprints of the landscape with the contrasting embrace of punk fashion at the time. River, Mud & Silver studded boots by Simone Darcy.
All over the Sydney area there are deep water sights. The movement of water is often reflected in splashes of light and drifts of fast-moving patterns on buildings. The early evening lights and the lights of small boats are reflected in the deep water, taking on a magical velvet.
City windows reflect passing people and cares, vibrant images or colors, indeterminate shapes and chaotic patterns. So busy. In the city everywhere, the structure of the city predominates.
Nocturnal City-ness #1 by Lyndall Gerlach.

Comments are closed.