Powerful storytelling: Wayne Quilliam wins National Photographic Portrait Prize


Congratulations to Wayne Quilliam for winning the 2022 National Photographic Portrait Prize for the work Silent Strength, 2021, a powerful portrait of Aurukun man Eric Yunkaporta in ceremonial head-wear.

Quilliam, a celebrated Aboriginal curator, photographer and filmmaker, likens his work as storytelling. Quilliam receives a $50,000 prize for his work—part of which he will gift to Indigenous communities across Australia. “I want to ensure that our culture is recorded and it’s shared with not only our own people but people around the world,” he says.

This year’s judges include press photographer Nick Moir alongside the National Portrait Gallery’s director of collection and exhibitions Sandra Bruce, and associate curator Rebecca Ray. The judges were struck by the compelling beauty of the work. “Everything about this portrait is exceptional,” they explain. “The composition, the contrast, the richness of the colours in the ochres and feathers, and also the sense of pride the subject is portraying—all of these layers and details carry such power in connecting the subject and his story with the audience.”

The highly commended prize was awarded to Australian-born, New York-based photographer Adam Ferguson for a black-and-white portrait of Guatemalan migrant Carlos Soyos and his eight-year-old son Enderson. As facilitated by Ferguson, the father and son are seen embracing at the El Buen Samaritano migrants shelter on the Mexican/United States border in 2021. The judges say that the partnership involved in the portrait being taken “gives the image emotional power—a moment of respite between a father and son, made even more meaningful considering one of the subjects was able to collaborate by pressing the trigger.”

Both winners and the 50 finalists are now showing at the National Portrait Gallery and will then travel to regional and rural areas next year. Bruce explains that the exhibition “offers a sweeping view across the nation’s experience, one that reminds us that our lives continue on regardless of wider circumstances.”

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2022
National Portrait Gallery (NPG)
25 June—9 October

News Words by Autumn Royal