Q&A with Amanda Williams: National Photography Prize 2018 winner and panelist


Amanda Williams is a Sydney-based artist known for her work that examines the history of landscape photography and architectural modernism. In 2018 Amanda won the National Photography Prize and now a selection panelist for the 2020 Prize. We spoke to Amanda about how winning the 2018 Prize impacted her career and what she's working on next.

Please tell us about yourself, your practice and what you’re currently working on.

I am based in Sydney however due to the fact my work develops directly through travel and related research, I am often out of Sydney on road trips across NSW and beyond. My work delves into the history of photography, accessing photographic archives, referencing key practitioners, processes and materialities fundamental to photography. I have just completed the first 20 gelatin silver photographs in a planned series of 220 photographs, appropriating the work of American landscape photographer Ansel Adams. I am also researching and photographing the Victorian high plains landscape at the moment. In particular I am focused on early and mid 20th century concrete dam infrastructure, and estivation (hibernation) sites of the bogong moth.

Amanda Williams, Cooleman Plain Karst, Kosciuszko National Park (know who you are at every age), 2017-2018.

Why is the National Photography Prize important for elevating photography in contemporary art in Australia?

The National Photography Prize is unique in Australia because it allows finalists to develop a small body of work for the award exhibition. This enables artists to draw upon the depth within their practice and shine conceptually and materially. The National Photography Prize exhibition allows for an expanded view of photography. It is not simply an exhibition of photographs, it is an exhibition of contemporary art that utilises photography in some way. I believe this is incredibly important and absolutely elevates the practice of photography in contemporary art in Australia today.

How has being the 2018 National Photography Prize winner positively impacted your practice and career?

Winning the 2018 National Photography Prize has been an incredible career highlight for me. It was the first time I had been recognised nationally and rewarded financially in such a generous way, allowing me to work solidly without the usual financial pressures. It also elevated my profile as an artist and opened doors to a new network of curators, galleries and fellow artists.

Isobel Parker Philip, judge, with 2018 winner Amanda Williams. Photo by Jules Boag.

What excites you the most about being a panelist in the 2019 National Photography Prize?

I am excited and equally humbled by the special opportunity I have to view the full range of submissions the prize will attract. It’s an opportunity to catch a glimpse of where photography is at today. I am hoping to be surprised, discover the work of artists unknown to me and gain deeper insight into the work of artists I may already be familiar with. Seriously exciting!

Applications for the 2020 National Photography Prize close on 14 October 2019.

Founding Partners
  • Bowness Family Foundation
  • Naomi Milgrom Foundation
Major Government Partners
  • City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program
  • Creative Victoria
Major Partners
  • Maddocks

PHOTO Australia respectfully acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands upon which we work and live, and the rich and diverse Indigenous cultures across what is now called Australia. For over 60,000 years, Indigenous arts and culture have thrived on this sacred land, and we honour Elders and cultural leaders past and present. This was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.

01–24 March