A desire to take up a residency on the South Coast has helped Canberran Ian Skinner take out the 2021 Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize.
The photographer - who was finalist in last year's competition, which was taken out by Canberran Judy Parker - was awarded the $10,000 prize for his work Ashscapes 01-04.
The work - which is made up of four panels - is a response to the 2019-20 bushfires and the damage that they caused.
"In many ways this work came out of a desire to work 'in residence' on the south coast of New South Wales - and I have to thank my sisters-in-law for helping make that happen. On several occasions," Skinner said on social media when learning of the win.
"The arrival and impact of fire was an unexpected contributor to my deliberations here - and I recall at the time pondering about how to respond to the disaster without being cliched or exploitative.
"The ocean delivered ash to the sandy edge of the land and all I had to do was see."
Skinner also expressed delight that his good friend Ian Terry of Hobart was awarded a runner-up prize for his "sublime work", part of a project exploring the impact of the travels of George Augustus Robinson in Van Diemen's Land.
As with previous Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize winning images, the framed print of Skinner's winning work has been acquired by Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre for its permanent collection of post-war contemporary paintings, ceramics and photography.
The concept statement for Skinner's winning image read, "The catastrophic fires in south-eastern Australia in 2019-2020 were shortly followed by torrential rain.
"The rivers and creeks disgorged vast quantities of debris from the conflagration into the ocean so that the waves turned grey with ash, and convulsed with charred remnants.
"Where the gentler waves reached their zenith on the beaches, small flecks of carbonised vegetation rested in ephemeral patterns suggesting the hills, ridges and valleys of their living selves."
Skinner has been described as an observational photographer who moves through various landscapes and situations forever seeking visual opportunities to fix with the framed eye.
His earlier working life in architecture continues to drive an interest in the built environment, often exploring its interface with the natural world.
Given his first camera for his 10th birthday, Skinner quickly sensed that photographic image making had a purpose beyond its important documentary tool use.
In the early 1980s his work on the conservation of its south-west wilderness took him to Tasmania, where the influence of the pictorial Truchanas/Dombrovskis school shaped his early approaches to landscape photography.
All the works in the 2021 Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize exhibition can be seen in at a-p-s.org.au.
- Brian Rope is on the management team for the Mullins Conceptual Photography Prize.
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