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James ‘Frank’ Hurley was an Australian photographer, film maker and author who created some of the most striking photographs of adventure and exploration ever taken.

Perhaps best known for his Antarctic work with Douglas Mawson and Ernest Shackleton, he was also an accomplished wartime photographer who conveyed the grim horrors of trench warfare in WW1 and documented the campaigns of the Australian Imperial Force in the Middle East during WW2. His immoderate bravery, larrikin spirit and mad pursuit of perfection ruffled many feathers over the course of a long career, but he was willing to go to almost any lengths to capture the images he wanted.

Frank Hurley was a storyteller and an artist well ahead of his time. His career spanned the period from the Kodak Brownie and silent film to Kodachrome and Technicolour travelogues. His use of constructed images (that, is multiple images superimposed to create dramatic effect) was seen as controversial, but it was an early sign of how determined Hurley would be to create emotion and drama, using photography as his toolbox.

Hurley can also be seen as an early practitioner of what Hunter S. Thompson would much later call ‘gonzo journalism’, that being an art form in which the artist is a participant in the story, often telling it in the first person. There’s no argument but that Hurley did this: throwing himself into battle, onto the ice, up in airplanes or into the jungle to bring back the experience of being there to the rest of us. He used photography to tell his stories and has left us with some of the most famous images of the early 20th century.

The Frank Hurley Photography Awards exists to celebrate that legacy and to seek out contemporary photographers who can harness the power of the camera in the way that Frank Hurley made unforgettable.

In five categories, judged by a panel of highly qualified professionals, we will offer substantial prizes and for one overall winner, the trip of a photographic lifetime to Antarctica with Chimu Adventures.

Conserving Australia’s Antarctic Heritage

The Frank Hurley Photography Awards is organised and presented by the Mawson’s Huts Foundation Ltd., a registered not for profit charity established in 1997 dedicated to conserving Australia’s most isolated heritage property, the original expedition huts of 1911-14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE). Situated at Cape Denison in East Antarctica, the buildings, now known as Mawson’s Huts were built by the expedition team and used as their main base for two years. Led by Dr Douglas Mawson (who was later knighted), the team included the 26-year old Frank Hurley as the official photographer, who operated from a tiny 1.2m2 darkroom within the main hut.

The huts are regarded as the birthplace of Australia’s Antarctic heritage and hold a unique place in Australian history. They are of national and international heritage significance, being one of only six remaining sites from the “heroic era” of Antarctic exploration (1898 to 1916), and are also the only surviving site from an Australian Antarctic expedition during that period.

The competition honours the bravery and determination of those expeditioners and the remarkable resilience of their pre-fabricated buildings, which still stand after 109 years. The Foundation works in partnership with the Australian Antarctic Division and the Heritage Division of the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, to conserve the buildings, in one of the most extreme environments on Earth.

Since 1997, the Foundation has funded and organised 16 major expeditions to the site. A further expedition is planned for the summer of 2020-21 with the assistance of a Federal Government grant for buildings on the National Heritage List.

Net proceeds from the Frank Hurley Photography Awards will go to supporting this vital work, helping to conserve Australia’s Antarctic heritage for generations still to come.

The Mawson’s Huts Foundation

Like so many individuals, businesses and organisations, the Foundation has also been adversely affected by COVID-19. It is the Foundation’s hope, with its links to Sir Douglas Mawson and the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, which at its core honours strength in one of the most extreme and adverse environments on earth, will be embraced by the creative community – one of the most adversely affected industries of the pandemic. As a sign of our deep gratitude we are offering valuable prizes, afforded by our generous sponsors & partners, to celebrate and acknowledge the invaluable contribution that the creative community make to our lives, everyday.

The Foundation’s vision – to inspire current and future generations, by conserving and communicating the legacy of Sir Douglas Mawson’s expeditions, other Antarctic pioneers and Australia’s Antarctic heritage – requires adjunct, educational, tourist destinations and events to ensure the success of its endeavours.


The perfect way to support the work of the Foundation through various membership & sponsorship options.


The Foundation also built and operates the award winning Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum. Located on the Hobart waterfront, the museum is a full scale copy of the original main building at Cape Denison in East Antarctica. The Mawson Gallery, which hosts the work of local artists and artisans, along with a plethora of books and souvenirs is next door to the Replica Museum.


The Foundation also initiated and organises the Australian Antarctic Festival, held in Hobart every two years to promote the legacy of Sir Douglas Mawson and highlight the city’s Antarctic heritage through a fascinating program of Antarctic science and discovery.

The Antarctic Environmental Science and Sustainability Bus

Bringing Antarctica to the classroom!

Antarctica holds the key to understanding Earth’s past climate and is crucial in understanding its future. The Foundation’s Mobile Antarctic Classroom tours around Australia, helping students and teachers foster an interest and understanding of Environmental Science.

About the Awards Team















DANIEL Berehulak



As promoters of the Frank Hurley Photography Awards, we first consulted members of Frank Hurley’s family to ask permission to use the Australian photographer’s name and biography. We were delighted to receive responses from Hurley’s granddaughter, Julia Byrnes and from his great-granddaughter Felicity ‘Flip’ Byrnes, herself a noted photographer and adventurer. We were also pleased to receive an endorsement from Hurley’s most accomplished biographer, Alasdair McGregor, in addition to generous and enthusiastic support from the Mawson family.

My grandfather would have been surprised but really happy to think an international photographic competition was named after him. He was very modest and unassuming, never sought publicity personally but was happy that his photographs and documentaries not only gave pleasure to people but recorded history.

Frank was always striving for perfection and loved to experiment with new techniques he felt could improve his work. He became a master at super imposing images—moving clouds and overlaying images from another of his photographs. He probably pioneered what is now known as photo-shop.

He enjoyed the challenges that were thrown at him during a remarkable life of exploration, making documentaries and recording some of the greatest happenings of the 20th century.

The Hurley family is immensely proud of Frank’s achievements and his well-deserved place in history. We wholeheartedly support the Mawson’s Huts Foundation’s initiative in naming a photographic competition after him.

We wish the Frank Hurley Photography Awards every success and hope they help to conserve the Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison, East Antarctica, where my grandfather truly began his extraordinary life behind a camera.

Julie Byrnes


What an honour, and this competition could not be launched at a more appropriate moment. Recent times have been uncertain and if there was ever a photographer who embraced uncertainty and ploughed headfirst into the unknown, it was Frank Hurley. It wasn’t merely a lust for exploration, it was due to his passion and hunger to capture the perfect picture. And what is the perfect picture? It’s storytelling, evokes emotion, and going beyond to get the shot. As he wrote in his darkroom in Mawson’s Hut, “near enough isn’t good enough.”

All photographers are explorers, capturing the zeitgeist so it can be shared by others, to keep pace with and chronicle the beautiful, and sometimes ugly world around us, as Frank did from Antarctica to war fields. Technically genius, creatively wired, unashamedly rigged to his passion and unstoppable in his endeavours, he thought outside the square in both angles and technique. His first use of composite photos to accurately convey war reality (one bomb wasn’t enough) was criticised, but now acknowledged as an early Photoshop.

Current obstacles may not be actual icebergs or WWII bombs, but photographers still require endurance to persevere at their craft, bravery in trying new things and a lust to bring to people the outside world and encourage them to explore in both big and little ways. And a good dollop of self-belief that they’re on the right path.

The Frank Hurley Photography Awards, in their breadth of criteria and categories embody so much of who Hurley was and we are excited to see the entries they inspire. Crucially, this is a fantastic competition to conserve the Mawson’s Huts at Cape Denison, East Antarctica, so that our generation can preserve not only our Antarctic heritage, but the history of pioneers, like Frank, who never gave up.

Flip Byrnes


Frank Hurley – photographer, filmmaker, writer and adventurer – was a remarkable Australian, perhaps most famous for his photographs of Antarctica, and of his countrymen in two world wars. From the early 1900s until his death in 1962, Hurley chronicled many of the major events of the twentieth century, and Australia’s achievements both overseas and at home. He relentlessly pursued adventures as a pioneering documentary filmmaker, early aviator, and story-seeker in both the natural world and among rapidly changing non-western cultures.

As a photographer, Hurley’s eye was always focused on the dramatic. At times controversial in his uncompromising approach to visual storytelling, Hurley had little regard for authority, be it in the person of a colonial administrator or a military bigwig. He ran his own race, and in his own words, ‘took risks and never regretted them’, all in pursuit of what he deemed the ‘perfect picture’. One could always argue over the finer points of artistic merit of Hurley’s work, but his tireless pursuit of visual perfection undeniably made for one extraordinary life.

Inspired by the themes of adventure, polar travel, natural history, landscape, and the fashioning of the visual image in pursuit of artistic expression, I feel confident that the Frank Hurley Photographic Prize will do much to honour his legacy.

Alasdair McGregor

NLA PUBLISHING, 2019. ISBN 9780642279330


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