Atong Atem is an Ethiopian born, South Sudanese artist and writer living in Narrm, Melbourne.
Atem’s work explores the inherent intimacy of portraiture and photography as well as the role photographers take as story tellers. Atem interrogates photography as a framework for looking at the world and positioning people in it. She takes framing into a fantastical direction with the small portals over the subjects’ faces, inviting the viewer to look at them through a surreal and constructed lens.
Atem references the works of photographers Malick Sidibe, Philip Kwame Apagya and Seydou Keita to create a visual representation of a relationship to culture. She works primarily with photography and video to explore migrant narratives and postcolonial practices in the African diaspora, the relationship between public and private spaces and the exploration of home and identity through portraiture.
Atem has exhibited her work across Australia, including National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of New South Wales, National Portrait Gallery, Immigration Museum, Gertrude Contemporary, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and Internationally at Tate Modern, Photo London 2023, Photo Basel 2022, Red Hook Labs in New York and Vogue Fashion Fair in Milan. Atem was the recipient of the inaugural La Prairie Art Award from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the 15 Artists 2022 prize from Moreton Bay Council in 2022, National Gallery of Victoria and MECCA M-Power scholarship in 2017 as well as the Brisbane Powerhouse Melt Portrait Prize in 2016.
Atong Atem's 'Henna 6', digital photograph from her series, Banksia.