Sydney photographer scoops $50,000 National Photographic Portrait Prize
Sydney photographer Joel B. Pratley has been named the winner of the 2021 National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP) for his photo of a lone farmer immersed in a dust storm in drought-stricken Australia.
His image, Drought story, is a portrait of David Kalisch captured in the midst of an unexpected dust storm on his 1,000-acre farm in Forbes, NSW. Pratley said his subjects’ stance reflects the resilience of a man pushed to the limits by an unforgiving climate. “David’s composure during the storm was surreal, because he is just so used to it. For me, it was like being on Mars.”
In making their decision, judges Nick Mitzevich (National Gallery of Australia Director), Karen Quinlan AM (NPG Director), and renowned Australian photographer Bill Henson noted the haunting and surreal qualities of the portrait. “The vastness of the landscape turns farmer David Kalisch into an anonymous presence, leaving a space for us to consider our own place inside nature,” the judges noted.
Bells Beach photographer Julian Kingma won the Highly Commended prize for his portrait of a young swimmer cooling off in a storm-water drain during the 2020 Victorian lockdowns. Judges noted that the work, titled Tom at the drain, had a “beauty, stillness and calm about it. “Both portraits are atmospheric and haunting, with a quality that makes them more interesting and mesmeric with repeated viewings,” they said.
Pratley takes home $50,000 in prizes, including $30,000 in cash from the National Portrait Gallery along with $20,000 worth of photographic equipment from Canon. Julian Kingma’s Highly Commended prize is an EIZO Colour Edge CG2730 monitor valued at $4,000.
This year, the NPPP also offered two additional prizes - Distinction Awards for Lismore artist R.J Poole for his portrait, Great conjunction, and Jessica Hromas for Mark and Saskia cool off. The Distinction Awards are a new, specially tailored mentorship prize designed to continue the National Portrait Gallery’s commitment to developing and nurturing Australian portrait photography.
NPPP judges selected79 finalist works, more than double the usual amount, as a way of acknowledging the impact the pandemic has had on the creative community. “We have increased the exhibition space in order to extend this opportunity to more artists, and we have also extended the duration of the exhibition until November, so more people can see it,” Quinlan said.
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