Friday's announcement of the National Photographic Portrait Prize was unlike any other, with winner Joel B. Pratley accepting the award via Zoom.
Titled Drought story, the winning portrait is of David Kalisch captured amid an unexpected dust storm on his 1000-acre farm in Forbes, New South Wales. The Sydney photographer had travelled to the town as part of a team to capture the difficulties faced by Australian farmers.
"David's composure during the storm was surreal because he is just so used to it. For me, it was like being on Mars," Pratley said.
"I didn't think I would personally win this prize. However, I do believe in this image and I'm glad that other people do as well.
"What brought us out to Forbes originally was a job, the goal of which was to show how tough farmers were doing it and how you could donate to help. I was a very small piece of that puzzle who happened to get this photo. I was in the right place at the right time."
"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 said in a joint statement.
Joining Pratley's winning photo was Bells Beach photographer Julian Kingma for his portrait of young swimmer Tom 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.
This year's exhibition was made up of 79 works - the largest in the prize's 14-year history - as a way of acknowledging the impact the pandemic has had on the arts community. Among the finalists was Canberra Times photographer Dion Georgopoulos, who had two works up for the prize.
The gallery also offers significantly more cash and equipment prizes, and has introduced professional mentorships, personally catered to the awarded photographers, as well.
Pratley won $50,000 in prizes, including $30,000 in cash from the portrait gallery and $20,000 worth of photographic equipment from Canon. Kingma won an Eizo monitor valued at $4000.
The portrait gallery also announced new distinction awards for Lismore artist R.J. Poole for his portrait Great conjunction and Jessica Hromas for Mark and Saskia cool off. These two new awards are specially tailored mentorship prizes designed to continue the portrait gallery's commitment to developing and nurturing Australian portrait photography.
Further prizes will be announced at a later date. The exhibition runs until November 7.
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