After months of anticipation, the winner for the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 has been announced with renowned Sydney photographer, Gary Grealy taking out the award for his portrait of Richard Morecroft and Alison Mackay.
The three-member judging panel – which included the Gallery’s curatorial staff Dr Sarah Engledow and Penelope Grist, and guest judge, photographer George Fetting – awarded Grealy the $25,000 cash prize. Fetting said he was entranced with the evocative nature of the winning portrait.
“Gary Grealy’s portrait is a wonderful collaboration with the sitters, Richard and Alison. He has beautifully conveyed a mixture of subdued emotions in a simple, direct but captivating image,” said Mr Fetting. “For me, the contrasting facial expressions, body language and soft side lighting combine to produce a painterly quality of a time gone by. It’s a meticulous work cloaked in curiosity and intrigue, with the furtive smile to seduce the viewer.”
Richard Morecroft is a former ABC news presenter and an accomplished landscape photographer, with his work held in The Australian Parliament House Collection. Alison Mackay is a masterful painter – she has works in major collections and has been a finalist in many Australian art prizes, as well as running art workshops with numerous leading Australian artists.
Grealy believes his portrait of Morecroft and Mackay is reflective of his inspiration to pursue the field of portrait photography: “When I began making portraits of artists in the 90s, the thrill of entering the domain of creativity filled me with excitement, and I must admit a little envy at the talent I saw. I began making portraits of artists for no other reason than the love of art,” said Mr Grealy.
“The National Photographic Portrait Prize gave me a purpose to continue to make portraits of artists, gallery directors and philanthropists, and as a result my portraits have been exhibited eight times in the ten year history of the prize.”
For the first time ever, the Portrait Gallery will be awarding two finalists the title of Highly Commended: John Benavente for his portrait titled Renaissance Rose, and Brett Canet-Gibson for his portrait Mastura. George Fetting felt the two portraits were inseparable in quality, and while both are simple portraits of women looking directly to camera, they are entirely different in their style.
“John Benavente’s lovely portrait displays a teenage girl that could have been created by an old master painter of the 16th century. She exudes composure beyond her years in this monochrome image, with beguiling eyes. I am drawn back to it over and over again,” said Fetting.
“Brett Canet-Gibson’s portrait is once again deceptively simple. Photographed with natural light, it conveys a quiet confidence to the viewer. The black on black of the dress and background highlights the face and the intrigue of the slightly crooked but endearing smile.”
2017 National Photographic Portrait Prize
National Portrait Gallery, King Edward Terrace, Parkes (Canberra)
Exhibition continues to 18 June 2017
Admission fees apply
For more information, visit: www.nppp.portrait.gov.au for details.
Image: Gary Grealy, Richard Morecroft and Alison Mackay, 2016 (detail) – courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery