Sydney photographer Gary Grealy has won the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 (NPPP) for a picture of former ABC presenter Richard Morecroft and painter Alison Mackay.
Grealy, who has made the final round in eight of the 10 NPPP competitions, captured a subdued portrait of the couple which shows their ‘personal and professional connections’.
‘For me, the contrasting facial expressions, body language and soft side lighting combine to produce a painterly quality of a time gone by,’ said guest judge and fellow Sydney portrait photographer, George Fetting. ‘It’s a meticulous work cloaked in curiosity and intrigue, with the furtive smile to seduce the viewer.’
Morecroft moved from being in front of the camera to behind it in the early 2000s, and is known for his vertical format landscape photography. But two decades work as a news presenter for the ABC made him a household name.
His partner, Mackay, has paintings in major collections across the country and often works alongside Morecroft to co-author books, write features for magazines, and jointly exhibit art work.
Grealy, a long-time commercial photographer who began capturing artist portraits in the ’90s, said his winning photo shows both aspects of the couple’s partnership.
‘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,’ Grealy told The Australian. ‘The National Photographic Portrait Prize gave me a [reason] to continue to make portraits of artists, gallery directors and philanthropists.’
Grealy has won $25,000 and a Profoto B1 location lighting kit.
The National Portrait Gallery also highly commended two photos.
The first went to wedding photographer John Benavente for his portrait Renaissance Rose.
Benavente, inspired to capture mood through lighting and composition characteristic of great renaissance artists’ work, used a film camera for the portrait.
Mastura by Perth photographer Brett Canet-Gibson received the second highly commended award.
It shows an Australian-born Muslim mother of three, taken on a Perth street using natural light and a portable backdrop. Mastura is a lifestyle and fashion blogger, and marketing consultant.
Judge and curator Joanna Gilmour, who along with Sarah Engledow and Fetting made up the judging panel, said the decision wasn’t unanimous but there wasn’t much debate either.
‘This year we had a lot of photographers going back to a pared-back approach, which is interesting when you think of the many opportunities photographers have to perfect production,’ she told The Australian.
There was a record 2780 entries this year. From this pool of entries are 49 finalists photos which are exhibited at the Canberra Gallery until June 17.
The public can vote for the People’s Choice award online or in person. The winner will be announced June 2.