Joel B. Pratley wins ‘Living Memory’: National Photographic Portrait Prize 2021

Congratulations to Sydney photographer Joel B. Pratley whose photo of a lone farmer immersed in a dust storm in drought-stricken Australia has won the 2021 National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP).

The winning portrait, titled Drought story (2020), is of David Kalisch captured in the midst of an unexpected dust storm on his 1000-acre farm in Forbes, New South Wales. 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.’

Joel B. Pratley, Drought story, 2020. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and National Portrait Gallery, Australian Capital Territory

In making their decision, judges Nick Mitzevich (National Gallery of Australia Director), Karen Quinlan AM (National Portrait Gallery 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.’

Julian Kingma, Tom at the drain, 2020. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and National Portrait Gallery, Australian Capital Territory

Winner of the 2021 Highly Commended prize was awarded to Bells Beach photographer Julian Kingma for his work titled Tom at the drain (2020), a portrait of a young swimmer cooling off in a storm-water drain during the 2020 Victorian lockdowns. The judges stated that the work 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 wins $50,000 in prizes, including $30,000 in cash from the NPG and the latest photographic equipment from Canon, valued at $20,000, and Julian Kingma wins an EIZO Colour Edge CG2730 Monitor valued at $4,000.

Quinlan also announced the winners of the new Distinction Award: Lismore artist R.J Poole s for for his portrait Great conjunction (2020) and Jessica Hromas for Mark and Saskia cool off  (2021). The Distinction Awards is a specially tailored mentorship prize designed to continue the National Portrait Gallery’s commitment to developing and nurturing Australian portrait photography.

R J Poole, Great conjunction, 2020. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and National Portrait Gallery, Australian Capital Territory

Quinlan highlighted the significance of the 2021 iteration of the prize, stating that the works selected for the NPPP ‘reflect the maelstrom that was late 2019 and 2020 and the darkness of a period that included wide-spread fires and a pandemic.  Fittingly, we wanted to mark this exhibition by naming it ‘Living Memory’.’

Jessica Hromas, Mark and Saskia cool off, 2021. © the artist. Courtesy the artist and National Portrait Gallery, Australian Capital Territory

View all 79 finalists’ works in ‘Living Memory: National Photographic Portrait Prize 2021’ at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra from 31 July to 7 November 2021 and/or online.

The $2,000 Art Handlers Award, thanks to IAS Fine Art Logistics, and the $5,000 People’s Choice Award, supported by the David Roche Foundation, will be announced at a later date.

Audiences, IRL and URL, can vote for their favourite works via portrait.gov.au.

An online panel discussing exploring some of the themes revealed in ‘Living Memory’ will take place on Saturday 31 July from 2-3pm AEST. Bookings essential.