‘Fishy’ subject sees Palmer snap top portrait prize

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Winning portrait “The Mahi-Mahi” by Rob Palmer.

A “PAINTERLY” portrait of Sydney whole-fish chef Josh Niland is the winner of the 2020 National Photographic Portrait Prize.

Titled “The mahi-mahi” 2019, the winning image by photographer Rob Palmer captures the restauranteur handling a common dolphinfish, preparing to use its every part.

Palmer, a lifestyle and food photographer from Sydney, this morning spoke of his admiration for his subject, saying: “Josh is reinventing what can be done with fish and – most importantly – with every part of the fish, in a huge effort to drastically reduce wastage.”

The idea for the portrait, he said, evolved from meetings with Noland and his use of the evocative concrete wall was very deliberate.

Rob Palmer, left, and National Portrait Gallery director Karen Quinlan, right. Photo: Mark Mohell.

Palmer takes home a first prize of $30,000 from the NPG plus $22,000 worth of photographic equipment from Canon.

Karen Quinlan, director of the National Portrait Gallery, which hosts the 13-year-old prize and exhibition, told media this morning (March 13) that judges Penny Grist from the NPG, Nici Cumpston from the Art Gallery of South Australia and artist Naomi Hobson had praised the portrait’s “majesty and power”, as well as its “painterliness and composition,” saying: “The sitter’s embrace of the fish so eloquently conveys his identity as a chef.”

“Eileen Kramer is a Dancer” by Hugh Stewart won highly commended.

The 2020 Highly Commended prize was awarded to Hugh Stewart for his portrait of 105-year-old dancer Eileen Kramer, which those present agreed bears an uncanny resemblance to the winner of the inaugural Darling Portrait Prize, Anthea da Silva’s portrait of 86-year-old dancer, Elizabeth Cameron Dalman. Stewart takes home an IPS LED monitor valued at $3245.

As well, the photographer who receives the most public votes during the exhibition run will receive fine art printing valued at $2200.

“Dallas takes a smoke break”, 2019, by Elize Strydom

Quinlan described the prize show as “one of our most popular exhibitions, offering equal billing for amateur and professional photographers.”

“This year we see works of astounding quality and breadth from across the nation – many pushing the boundaries of photographic portraiture, and each reflecting quintessentially Australian stories,” Quinlan says.

“Prime Minister” by Mike Bowers.

True enough. One of the most stimulating exhibitions in the history of this prize, it ranges from by Mike Bowers’ political portrait, “’Prime Minister”, through intimate family portraits, to studies of ambiguous gendered subjects.

“Matilda” Ngambri/Ngunnawal, by Brenda L Croft

The many, many impressions of Aboriginal subjects, mostly snapped by indigenous photographer, include footballer Adam Goodes, singer Archie Roach and Canberra/ Queanbeyan identity Matilda House. An unusual portrait, “The Hidden Half” by Suzanne O’Connell makes comment on the use of “blackface” in entertainment.

The National Photographic Portrait Prize and the Darling Portrait Prize, at the National Portrait Gallery. Tickets at portrait.gov.au include entry to both shows.

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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