Dimmi: We’re in the Nicholas Building, and I’m the lift attendant. One minute you thought you were getting to know her, she’d do something or say something and it would just totally throw you. It was all sort of guessing with her, which was kind of wonderful in a way because it was not boring and … yeah. And one thing she hated was boring people.
She was always the centre of attention. I mean … and that wasn’t just because of the way she looked. And I remember her telling me a story about her and Salvador Dali climbing up to some … climbing up some skyscraper in New York. “Look at them. They’re either running and scurrying around like ants, and it’s … they look crazy the way they’re carrying on and all that. They think we’re crazy, but look at them. They’re the ones who are crazy.” So, yeah. And Vali had heaps of little stories like that about all sorts of interesting people.
The difference between Vali was that you could approach her. She was very approachable, and she was extremely down to earth. You knew that you were in the presence of someone who was quite … well, actually literally a maverick, and if she found you too nice then she’d say, “You’re too boring.” She couldn’t cope.
National Photographic Portrait Prize
In its second year at the National Portrait Gallery, and for the first time touring to other venues, the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 continues to present surprising perspectives on the nature of contemporary portrait photography.