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Gary Grealy wins National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017

31 March 2017

Richard Morecroft & Alison Mackay, 2016 by Gary Grealy
Richard Morecroft & Alison Mackay, 2016 by Gary Grealy

After months of anticipation, the winner for the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 has been announced with renowned Sydney portrait photographer Gary Grealy taking out the award. George Fetting, guest judge for the 2017 Prize, was entranced with the evocative nature of the winning portrait Richard Morecroft and Alison Mackay.

‘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 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.’

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.’

‘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.’

Grealy will receive $25,000 cash from the Portrait Gallery and a Profoto B1 location kit courtesy of CR Kennedy.

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.’

The Highly Commended winners will each receive an EIZO Coloredge 24 inch monitor valued at $2,695, courtesy of EIZO. People’s Choice voting opens from today; you can vote for your favourite image online at or in person outside the exhibition space.

The People’s Choice winner will receive a studio and equipment rental package valued at $2,500 and a Canon eos m5 camera valued at $1,949, supported by Sun Studios.

One lucky voter and their guest will also win a hotel package that includes three nights’ accommodation, wine and cheese on arrival, cocktail voucher, breakfast, and degustation dinner courtesy of Crowne Plaza Canberra, the Gallery’s Accommodation Partner.

The National Photographic Portrait Prize opens to the public on Saturday 1 April and is on display until Sunday 18 June 2017. The exhibition will then tour around Australia.

4 portraits

1Renaissance Rose, 2016 by John Benavente. 2Mastura, 2016 by Brett Canet-Gibson. 3Bobby Bunungurr, 2016 by Tobias Titz.
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