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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Melanie Faith Dove

I had been watching Agnes with intrigue, her face and profile were so mesmerizing. On our final day together I pulled her aside and convinced her that she had such an amazing face that I needed to get a photograph for myself. It was very spontaneous in that I decided quickly how it would best look and shot it in only two frames.

Face of South Sudan, 2012 by Melanie Faith Dove
Face of South Sudan, 2012 by Melanie Faith Dove

How do you define your practice?
Photographer - documentary, press, editorial and fine art

Do you have a website or are you represented on a website?
melaniefaithdove.com

How would you describe your relationship to the subject/s?
I spent nine days travelling and commercially documenting Agnes' journey from Perth to Brisbane; she was in Australia learning about the mining industry in order to take this information back to South Sudan to empower their industrial and business practices.

Was the photograph a result of a constructed, fabricated or candid encounter? Please describe.
I had been watching Agnes with intrigue, her face and profile were so mesmerizing. On our final day together I pulled her aside and convinced her that she had such an amazing face that I needed to get a photograph for myself. It was very spontaneous in that I decided quickly how it would best look and shot it in only two frames. It was for no particular purpose but to immortalise her beauty for the both of us.

What are the ideas or themes underpinning your portrait?
The idea really was to focus on the beautiful lines and tones of the profile. I wanted it to be a proud and pleasing portrayal of Agnes using minimal detail. I wanted the viewer to be left asking questions about who she was and her social standing in society. The final size consideration allows the fore mentioned goals to be exaggerated.

Please describe the technical aspects of your photograph?
I took only two frames, standing about three metres away from the subject. I used a long 70-200mm lens on my Canon 5d Mark II and used a combination of natural window light with bounced flash off the side wall and ceiling. The image has been slightly desaturated to remove the yellow/brown tinges to the lighting and the highlights have been slightly enhanced but otherwise it remains a fairly straight portrait.

How was the final print made? Is this print one of an edition?
It is a Type C print on Gold Silk Fibre paper, printed by Prism Processing a pro-lab in North Melbourne, Victoria. The print will be a limited edition of ten.

Describe your consideration of scale, mounting and framing in the presentation of your portrait?
The enormous size of this image, almost one metre high, means it becomes more surreal and sculptural. I believe it will make a stark impact and have a bold presence. I have decided to frame with white so the head will seem to float in space, accentuating the three dimensional effect.

Who would you nominate as your influences?
Painter Rene Magritte because I adore Surrealism and photo artist Samantha Everton for her vibrant imagery and skilful use of moment, colour and lighting. I love photojournalist Meredith O'Shea for her gutsy subject choices and punchy imagery as well as James Nachtwey because he photographs his subjects with sensitivity and finds an inner beauty even when the subject matter may be horrific. Andrew Chapman has been a massive motivator and inspiration to my image making and career. He is passionate about photography and is an honest and creative image maker.

Do you have any advice for young photographers (eg. students)?
You are entering an extremely competitive industry that is evolving rapidly. There are so many fields within it and you need to find the area you are passionate about. It needs to be your way of life above and beyond a way to make a living or you will never survive. Find mentors and become a part of the broader photographic community. With perseverance continue to learn and refine your style. You will eventually build a clientele and make a name for yourself.

Related information

Yhonnie and Indiana, 2012 by Janelle Low
Yhonnie and Indiana, 2012 by Janelle Low
Yhonnie and Indiana, 2012 by Janelle Low
Yhonnie and Indiana, 2012 by Janelle Low

National Photographic Portrait Prize 2013

Previous exhibition, 2013

The National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition is selected from a national field of entries that reflect the distinctive vision of Australia's aspiring and professional portrait photographers and the unique nature of their subjects.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency