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Ted at Bells Beach, 1971

by John Witzig

Witzig seems to have been in a more precarious position than ever in the water for this shot; even if Ted Spencer can slice away, the crystalline wave seems to be about to close on the photographer. For the resulting meticulously-balanced image, elemental is the word. A dark ball of energy cracking through the diffuseness of ocean and sky, the surfer asserts his athleticism and his drive for survival. Crouching, keenly watchful, his fingers tensed in chopping formation of defence or attack, Ted Spencer could be the last man on earth.

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal people, the traditional custodians of the land upon which the NPG stands.