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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.

Observation point

by Abdul Abdullah, 1 June 2015

Bride, 2015 by Abdul Abdullah
Bride, 2015 by Abdul Abdullah

I wanted to be a journalist. I was very idealistic and I had a big chip on my shoulder. I wanted to investigate the human condition, drawing attention to those in need with the hope of someday effecting positive change. I was inspired by John Pilger and people like him who were out there making a difference. I didn’t want a job; I wanted a passion. But as I studied journalism I saw a future of rewording press releases and felt my self-determination being taken from me. This is not to say journalism is just rewording press releases but, needless to say, I fell out of love with it.

I was and still am a really curious person which is an asset in a journalist, but I wasn’t always interested in what was newsworthy. What really killed it for me was the reporting of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In my last year of journalism I picked up an elective in ‘Visual Research’ and I met a lecturer called John Teschendorf.  He showed me how art could sustain my curiosity and act as a vehicle for my investigations. I changed courses and was thrown into a world of theory and clever, well-spoken people talking about not a whole lot. Throughout it all my interest in people was unwavering. Everything else seemed trivial. This interest naturally drew me towards portraiture and figuration, and by second year I was researching the Old Masters and contemporary practitioners like Jenny Saville and Lucian Freud. I understand there are many ways to investigate the ‘human condition’, and in a way all art attempts this in one way or another, but during my time studying journalism I learned the direct route is often the best one. I choose portraiture because I am interested in people. In an ideal world I want my work to change how people see and engage with their worlds, and people don’t connect with anything better than other people. 

Related information

Portrait 48, Autumn 2015

Magazine

This issue features Abdul Abdullah, Sam Leach, Sonia McMahon, Rod McNicol, The National Photographic Portrait Prize and more.

Kid A, 2014 by Joshua Morris
Kid A, 2014 by Joshua Morris
Kid A, 2014 by Joshua Morris

Swimming every day

Magazine article by Dr Christopher Chapman

National Photographic Portrait Prize judge Christopher Chapman connects this year’s entries to iconic contemporary american photographers.

A surface against which we can move, 2014 by Sam Leach
A surface against which we can move, 2014 by Sam Leach
A surface against which we can move, 2014 by Sam Leach

No small wonder

Magazine article by Joanna Gilmour

Joanna Gilmour describes how artist Sam Leach works on a small scale to grand effect.

Portrait of a Lady (Sonia McMahon), 1999 Esther Erlich
Portrait of a Lady (Sonia McMahon), 1999 Esther Erlich
Portrait of a Lady (Sonia McMahon), 1999 Esther Erlich

Desperately seeking Sonia

Magazine article by Angus Trumble

Esther Erlich’s portrait of Lady McMahon.

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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.