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Rod McNicol

b. 1946

Melbourne-born Rod McNicol studied photography at Prahran College, where he formed a close friendship with Athol Shmith. A co-founder, in 1975, of the Photographers Gallery, he held his first exhibition, with Carol Jerrems, in 1978 at Brummels Gallery – the first Australian gallery dedicated to the work of photographers. Soon afterwards, he moved into studio space in Fitzroy; and between 1978 and 1986 created a series of black and white portraits of his friends and contemporaries – ‘artists, actors, drug addicts and other fellow marginals’, as McNicol has said. This series was exhibited in Melbourne, Cracow and Paris in the 1980s. In 1989-1990, McNicol undertook an Australia Council-funded residency in the cancer ward of Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, during which time he created a series of portraits of terminally-ill patients, exhibited as Art and the cancer ward in Melbourne in 1992. Deeply affected by this experience, McNicol shelved his photographic practice for several years during the 1990s. He completed a Master of Fine Arts at Monash University in 2007, his major project being to recreate the portraits from the 1978-1986 Portrait of Melbourne series. McNicol has held a number of solo exhibitions since 2005 and his work has been included in many group exhibitions including the Australian Photographic Portrait Prize (AGNSW 2004-2006); the Olive Cotton Portrait Prize (Tweed River Gallery, 2005-2008); and the 2007 National Portrait Gallery exhibition Reveries: photography and mortality. The winner of the 2004 Australian Photographic Portrait Prize, McNicol was a finalist in the National Photographic Portrait Prize in 2007 and 2010. He took out the National Photographic Portrait Prize in 2012 with his portrait of his friend, actor Jack Charles, whom McNicol has been photographing since the 1970s. McNicol’s work is represented in major collections including those of the National Gallery of Victoria, National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Monash Gallery of Art, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.

Updated 2018