Richard Morecroft & Alison Mackay, 2016, by Sydney photography Gary Grealy has won the 2017 National Photographic Portrait Prize
Credit: Gary Grealy/Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

Sydney portrait photographer Gary Grealy has won the 2017 National Portrait Prize for his pensive, almost painterly portrait of partners in work and life, Richard Morecroft and Alison Mackay.

“When I began making portraits of artists in the 90s, the thrill of entering the domain of creativity filled me with excitement,” Grealy said in a statement accompanying the announcement of the prize. “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.”

Morecroft, whose work you might be familiar with through passively consuming ABC nightly news bulletins every night of your childhood, is an accomplished journalist and landscape photographer in his own right whose work is included in the Australian Parliament House collection; similarly, Mackay is a writer and painter whose oil works have been the subject of several solo exhibitions, as well as numerous group exhibitions throughout Australia. Together, they’ve co-authored a number of articles and books for both children and adults alike on topics as diverse as the late Australian artist, Fred Cress, and zoology.

Grealy said that his portrait is about the partnership his subjects share in work as in life, and forms part of an ongoing series exploring the lives of those working amidst the stratum of the art world. “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 is one of 49 finalists selected to exhibit as part of this year’s prize, which, when viewed holistically, provides an immersive survey of contemporary Australian life viewed through the lenses of some incredible artists. Befitting its national scope, the prize tells an incredible array of stories in both written and visual formats, giving light to the lives of Indigenous Australians, migrants, ‘celebrities’, the young and old alike. Many of the portraits, Grealy’s perhaps included amongst them, are redolent of 17th century Dutch portraiture’s use of natural light, engaging compositions and rich symbolism; those works are most strikingly contrasted against intimate documentary-style pieces that turn an unflinching eye to some very moving stories that deal with issues including racism, homelessness, the effects of civil war, gender and sexual identity, ableism, mental health, the promise of life and inevitability of death.

The National Photographic Portrait Prize will exhibit until Sunday 18 June 2017 before it tours the remainder of Australia. You can find out more information here.

Tile image: Courtesy of Gary Grealy
Cover image: David, 2016, by Chase Armstrong