How to use the learning resource
This learning resource consists of questions to encourage critical engagement with individual portraits, the NPPP 2019 exhibition and portrait photography more broadly. The resource is designed for secondary school students, to be used individually or in a collaborative environment to enable group discussion.
Portrait Prize 2019
The NPPP reflects the distinctive vision of Australia’s aspiring and professional portrait photographers and the unique nature of the individuals depicted. The judges for 2019 included Dr Christopher Chapman, Senior Curator, National Portrait Gallery, Anne O’Hehir, Curator of Photography, National Gallery of Australia, and Hoda Afshar, photographer, and winner of the NPPP 2015. The winner and highly commended were chosen from 39 finalists selected from over 3000 entries.
makes a portrait?
The photographers in the NPPP 2019 have approached the idea of portraiture in a variety of ways...
Compare these images.
What do you consider a portrait to be?
The entry criteria for the award states that the entry must be a portrait in a broad sense - being a recognisable image of an individual person or group.
Do you agree with this statement? If so, what is your reasoning?
Are these all portraits?
Which images do you consider to be the most or least ‘traditional’ portraits?
What atmosphere has the photographer created? What techniques have been used to achieve this?
What do you think this portrait says about the person depicted, the photographer or contemporary society?
Nelson Earl - Dance - The Ephemeral Art, Straithfield (2018) by Kellie LeczinskaNational Portrait Gallery
What do you notice most in this portrait?
What clues are in the portrait to tell you about this person?
What further information can you find about the sitter from the portrait’s title and artist’s statement?
Nelson Earl: Dance – the ephemeral art, Strathfield, 2018 by Kellie Leczinska
Nelson began his career with the Sydney Dance Company as a Pre-Professional Year dancer, in 2015, and has since become a full member of the company. During the shoot Nelson discussed the ephemeral nature of performance – a fleeting look into surrender and absolute resonance between mind, body and the viewer. Dance exists in each split second of the moment and then evaporates; it is the quintessential art. Nelson’s performances have earned rave reviews and he was nominated for Best Male Dancer at the 2018 Helpmann Awards. My portrait reveals the highly disciplined architecture of Nelson’s body and his sensitive gaze.
Watch the video of Nelson Earl.
Would you consider the video a portrait?
What are the differences, benefits or challenges of moving digital portraits compared with still photographs?
The NPPP 2019 finalists explore and involve a wide range of relationships.
My Brother’s family (2018) by Joel PratleyNational Portrait Gallery
This portrait includes the relationships between the family members photographed, the family and the photographer (who is a family member), and the viewers of the image.
Do you think the type of relationship between the photographer and sitter makes a difference?
What ethical responsibilities do you think photographers have to people they photograph?
Dayannah (2018) by Raphaela RosellaNational Portrait Gallery
What does Dayannah’s facial expression and body pose tell you about how she feels about being looked at by the photographer or viewer?
Why do you think Dayannah is posed in front of other portraits?
How are they similar or different to the portrait of Dayannah herself?
This photograph is part of a project, ‘You’ll Know It When You Feel It.’
‘I have spent over a decade creating image-based collaborative works to amplify the lived experiences of women in my life, as they grapple with the complexities and intergenerational cycle of disadvantage in Australia.’
Hear Raphaela Rosella discuss this project.
Portraits can give insights into individuals’ and group identities.
Jackie (2018) by Katrin KoenningNational Portrait Gallery
What clues about Jackie’s identity can you discover in her portrait?
What objects would you include in a self-portrait to express your identity?
Learn more about the photographer, Katrin Koenning's practice and what drives her as a photographer.
Black Dog (2018) by Jamila ToderasNational Portrait Gallery
Portrait photography can be used to make political statements.
Morteza Arefifar, Manus Island Detention Centre (2017) by Adam FergusonNational Portrait Gallery
Look closely at Morteza Arefifar’s face and body pose, the setting and use of light and shade.
What do you think Morteza or the photographer is trying to communicate in this portrait?
'There is a foundational truth: we need photographs of our world, of each other, to confirm our own existence to ourselves as human beings. Photography makes our perception of space and objects, and of human beings, meaningful.' Dr Christopher Chapman, NPPP 2019 judge.
Mirror identical twins with autism (2018) by Sarah RhodesNational Portrait Gallery
In his essay, Dr Christopher Chapman describes three ways to look at a photograph.
He discusses the potential of photographs to evoke empathy, that their ‘natural truth-to-appearance’ can be deceptive, and that our seeming obsession with photographs could be linked with our need to both ‘stave off and process the inevitability of death’.
Zara, 18, Babinda, FNQ (2018) by Lee GrantNational Portrait Gallery
What do Zara’s facial expression, body pose, and the scene in which she has been photographed communicate about the emotions she may be experiencing?
Do you ever have similar feelings to Zara’s – can you empathise with her?
Helen Garner in her kitchen (2018) by Mia Mala McDonaldNational Portrait Gallery
This image of Helen Garner in her kitchen may appear uncomplicated and ‘truthful'.
But what choices do you think the photographer has made when creating the portrait?
What techniques can photographers use to make a portrait more glamorous or dramatic to give a different impression of the sitter?
Bum Fluff (2017) by Jodi McConaghyNational Portrait Gallery
The NPPP 2019 finalists include a significant number of portraits of young people, capturing and preserving moments in childhood, which potentially work to ‘stave off’ ageing and death.
Artist statement by the photographer, Jodi McConaghy:
This photograph, of Clay McConaghy, is entitled ‘Bum fluff’. I wanted to create a portrait of my fourteen year-old son before he shaved his facial hair for the first time. He is slowly morphing from childhood, through adolescence, and into adulthood. To me, this image captures the last vestiges of Clay’s innocence, his trust in me as a photographer and mother, his youthful face and physique, but also his ever-growing maturity and individuality.
What do you think the photographer is trying to capture and preserve, and why?
Taking the waters (2018) by Rachel PeacheyNational Portrait Gallery
Can you find any photographs taken of you as a child? Why do you think they were taken?
Compare photographs of you as a child, with ones of you now.
What differences and similarities can you see in the way you interact with the camera, photographer or viewer?
Adam, Craigieburn (2018) by Yask DesaiNational Portrait Gallery
Why do you think making or viewing portraits is important?
Why or how do you use pictures of people in your life?
Greta In Her Kitchen, 36 weeks (2018) by Alana HolmbergNational Portrait Gallery
And the winners are...
The winner for 2019 is 'Greta In Her Kitchen, 36 weeks,' by Alana Holmberg.
‘This unconventional portrait is quiet and contemplative. The judges agreed that a compelling portrait photograph could be one that conveys a reflective moment experienced by many. The quality of light, the composition of the image and the subtle communication of the narrative combine to create an inner world.’
Dr Christopher Chapman, one of the judges, describing the winning portrait.
What do you think is going on in this picture?
What do elements such as light and shade, reflection, repetition of lines, colour palette, body pose, setting, and surrounding objects, communicate about the woman in the portrait?
The highly commended went to 'Sumbawa Pride - Life on a Boat With Eleven Kids,' by Alex Vaughn.
The people have voted!
The People's Choice was awarded to Kate Atkinson for her portrait, 'The Textiles Scientist.'
The Art Handler's Award went to Elizabeth Looker for her portrait, 'A Calm So Deep.'
Osher (2018) by Stephen BacconNational Portrait Gallery
More finalists from the exhibition
Select the portraits you find compelling and reflect on what aspects you connect with.
Tracey (2018) by Rod McNicolNational Portrait Gallery
Ella in Callala Bay (2018) by Aletheia CaseyNational Portrait Gallery
This exhibit was written by Lucie Shawcross, Learning Facilitator at the National Portrait Gallery.
This exhibit was edited and produced by Alana Sivell, Digital Learning Coordinator at the National Portrait Gallery.
Thanks to the NPPP 2019 finalists for allowing us to include their works.