Extraordinary image of a farmer braving a dust storm on his 1000-acre drought-plagued property wins the ultimate photography prize
- Sydney photographer Joel Pratley won the award with his Drought Story photo
- It shows farmer David Kalisch walking into a vast dust storm at Forbes, NSW
- Awards judge Bill Henson said Pratley’s photo was strange and mysterious
- Pratley took home a $30,000 cash prize including $20,000 of photo equipment
An extraordinary photo taken at the height of Australia’s most recent drought has won Australia’s 2021 National Photographic Portrait Prize.
The capture by Sydney photographer Joel B. Pratley, titled ‘Drought Story’, shows farmer David Kalisch walking into a vast dust storm on his 1,000-acre property at Forbes in central western NSW.
It was taken in January 2020 when much of Australia was experiencing severe drought and dust storms swept over NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
Joel B. Pratley’s winning portrait of farmer David Kalisch as he walked into a vast dust storm on his 1,000-acre property at Forbes in central western NSW in January 2020
In accepting the $30,000 cash prize, including $20,000 worth of photographic equipment, Mr Pratley said he was in awe of Mr Kalisch’s composure during the onset of the storm.
‘It was surreal, because he is just so used to it,’ he said. ‘For me, it was like being on Mars.
‘It was incredible … the speed of the wind was ferocious.’
Pratley had previously been a finalist in the awards three time, without ever winning.
‘To be [a] finalist is a huge honour… [but to win] is almost unbelievable,’ he said.
One of the prize’s judges, high-profile Australian photographer Bill Henson, said the picture had ‘mystery’.
‘The longer you look at this picture, which is of course the cardinal quality of interesting pictures, the stranger it gets and the more mysterious it becomes,’ he said.
Julian Kingma was highly commended for his black-and-white portrait, ‘Tom At The Drain’, showing a boy swimming in a stormwater drain near Geelong during one of the state’s 2020 lockdowns
RJ Poole’s portrait ‘The Great Conjunction’ was given a Distinction Award in the 2021 National Photographic Portrait Prize
Victorian photographer Julian Kingma was highly commended for his black-and-white portrait, ‘Tom At The Drain’, showing a boy swimming in a stormwater drain near Geelong during one of the state’s 2020 lockdowns.
Finalists RJ Poole and Jessica Hromas received a new Distinction Award, Poole for the portrait ‘The Great Conjunction’ and Hromas for her photo, ‘Mark and Saskia cool off’.
More than 3,000 photographers entered the awards, with a larger-than-usual field of 79 finalists chosen to acknowledge the effects of the Covid pandemic on artists.
The exhibition of the finalists at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, named Living Memory, opens this Saturday and runs until November 7.
Jessica Hromas received a new Distinction Award for her photo, ‘Mark and Saskia cool off’