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Lee Grant wins National Photographic Portrait Prize

Accomplished documentary photographer, Lee Grant, has won the prestigious 2018 National Photographic Portrait Prize for her photo, Charlie.

Charlie, by Lee Grant, won first prize. Source: Supplied.

Charlie is one of the youngest residents at Ainslie Village in Canberra, a social housing complex that provides accommodation and support services to disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

‘Looking at that picture in terms of advocacy it’s more about remembering there are people out there who are vulnerable and who do have difficult challenges in life and we shouldn’t shove them all in the too hard basket,’ Grant said. ‘We actually have a civic responsibility, particularly in this city, to care for our most vulnerable people.’

Grant hopes the win will raise awareness for social issues surrounding inhabitants of Ainslie Village.

Charlie is part of the Self-ID project, which was held at the housing complex and invited the people living there to have their portrait taken and create self-portraits through collage and mixed media.

‘When it came to Charlie I was very curious about his back story,’ Grant said. ‘I think it was his youth, and I have a son called Charlie, I was wondering, as a mother, how did he get to be there. I felt quite worried about him, tender towards him in a way.

‘He was one of many we photographed that day in a makeshift studio off the kitchen. We did a whole heap of portraits that day and one of them happened to be Charlie. I knew when I shot it that it was just going to work.’

The photo beat over 3200 entries, the most the photo contest organised by the National Portrait Gallery has ever received. Grant has won $30,000 cash and $20,000 worth of Profoto lighting gear and Ilford paper, supplied by CR Kennedy.

Chris Chapman, National Portrait Gallery senior curator, judged the contest along with photographer Petrina Hicks and Robert Cook, Art Gallery of Western Australia curator.

He said the judges found the photo compelling due to its ‘strong sense of humanness’.

Victorian photographer, Filomena Rizzo, won the Highly Commended award for her portrait My Olivia.

My Olivia, by Filomena Rizzo, won the Highly Commended prize.

Olivia had strong feelings and urges, that affected her from a young age due to genetic, biological and environmental factors. She needed to tap, kick, or make specific gestures ten times before she could start her day.

Now 11, Olivia has become more patient has the maturing of her brain means she has begun to outgrow these urges.

The Art Handlers’ Award went to documentary photographer, Stephanie Simcox, for her photo Joey.

The photo shows a man named Joey relaxing at a local waterhole after a long day working in a remote community in the Central Desert Region.

Joey, by Stephanie Simcox, won the Art Handlers’ Award. Source: Supplied.

All 43 finalist photos are open to the People’s Choice Award, which is a public vote to find a winning photo, or in person at the exhibition.

The exhibition is open now at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, and is on display until June 17. It will then tour the country.

Photographer Gary Grealy won last year’s contest.

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