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The Top 5 Must-See Exhibits at the National Photographic Portrait Prize Event

The National Photographic Portrait Prize is an annual exhibition held at the National Portrait Gallery. Running until the 17th of June, the event strives to show off the very best photographic portraiture from our country’s most talented photographers.

What separates this from every other run-of-the-mill exhibition is the fact that the public is actually allowed to vote for their favourite portrait, which is quite rare for events like this.

On the 4th of June, the votes will be tallied and the winning exhibit will be given the much-coveted People’s Choice Award. Every single one of the 43 portraits on display at the gallery are eligible for voting and while they’re all quite spectacular in their own way, here are 5 that are a must-see.

Portrait #1 – Yahir, Waiting to Live Again

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This portrait by Joel Pratley was a finalist in the 2018 National Photographic Portrait Prize and it’s no surprise why. Through the young boy Yahir, equipped with a soccer ball in hand and eyes that pierce your soul, Pratley effectively reminds us that the situation in Syria isn’t getting any better and that the people there are still looking for a way to have the safe lives something we take for granted every day.

Portrait #2 – The Honourable Bob Hawke Savouring a Strawberry Milkshake

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To those who don’t know, Bob Hawke was probably the most charismatic Prime Minister Australia ever had. By capturing the half leader – half larrikin sipping on a milkshake, Harold David has once again shown the side of Hawke that many found so relatable during his tenure in office. However, the portrait also serves as an important reminder that we are all created equal and that all politicians, relatable or not, are regular people and in the end deserve the same basic respect we are all due as human beings.

Portrait #3 – Chaos 1

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Marzena Wasikowska’s Chaos 1, from her series Negotiating the Family Portrait 2017, will undoubtedly be the most relatable portrait for many people. An accurate depiction of family life, this messy, unorganised and realistic portrait urges us to remember that even though our relatives can be tough, they’re worth holding onto. And yes, that is Mia Wasikowska on the right.

Portrait #4 – Scarred

Perhaps the most personal of the five, Scarred is an intimate insight into the aftermath of a brain tumour surgery, which left Colin with an infection that prevented doctors from replacing his missing plate with a new one. This is a man who has suffered greatly and Nicole Wells, the photographer, has done an excellent job of not only capturing his vulnerability and pain, but also encouraging body-positivity and promoting the idea that differences should be celebrated, not shunned.

Portrait #5 – Charlie

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Last but not least is Lee Grant’s Charlie, which actually won the 2018 National Photographic Portrait Prize. Charlie is a resident at Ainslie Village, a housing complex that puts a roof over the heads of some of Canberra’s most disadvantaged. His shirt, which reads “I keep pressing escape but I’m still here”, along with a haunting black-and-white filter, really help hit home how challenging life is for people like Charlie and how we should all treat them with a bit more humanity and kindness.

Now, before you run off and cast your vote, which you can do here, keep in mind that there are still 38 portraits left to check out, all of which are worth your time.

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