WARNING: THIS POST IS FULL OF GLEE, ARTISTIC RHETORIC, AND POTENTIALLY OFFENSIVE SELF-PROMOTION
It isn’t very often that a trip to the Australian capital city of Canberra is a cause for joy and celebration. Sure, the national capital is a lovely leafy green sort of a place, with excessively wide roads, and a preponderance of bland-but-grand public architecture. But, to be honest, most days of the week the only type of party happening there is the kind that you find on a ballot paper. Luckily for me this wasn’t the case last Friday when my Mum and I drove into town for the opening of the National Portrait Gallery’s 2015 Portrait Prize.
Last November, just days after I had attended the ridiculously amazing Hells Belles polo tournament in Geneva I was gobsmacked to learn that one of the pictures I took in Montpellier during the 2014 World Hardcourt Bike Polo Champs had been selected to be part of the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. It’s fair to say that at this point I became more blubbery than a blue whale, and more mucous-y than a slug, while my grin was wide enough to put Julia Roberts to shame. I finally had a reason to justify my absurdly long and self-indulgent bike polo tour of Europe to friends, family, and future employers!
The photograph, pictured above, is of Lefty Will from Call Me Daddy, and it was taken at half time of the WHBPC14 final, when CMD was down 3-1 to Beavers. He is getting a drink of water from the crowd and damn he looks focused. There is something serious going on behind those piercing eyes of his.
I don’t like it when the presence of my camera affects the behaviour of people I am capturing. I want my photos to get as close to the truth as they can, to capture what my subject thinks is a private moment of thought, action or reflection – a moment when the subject isn’t performing. It strikes me as odd that during a high-stakes game of sport, when it is literally ‘performance’ that is being demanded of the player, it is actually incredibly easy to catch someone with their guard down.
When things get serious, a player can’t afford to expend energy on anything else but the game at hand, their subconscious animal brain takes over. In moments like this it is crucial to focus your energy into letting your body respond as quickly as possible. The conscious mind and its emotional responses can go one of two ways; becoming either a cluttered maze of fear and panic that blocks the athlete’s trained bodily responses, or an empty superhighway down which the body can be driven and accelerated. The landscape of the mind determines how a player negotiates the challenges of the court and you can see what is on their mind reflected perfectly in their face. The focused player displays a paucity of expression, they command their facial muscles to the minimum amount necessary, their emotions are saved until they can be released in full fury at the moment of scoring, or when the whistle is blown.
Unlike the happy photographer’s face when she attends the first exhibition where her work is being shown, and it is at a national gallery in Canberra. Then her face, and her Mum’s, look a bit like this:
The National Photographic Portrait Prize will be exhibited in Canberra until June 8 2015, and will then travel north to Mackay, Cairns, Bundaberg and Rockhampton. You should definitely go and check it out, the other works are amazing and I am humbled to be a part of such a collection.
If you like my picture then vote for it in the People’s Choice Awards, where you can also view all the other portraits that were selected as finalists in this year’s competition.