Despite the best efforts of devastating Cyclone Debbie, massive floods and Qantas I still managed to make it to Canberra on Friday eve for the official opening bit of the 2017 National Photographic Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery … but with literally just seconds to spare.
Getting to Canberra at all was a massive drama. I spent a near week covering the Cyclone Debbie story in Bowen for Fairfax news. There was a tiny window late on Wednesday – after ‘Debbie’ battered the Whitsundays and before the ensuing massive storms – for myself and three AAP and Fairfax colleagues to attempt to get out of Bowen. Roads north had supposedly been blocked by flood waters in the cyclone aftermath – so when officers left a road block we made a move. In the little car convoy we forded flooded roads and into an almost apocalyptic thunder storm and insanely torrential rains. We eventually came out the other side with the highway surely now impassable behind us and arrived saturated and relieved back in Townsville late that night.
Then Qantas combined with the remnants of ‘Debbie’ to almost thwart the trip to Canberra. In quick succession not one but two of my flights Cairns to Canberra were cancelled. Frantic phone calls, rearranged flights and a car booked to whisk me from Canberra airport to the National Portrait Gallery … and I arrived just as the opening speeches ended.
It had been a badly kept secret … thanks to a great NPPP show preview special article in ‘The Australian Weekend Magazine’ a couple of weeks ago … that my work “The Skin I’m In – II” (below) of burns survivor Carol Mayer was in the mix as a Finalist and in the National Portrait Gallery exhibition. Once again I must sincerely thank the wonderful Carol for her patience and decision to let me make the portrait.
NPPP judge George Fetting had this to say about Carol’s image … “It’s such a terribly powerful and courageous story and for her to let the photo be taken, presenting such beauty and pain in the same image, moves everyone who looks at it.”
Whilst in Canberra it was great to spend time with photographer colleagues … afore mentioned former Courier Mail and SMH photographer George Fetting, co NPPP Finalist Jon Reid, ex Cairns mate Sean Davey and Nikon Walkley Press Photographer of the Year 2015 Gary Ramage.
Sean has created a great photo gallery in Canberra – The Photography Room – which is currently showing Gary’s excellent work – “Afghanistan” – made during his 2011 embed with Australian forces. Gary and Sean gave me a private showing before a lunch to chew over all the industry ‘goss’. Both the gallery and the exhibition are well worth a visit …
A massive, rewarding and eventful week …
(Below – “The Skin I’m In – II” at the NPPP © Brian Cassey)