Photographer snaps up National Portrait Gallery People’s Choice Award

Canberra photographer Andrew M Lance has taken out the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 National Portrait Gallery National Portraiture Photographic Prize.
Photographer snaps up National Portrait Gallery People’s Choice Award

'Andrew' by Andrew M Lance. Image courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.


Canberra photographer Andrew M Lance has snapped the proverbial photographer’s dream in a split-second chance moment that has combined the interplay of lighting, composition and subject.

Lance’s self-titled Andrew photographic portrait Andrew been recognised with the People’s Choice Award at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) 2014 National Photographic Portrait Prize (NPPP).


Taken by the water’s edge of Lake Burley Griffin, the photograph uses long exposure techniques to bring out the vivid lighting of the location and emphasise the sense of scale within the frame.

‘It was a shot that I wanted to take for a long time. I really like the symmetry and geometry of the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge,’ said Lance.

‘On the night, it involved putting the camera on the tripod, using a timer and running down this embankment, running down to the water’s edge in 12 seconds, and then just positioning everything right took a while. It was quite challenging in that respect.’

With a confident portfolio of work to date, Lance said he was honoured to now join the other finalists in the prestigious NPPP, which celebrates the works of the 45 competition finalists - drawn from over 1400 entries across Australia – and runs until 9 June at the NPG.

‘The quality of the finalists was excellent, so I was thrilled just to be selected as a finalist - then to be voted as the people’s choice was a bit of a surprise,’ he said.

Among the artists joining Lance is Andrew Cowen’s portrait of cartoonist Matthew Martin, which won the overall 2014 competition, and self-portrait Untitled by Andrew Apostol, which took out the Highly Commended Award.

‘The finalists all printed out their photos and they were all put on display at the gallery. That concludes in a few weeks then goes on tour on the eastern part of Australia,’ said Lance.

Lance said that the mood of works produced by this year’s finalists has been largely dark and sombre. ‘No smiling faces, lots of gritty photos and deep expressions on people’s faces. Personally, those dark more sombre portraits appeal to me as a viewer because there’s more in it.’

‘You wonder why that person is looking to the left, and why they’re frowning, what is going through their mind, rather than someone who is smiling for example. I find myself asking what are they thinking and why are they in that place?’

Despite the predominately bleak mood, Lance said the relevance of the exhibition could be largely tied to the strong cultural appeal of portraits, and the way that people have always loved to uncover a glimpse of the human experience through someone else’s eyes.

‘Portraiture is as old as the hills and the reason that it is so popular is because people enjoy that connection with the person, either in photography, in print or in a painting. Trying to empathise with them, which are a thing that people would enjoy,’ he said. 

‘Having a human element in the photo makes it work to the viewer much more. There’s more in it, because the viewer can empathise with that person or try and connect with them in some way.’

In this way, Lance said that the ethos behind his work ties to the nature of the National Photographic Portrait Prize quite strongly. ‘A vein that goes through all of my photography is people. This shot in the portrait prize was a person in geometry. I certainly have a human aspect to all my shots.’

As winner of the NPPP’s People’s Choice award, Lance receives a day of studio hire in Melbourne or Sydney at SUNSTUDIO. Lance said that the high standing of the award within Australian photography would help him make the next steps in his professional practice.

‘The National Photographic Portrait Prize is the premiere photographic portrait prize in Australia. It’s very prestigious and in terms of my career, this is an incredible achievement that will focus what I will be doing next, which is really concentrating my photography on portraiture.’

This year’s judges for the NPPP were Sarah Engledow, Historian and exhibition Curator, NPG, Dr Chris Chapman, Senior Curator, NPG and invited guest judge, professional photographer Greg Weight, who had previously awarded the $25,000 cash prize to Andrew Cowen for his portrait of Matthew Martin.

Engledow said she was pleased to have seen Lance selected for the People’s Choice. ‘Andrew Lance has done Canberrans a great service by taking a shot that will forever alter the perception of those who’ve seen it, and pass that place – their experience of the place will be overlaid by, or underpinned by, his art.’

The 2014 National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition runs at the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra to 9 June 2014.

The exhibition will then commence a national tour to Wagga Wagga Regional Gallery 22 June – 3 August; Cowra Regional Art Gallery 16 August – 5 October; Wangaratta Art Gallery 25 October – 14 December 2014 and Devonport Regional Gallery 7 February – 22 March 2015.

For more information visit the National Portrait Gallery website

Troy Nankervis

Monday 19 May, 2014

About the author

Troy Nankervis is an ArtsHub journalist from Melbourne. Follow him on twitter @troynankervis