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Byron Shire
January 22, 2022

Local photog honoured in National Photographic Portrait Prize awards

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National Photographic Portrait Prize 2021 Distinction – The purpose of entering a lake is not to ‘know’ the lake, but to luxuriate in the water – to feel the cold against our skin, the weight of our body disappear. It’s not about working the lake out. Likewise, art is not a test of intellect so much as an experience. It is not a concept or a measure of how much we know, so much as an emotional exchange, a sharing of things held in common between an artist and their audience. It’s like a spiritual connection that ultimately changes the way we feel, and helps us become weightless. Photo RJ Poole.

A picture might speak a thousand words, or it might tell a whole story, or two, and Lismore-based photographic artist Rod Poole has a very illuminating story to tell. Poole has been recognised with a distinction along with just three other award winners in the Living Memory Exhibition at the National Portrait Prize.

Poole’s portrait honour was announced via a remote presentation at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra where the exhibition is on display until October 2021.

His photo Great Conjunction, will tour regional galleries throughout Australia later this year along with selected works from the exhibition.

Poole says it’s a great honour just to be included as a finalist in the Portrait Prize. ‘Winning an award is especially humbling. I’m very gratified to be recognised in my own country.’

The portrait of Bella Lee-Ball, who is a local who has collaborated with Poole over the last four years, was taken on December 21 2020 during the Great Conjunction or alignment, between Jupiter and Saturn. ‘Bella is one of many people who provide an alter ego through whom I express myself,’ said Poole. ‘My art is often symbolic in nature, so the water represents emotion. Bella’s expression appears highly emotional, almost fragile or on edge. Many people feel it reflects something of the times.

‘2020 being a stressful year for many and the time of the Great Conjunction, is a harbinger of change.’

Poole says his signature body of work is titled the Anima Series and is inspired by the feminine aspect of the male psyche. ‘Because I had a very macho start to life, I’ve attempted to cultivate a greater self-awareness and appreciation of those qualities traditionally associated with the feminine – compassion, understanding, nurture. So the inspiration for this shot is an on-going search for the feminine within myself in the hope of becoming more whole as a human being.’

Poole’s photographs have been exhibited in Australia, Italy, United Kingdom, the United States and later this year will be shown in Portugal. His Anima Series features locations throughout the globe, but has been photographed mostly in Lismore and surrounding areas.

You can vote for Great Conjunction in the People’s Choice award for the competition here.


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