ofarrell_richard_savitriThis portrait of an albino girl taken at a school for the blind in Mumbai is this year’s winner of the $10,000 prize funded by the family of the Australian photographer Olive Cotton (1911-2003).

Renowned freelance photographer Dean Sewell spent considerable time deliberating but was drawn back to a small but powerful portrait by Richard O’Farrell from central NSW.

‘Savitri’ portrays a young girl O’Farrell met at a school for the blind in Mumbai, India. O’Farrell was granted permission to photograph the children – an rare occurrence – and was struck by the child’s unusual appearance as she is albino with hair and eyelashes so pale they are amost white.

Sewell was intrigued by the ‘deeply intimate portrayal’ and the ‘suspended state of deep contemplation, exerting a reciprocated ‘scrutiny of the observer, [seen] not through a hardened gaze but through the subtle overtures imbued in the furrowed brow’.

The award is acquisitive and Savitri will become part of the Tweed River Art Gallery’s collection of Australian portraits.

Sewell noted the exhibition provided an ‘extremely diverse interpretation’ of portraiture ranging from ‘highly constructed and conceptualised image and self portraiture to the non-representative and the the time-honoured art of considered observation’.

Four Highly Commended Awards were also chosen: Byron Bay photographer Alberto Sanchez-Peinador’s touching portrait of Frank; plus Sibling Rage by John Slaytor; The Last Supper, My Father’s Death by Adam Hollingworth; and The Bad Seeds by Stephen Dupont, all from Sydney.

dupont_stephen_bad-seeds_smallerGallery Director Susi Muddiman also favoured Dupont’s The Bad Seeds (left), capturing Nick Cave and fellow band member in a beautifully sombre portrait, as her pick for Director’s Choice Award.

The award remains on exhibition until Sunday 27 September and a people’s choice vote of $250, funded by the Friends of the Gallery, will be awarded to the work most favoured by the viewing public.