From Profile Pic to Portrait

'Galaxy of Stars' (detail) a Finalist in the 2018 Percival Photographic Portrait Prize by Matthew Gianoulis

Townsville Questions and Answers.

It’s arguably one of the most entertaining Facebook pages servicing the 4810 and surrounding postcodes: if you’re into suburb-vs-suburb throwdowns, publicly planning vigilante action, stalking the occasional ex, and/or simply unwilling to just ‘Google it’.

However, one local photographer has put the page to great use, by asking its community to help him crowdsource two of his three Percival Photographic Portrait Prize entries.

Matthew Gianoulis is the photographer behind three of the 77 Percival Photographic Finalists that will be unveiled at Pinnacles Art Gallery this evening and said he’d turned to the Townsville Questions and Answers Facebook page to find unique people to photograph for the competition.

‘United We Stand No. 4’ a Finalist in the 2018 Percival Photographic Portrait Prize by Paula Mahoney

“I kind of just said ‘looking for unique people of different ages, ethnicities, genders, skin colours, whatever it might be who are willing to sit for a 30-minute portrait session and they’ll get photos out of,” said Matthew.

“I had an overwhelming response, I think I had over 100 comments from people saying they’d like to be part of it, or their kids or cousins or family would, which was pretty cool. So, then I had to go through the list and pick who I thought might make an interesting portrait.”

One of the people put forward was 11-year-old Dwayne from Palm Island.

“He has the most beautiful freckles on dark skin you’d ever see and straight away I thought Perfect, he’s exactly what I’m looking for,” Matthew said.  “Dwayne speaks using sign language, so at the photo shoot he had his guardians there along with an interpreter. They stood over my shoulder and if I’d say ‘sit up straight’ or ‘look a certain direction’ she’d tell him to do that. It was an interesting way, and quite a humbling experience, to do that.

Matthew’s other Finalist works feature the candid smile of a Sudanese girl and a Renaissance-style image of his grandfather, who migrated to Australia from Cyprus at the age of 17.

“I think he was quite chuffed to be asked by me to take his portrait.”

For Matthew portraiture differs greatly from his day-to-day work shooting for commercial projects.

“I guess commercially you’re trying to capture a service or business in the best light possible. It’s more posed and generally for content on a website or social media. Whereas when you’re taking a portrait you’re trying to capture the essence of the person. I generally try to talk to people during their session and get them to feel things so they’re not staring at the camera blankly. You might ask them about their life or where they’ve come from, what they’ve done.

“It’s quite rewarding to sit down with people you’ve never met before and take their photograph and get to know who they are and where they’ve come from,” Matthew said.

“I think it makes the whole genre very different. And that’s the nice thing about seeing a portrait exhibition, there’s something about seeing big pictures of people’s faces on the wall of a gallery that takes your breath away. Every person has a different story and every photo tells a story and I think the Percivals really give people a chance to explore that avenue and celebrate portraiture and humans as a species.”

‘Glorious’ a Finalist in the 2018 Percival Photographic Portrait Prize by Narelle Delle Bait

With almost half of the 77 Finalist pieces being taken by local photographers – including Paul Freeman, Narelle Delle Baite, Felicity Cole and more – there’s a wonderful mix of local, national, and international work on display.

“It’s great for Townsville to have,” Matthew said. “We always need more arts and culture, I say, in Townsville and I think an event like the Percivals is really important for Townsville. Even though it is open internationally, locals are entering and are actually finalists … and it’s great to see Townsville can host this calibre of event, too – not just be a part of it, but foster that Arts industry.

Finalists in the Percival Photographic Portrait Prize will be on exhibit at Pinnacles Gallery from 4 May – 15 July 2018.

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