The photographer behind the winning image of the prestigious National Photographic Portrait Prize said he was "just at the right place at the right time" and will donate part of his prizemoney to the farmer at the centre of the image.
Former Oak Flats High School student Joel Pratley was part of a film and production team documenting the plight of farmers for charity Rural Aid in January 2020.
Drought-stricken cattle farmer David Kalisch was captured walking through a dust storm on his Forbes property, the earth cracked and "hard as concrete", though a glimmer of sun shone through signalling hope, Mr Pratley said.
"Whether it be bushfires or really hard drought, isolation from COVID - he is kind of marching almost stoically off into the future, into the unknown - which I think a lot of people can relate to," the creative said. "Whether it's in the city or out in the sticks, we do our best as humans and we persist if there's hope."
Despite being a finalist in three other years of the competition, Mr Pratley said he still felt "stunned" he actually won.
He said it was "nice to share a win, almost like a soccer team", and the nod to his talent would also be celebrated by mentors, workmates, others who have looked up to him, friends, family and more who have believed in him throughout his journey.
"I'm really glad the Kalischs are getting something out of this as well, and I plan to share a bit of the prizemoney with them too - whether they want to go on a holiday or fix something up on the farm," Mr Pratley said. "It's the least that I could do."
Proud mum Lisa Pratley said she'd tried to teach her children to be kind and generous to others and it showed in her son's actions of sharing parts of the $50,000 prize.
"He's so selfless with his attitude towards those less fortunate and always ready to help people," she said. "He's worked so hard to get to where he's at and it's so well deserved."
The 32-year-old - who grew up in social housing around Oak Flats - has only been working as a professional photographer full-time for a handful of years and recently worked alongside Naomi Watts on the film Penguin Bloom.
After a series of "dead-end jobs" and a stint travelling the world, he found a passion for photography in his 20's and sought to begin an "unofficial apprenticeship" in an equipment hire store, before finally deciding to launch his career.
The image "Drought Story" will be on show with the Living Memory exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra until November 7.
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