Weather News

Award-winning picture tells a thousand words about the drought

Anthony Sharwood, Tuesday August 3, 2021 - 15:59 EST

They say a picture tells a thousand words, but sometimes, it conveys a single word which is more powerful than a whole book. That word in this case?


Image: 'Drought Story', the winner of the National Photographic Portrait Prize. Source: Photographer Joel Pratley, supplied by the National Portrait Gallery Canberra.

The image is entitled 'Drought Story' and it just won the Living Memory National Photographic Portrait Prize, run by the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.

The subject of the portrait is Forbes (central NSW) cattle farmer Dave Kalisch, and the photo of him striding off into the dusty remnants of his former pasture in January 2020, at the height of the drought, was taken by Sydney-based photographer Joel Pratley.

"It was a case of right place, right time," Pratley told Weatherzone.

Pratley was out in Forbes working with an ad agency helping to make a film to raise funds for farmers who were crippled by drought.

"We were photographing day-to-day chores and that sort of thing and the next thing we knew, a dust storm approached," he said.

"It didn't shake the farmer, Dave Kalisch, at all. As soon as he dust storm hit, he said, 'You city slickers remind  me how unusual this is to you, because it has become a common occurrence here.'"

When Pratley looked through his shots on his computer that night, he knew he had a good one.

"I felt it was powerful because whether it's bushfires or droughts or Covid, on a mental and spiritual level we all have to march off into the unknown and that’s what makes us human and grow.

"I am an optimist by nature, so I'm glad there’s a bit of sun peeking through."

Pratley won $30,000 for his winning entry, and anyone who understands the life of a freelance photographer would know that a windfall like that is not to be taken lightly. But Pratley still plans to give $5,000 to the Kalisch family, because he's not just a top photographer but a fine bloke to boot.


We thought you might be interested in how dry it was in Forbes, NSW, where this award-winning image was taken.

  • Forbes annual average rainfall is 508.4 mm.
  • But in the calendar year leading up to this shot, which was taken in January 2020, the town received just 236 mm, with no rain at all through most of December and the first two weeks of January.

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