Bobby Bunungurr now a work of art himself

Tobias Titz's award-winning collaborative portrait of Bobby Bunungurr.

When German-born photographer Tobias Titz met artist and actor Bobby Bunungurr, he just had to take a photo of him.

“He’s such a good-looking man, you know, and on top of that he does these beautiful drawings,” Titz said.

The black and white photograph he took in about half an hour in North East Arnhem Land outside the local art centre has just won a major photographic gong – the Art Handlers’ Award for the National Photographic Portrait Prize.

Described as a “collaborative portrait”, the picture features Bunungurr alongside one of his artworks, a Ganalbingu totem.

Titz was in North East Arnhem Land shooting a project for the National Gallery of Victoria when he was introduced to Bunungurr, who is known for his art and also for the 2006 film Ten Canoes.

“I thought he had a really good style,” he said. “His whole appearance. It was a combination of his art, but also of his style.

“In the photo you can see how he is wearing the vest and the denim and the cowboy influence. I really liked his style, basically.”

Titz, who is based in Melbourne, has been taking his collaborative portraits since 1988.

He said he contacted Bunungurr to ask him if he could enter the photograph in the awards — but hadn’t yet been able to reach him to tell him they had won.

Portrait Gallery Art Handlers Amelia Mollett and Tara James said they were drawn to the unique portrait.

“Tobias Titz’s C type print of Bobby Bunungurr appealed to us because we like the subject’s direct stare, the textures of the denim and how Bobby’s arms and stance mirror the drawing of his totem,” they said in a statement.

“The relationship between subject and photographer has been taken to another level in what could be described as a collaborative portrait.”

An exhibition of the 49 finalists in the National Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra until June 18 before touring to regional locations around Australia.

By Wendy Caccetta

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