Last year I was asked by the National Portrait Gallery of Australia if I would like to photograph rugby legend Mark Ella for the permanent collection. The commission would form part of a 6 portrait series of 'Australian Rugby Greats", known formally as the Patrick Corrigan Portrait Commission Series. Of course I was honoured to be asked and didn't hesitate to say yes. After a few months of organising a suitable date for Mark to come to my small daylight studio the shoot was on. Luckily for me Mark was very easy going and laidback, recounting funny stories of his encounters with Prince Philip and the Queen during his rugby tours of the UK. Being British my parter Andy and I found these very entertaining. I shot 5 shots of Mark as we talked and knew at once when I had the image for the commission.
The launch of the portrait was to take place at the Piermarq Gallery on May 11th. Flight and hotel booked I was all set to go. Unfortunately I developed benign vertigo a few days before and could keep my balance. Aside from the fact I couldnt stand for long, the sight of a small Scottish woman staggering around the gallery would need alot of explaining and was I unable to attend. I was fortunate enough to receive lots of lovely images from the night and lots of emails telling me how well it went. The image now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery next to Gary Grealy's image of Ken Catchpole and I will travel up to Canberra in July to have a look when I attend the opening of the 'Tough and Tender' exhibition.
Original text from the National Portrait Gallery website, May 12 2016.
Last night in Sydney, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled a newly commissioned portrait of Australian sporting legend Mark Ella AM. Considered one of the country’s all-time Rugby union greats, Ella will join the ranks of David Campese, Ken Catchpole, George Gregan, Arthur Summons and John Thornett in the Gallery’s Collection. In 2013 Mark Ella was one of the four Australians named amongst the eleven inaugural ‘legends’ of the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame. Director of the Gallery, Angus Trumble, said the portrait was made possible through the generosity of Australian businessman, art collector and philanthropist, Mr Patrick Corrigan AM. ‘Patrick Corrigan is a long-time supporter of the Portrait Gallery and is presently a Director of the Gallery’s Board. The Gallery is very grateful for Patrick’s ongoing support and over the years he has donated or assisted with the purchase of important works for the National Portrait Collection. Patrick continues to show leadership with his philanthropic giving to Australia’s cultural life,’ said Angus.
‘The Patrick Corrigan Portrait Commission Series was launched in 2014. This is the second of three portraits of Rugby greats that has been championed by Mr Corrigan and it will join a portrait of Ken Catchpole which was unveiled in October 2014.’ Patrick Corrigan has had a lifelong passion for Rugby union and is a self-professed ‘rugby tragic’. ‘I am honoured to be able to give back to the Australian people and support the arts through this Portrait Commission Series. I get great joy out of sharing my passion with the broader public. I believe all Australians should have the opportunity to access the arts, in this case portraits of and by individuals who have made this country a wonderful place,’ said Patrick. ‘This portrait depicts a sporting legend well into his retirement and some 30 years after his Rugby career. Ella’s story is a great example of Australia’s outstanding sporting history.’ The photograph, taken by Nikki Toole, will be available to view at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra in the coming weeks.