Ben (2015) by Robert Hague

skaters, stoners, and kurt coleman: the australian national portrait prize was bizarre

These are the images we fell for.

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Apr 1 2016, 1:57pm

Ben (2015) by Robert Hague

Every year the National Portrait Gallery looks for the best portrait in Australia, and they always find it. Plus, whoever takes the winning image grabs $25,000. This year the gallery pulled in around 2,000 entries, which they cut down to 49 finalists. Of those 49, these five are i-D's favorites.

Painter Ben Aitken looks equal parts grimy and beautiful in this image. Apparently, he'd badly hurt his back on the day, so there some painkillers and a few drinks at work. Robert Hague, the photographer, confessed in "nearly every photo he is blurred, except this one." The dagger over his heart is a nice note.

Heath by Matthew Abbott

Heath, the subject of this portrait, is only five—though his stare carries the intensity of somebody much older, no? Here he swimming in the Katherine Hot Springs, during an outing with his carer.

Life Dancers by Elizabeth Looker

There's something very Sally Mann about this image, which ended up taking this year's grand prize. Portrait Gallery Curator and judge Penelope Grist described it as "an enchanting and mysterious scene that pushes the boundaries of portraiture." Certainly, mysterious feels apt, but anonymous works almost just as well. The photo was taken in W.A, but could have almost as easily come from America's bible belt.

Kurt Coleman: Literally Me by Aaron Smith

There probably isn't another image, anywhere, of Kurt Coleman quite like this. Almost every other photograph has been meticulously brushed and brightened, by Kurt himself, to achieve a near alien flawlessness. It's nice to see the young man from a distance—here, is was resting in between takes for an interview with the ABC. On set, he told photographer Aaron Smith there's really just one thing he's good at; "I don't have a real talent. My talent is being myself. You might not get that, but that's literally my talent: I'm professional at being myself."

Oscar by Charlie White

Oscar, the man in this photo, met Charlie, the man who took the photo, at University. Now they occasionally skate together. "He's very pleasant," Charlie says of Oscar, "but there is an oddly hardened, sinister character to his angular, youthful face and the way he carries himself."

The National Photographic Portrait Prize 2016 will be displayed at the National Portrait Gallery until June 28, 2016.

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