Queanbeyan's Mark Webber and Gino Zardo have united for the National Photographic Portrait Prize

STARS ALIGN: Formula One champion Mark Webber with photographer Gino Zardo in front of his portrait, which will be in the National Portrait Prize 2017 exhibition. Photo Jay Cronan

STARS ALIGN: Formula One champion Mark Webber with photographer Gino Zardo in front of his portrait, which will be in the National Portrait Prize 2017 exhibition. Photo Jay Cronan

They're both childhood friends, have travelled the world pursuing their chosen craft and are proudly Queanbeyan born and bred.

A portrait of retired Formula One driver Mark Webber by photographer Gino Zardo has been selected as one of 49 finalists for the National Photographic Portrait Prize.

The portrait, which was taken last October at Mr Zardo's Queanbeyan home, was selected for the prize out of more than 3000 entries.

While portraits of Mr Webber have already been featured in the National Portrait Gallery, he said this one was the most significant.

"It was an incredibly personal angle, being so close to the person on the other side of the camera," he said.

"We've both been in touch for the last 20 to 30 years. I went to Europe and he went to America to follow our dreams, and it was a really big personal touch for the photo to be a closing of both our careers, if you like."

HISTORY: The two have been friends since they grew up in Queanbeyan. Photo: Jay Cronan

HISTORY: The two have been friends since they grew up in Queanbeyan. Photo: Jay Cronan

Saturday was the first time Mr Webber had seen the finished work, having just flown back to Australia for the upcoming Australian Grand Prix.

"Gino wanted to surprise me with it, and it's been a big challenge for him and quite personal as well," Mr Webber said.

"We both grew up on the same street in Queanbeyan, and [Gino] put himself under pressure and got the best frame that he could and I'm really happy with the outcome."

Mr Zardo, who has previously taken photos for publications including Marie Clare and Cosmopolitan, wanted to use a large-format portrait in order to bring out as much detail as possible.

"I wanted to show the detail on a person's face, especially Mark who has endured racing at the highest level possible in the world," he said.

"There were no real expectations for the photo itself. It was a time for us to catch up and have a laugh."

In a further connection between the pair, Mr Zardo said growing up he lived on Mark Place in Queanbeyan, eventually moving to Webber Place.

"It was quite ironic that I lived in both places," he said.

Regardless of the result of the National Photographic Portrait Prize, the pair both said it was an honour to have been selected as a finalist for the prestigious award.

"It's an honour, having similar routes in schooling and going off to chase our dreams, and to do a full circle where the stars aligned for us to execute the picture and have an everlasting photo," Mr Zardo said.

"For us as a pair of Queanbeyan boys and for the photo to be hung in the National Portrait Gallery is really special," Mr Webber said.

The winner will be announced on March 31, with the finalists being open for public viewing on April 1.

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