Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2016

One of my tutors mentioned this competition to me in mid 2016 and by that time the 2015 exhibition was over and done with.  Early in 2017 after seeing an advert on the London Underground of the image by Karl Ohio and Riikka Kassinen of the Boy Scout on a yellow background[1],  and a suggestion from a friend I decided to go.  This was the first time I’ve attended this exhibition and other than a group of portrait photographs I wasn’t sure what else to expect.   I visited on a grey and cold day in December 2016 and thankfully it wasn’t raining, nothing like a damp dog smell accompanying you to an exhibition.

Thankfully most places these days offer student discounts so I wander up to the ticket desk and present my credit card with my NUS card.  I would highly recommend attending in person to get your tickets as with most ticketed events these days if you buy online there is the admin charge to swallow.

Another note to mention is the accompanying book for the exhibition was available in the shop.   at £10 rather than the £15 cover price if bought elsewhere, so total savings for the day £6.  Good start.

The exhibition itself accompanies the annual photo prize which started in 1993 and is currently sponsored sponsored by Taylor Wessing LLP whom have done so for the last nine years.  The prize itself is a handsome £15,000, with second place £3,000 and third place £2,000.  In addition the John Kobal new work award is £5,000.

The winners this year were:

  • 1st Prize – Claudio Rasono for Thembinkosi Fanwell Ngwenya [2]
  • 2nd Prize – Joni Sternbach for 16.02.20 #1 Thea+Maxwell from the series Surfland[3]
  • 3rd Prize – Kovi Konowiecki for Tilly and Itty Beitar Illit, and Shimi Beitar Illit, from the series Bei Mir Bistu Shein[4]
  • John Kobal new work award – Josh Redman for Frances[5]

Winners were selected from 4,303 submitted entries from 1,8452 photographers in 61 countries.  I was a little surprised here as the numbers of submitted entries sounded low for such a prestigious completion and a large purse (compared against other competitions).

One of the striking aspects was seeing a portrait up close and larger than real life of the person, with the colours very vibrant and quality of the printed images exceptional.  the guide book is very useful but the prints in the exhibition need to be seen up close and personal.

I suppose a traditional take on a portrait is one of the sitter being posed in their natural environment, similar to those on the wall of the National Portrait Gallery itself.  My interpretation is very similar although my views are changing.  It is interesting to see in the exhibition  itself traditional portraits (such as Nigel Farage[6] and Simon Callow[7]), posing with his trademark cigar being shown alongside images that I wouldn’t normally consider a portrait such as those by Ebony Finck[8], Scott Thomas[9] and Katie Barlow[10] which I would consider  documentary in nature.  It’s good to see the judges have not stuck to a restrictive brief here and the exhibition itself I felt was very well curated.

What did I like, there are quite a few but I could babble on for pages so I’ll try and keep this short(ish)  I very much liked the black and white image by Fabio Forin[11]. The white shirt of his partner against the light sky and contrasted by the dark trousers of the dark grass and with the horizon line of the hill cutting through his waist his brilliant.  The image by Charlie Clift of Nigel Farage[6] was very well lit, the background and foreground contrasts nicely against the dark of the suit/white shirt.  Smoking a cigar sets him out to be a smug individual, (and taken at the time of the Brexit referendum he probably was) and I found that the eyes were not fully closed but enough to not allow a catchlight,  thus removing his soul. I’m a big fan of catchlights, they add to the image and draw you into the face.  Not entirely sure as to whether this was intentional or not but adds to soul of this image. Maria by Kelvin Murray [12] on first view looks like a woman on a mountainside in the alps, when you pay closer attention you will see the ripped wallpaper, climbing helmets and control buttons. As they say the devil is in the detail, nicely set up and captured.  The colour of the helmets link together with the guitar and the white wooden hanger ties in with the blouse, although they are not related in any way they feel together with the mountain range.

This exhibition is a must see and ends at the National Portrait Gallery[13] on 26th February 2017.   My thanks to Neil Evans of the National Portrait gallery for the very useful press pack.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 37–37)Karl Ohiri and Riika Kassinen – Boy Scout

[2]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 20–21) Claudio Rasano – Thembinkosi Fanwell Ngwenya

[3]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications. (McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 22–23)Joni Sternbach – 16.02.20 #1 Thea+Maxwell from the series Surfland

[4]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 24–25) Loving Konowiecki – Shimi Beitar Illit – May 2016

[5]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 26–26) Josh Redman – Frances

[6]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications. (McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 55–55)Charlie Clift – Nigel Farage smirking a cigar

[7]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 72–72) Andy Lo Po – Simon Callow

[8]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 67–67)Ebony Finck – Untitled #1

[9]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 41–41)Scott Thomas – Jet, Ironman Boy

[10]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 58–59)Katie Barlow – Pink Bobble hat & looking back

[11]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 63–63)“Fabio Forin – Wing” (McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 63–63)

[12]McClure, R. and Cullinnan, N. (2016) Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2016. United Kingdom: National Portrait Gallery Publications.(McClure and Cullinnan, 2016, pp. 52–52)Kelvin Murray – Maria

[13] Taylor Wessing at the National Portrait Gallery.  http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2016/exhibition/ accessed 19th February 2017

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