Deadline: June 29, 2019
Entry fee: £28 per image
Prizes: winner – £15,000, 2 and 3 prize – £3,000 and £2,000, John Kobal Award – £5,000
The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is the leading international photographic portrait competition, celebrating and promoting the very best in contemporary portrait photography.
The Prize has established a reputation for creativity and excellence, with works submitted by a range of photographers, from leading professionals to talented amateurs and the most exciting emerging artists.
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2018 Winners
Alice Mann (05.09.1991) is a South African photographic artist based in London whose intimate portraiture essays explore notions of picture making as an act of collaboration. Her shortlisted series was shot in South Africa’s Western Province, focusing on the all-female teams of drum majorettes. Alice Mann says, ‘For these girls, involvement in ‘drummies’ becomes a vehicle for them to excel, and the distinctive uniforms serve as a visual marker of perceived success and represents emancipation from their surroundings. Continuing my consideration into notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society, it was my intent to create images that reflect the pride and confidence the girls achieve through identifying as ‘drummies’.’
Judges Comments: Mann’s series is consistent in its evocation of a sustained and intriguing narrative. Each sitter is precisely framed within a carefully considered composition, and the girls confidently meet the camera’s gaze. Their pristine and vibrant outfits jar with the rundown surroundings, lending a surreal and enigmatic atmosphere to the portraits.
The winner of the Second Prize was Enda Bowe (21.05.1972), an Irish photographer based in London. Bowe’s work is concerned with storytelling and the search for light and beauty in the ordinary. He has had work exhibited at Red Hook Gallery, New York, The V&A Museum, London, Fotohof, Salzburg, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, and The Visual Centre Of Contemporary Art, Ireland. The photograph selected, a portrait of Cybil and Lulu, is from a series of portraits titled Clapton Blossom. Bowe says, ‘the series focuses on finding the colour and beauty in the urban, the light in the grey. At the centre of the housing estate where this project was made stands a huge cherry blossom tree, the unifying heart of the estate. The beauty of the blossom, symbolising hope, optimism and new beginnings connects the people within the project together.’
Judges’ comments: Bowe’s tender portrait traces the emotional connection between a new parent and her baby, evoking traditional compositions of a mother and child. Further scrutiny reveals details, including Cybil’s piercings, tattoos and adorned nails, which with the urban setting, give a contemporary update to this classical theme.
Joint Third Prize went to Max Barstow (25.05.1994), a London-born photographer with an interest in images about city life, with his work inspired by a combination of studio and documentary photography. The photograph selected, a double portrait of two shoppers, has been taken from Barstow’s series titled, Londoners. Barstow says, ‘I began creating the series with the aim to make un-posed portraits with the intensity of images made by great studio portrait photographers such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. The photograph selected is a strongly composed and graphically-arresting image. It freezes a pair of friends shopping in the flow of a busy Summer Sunday afternoon in the centre of London. I believe the image is peculiarly interesting as a portrait in that it was taken swiftly in the middle of a crowd of passers-by – it is, unusually, both a formally successful portrait with a classic studio-aesthetic and a street photograph in the broad idiom of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Garry Winogrand.’
Judges’ comments: This arresting double portrait, with its stark white background, possess a classic studio aesthetic, isolating the two women from their surroundings in an unexplained tableau. The precision and tonal balance of the composition is all the more remarkable for having been taken in a fleeting moment on a busy London street.
Joint Third Prize also went to Joey Lawrence (05.11.1989), a Canadian-born photographer based in Brooklyn, New York celebrated for both his humanitarian projects and high-profile commissions. Lawrence has built his style by dedicating vast amount of time and resources to passion projects which emphasie the humanity in underserved communities. Commissioned by WaterAid, Lawrence’s shortlisted portrait of Joe Smart is part of a series shot in Tombohuaun, translation ‘Tombo’s Wound,’ a remote village tucked into the jungle of Sierra Leone’s Eastern Province struggling with water-borne illnesses. ‘Rather than just creating images that underscored Tombohuaun’s plight’, Lawrence says, ‘WaterAid and I envisioned a portrait study of the community that would highlight its resilience, its fraternity, its highly organized structure, and its work ethic. These are all the traits that will enable the village to thrive and sustain its clean water resources and practices long after the NGO has completed its work.’
Judges’ comments: Emerging from a lush palette of green foliage, ‘Strong’ Joe Smart’s expression proves utterly captivating. Lawrence’s use of focus draws attention to the young boy’s grass headdress, suggesting childhood games. This contrasts with his resolved gaze, of a maturity that belies his age.
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 Winners
On 1 August 2016, more than one hundred people were rescued from the Mediterranean Sea, twenty nautical miles from the Libyan coast. On board the rescue vessel, photojournalist César Dezfuli was documenting the plight of migrants as they tried to escape war, persecution and poverty. The portrait shows Amadou Sumaila, a sixteen-year-old from Mali, who was later transferred to a reception centre in Italy. ‘I think Amadou’s portrait stands out because of the emotions it transmits,’ says Dezfuli. ‘He had just been rescued by a European vessel, apparently fulfilling his dream. However, his look and his attitude show fear, mistrust and uncertainty, as well as determination and strength.’
This portrait by documentary photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith was made outside the Hasan Sham camp for internally displaced people in northern Iraq during an assignment for Oxfam. A convoy of buses had just arrived, bringing people to safety from the intense fighting in Mosul. She says, ‘I remember seeing the shock and bewilderment in the woman’s face as she looked out at the camp from the window. It made me shudder to imagine what living under ISIS must have been like.’
The winner of the £2,000 Third Prize and the John Kobal New Work Award for a photographer under 35, is Maija Tammi from Finlandfor her portrait of a Japanese android called Erica. Erica is a highly advanced robot, programmed by her creator, Hiroshi Ishiguro, to understand and respond to a range of questions and is able to express different emotions via dozens of pneumatic actuators embedded beneath her silicone skin. Tammi wanted the judges to consider the advancements made in artificial intelligence and the rapidly blurring lines between man and machine. ‘I wanted to question what it is to be human and what it is to be alive,’ says Tammi.