Taylor Wessing exhibition at Portrait Gallery

A visitor at the exhibition (by Terry Murden)
A visitor at the exhibition (by Terry Murden)

Engaging show of prize-winning photos

An exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery features 56 of the entries to last year’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

It is one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world, providing a platform for portrait photographers and offering an opportunity for celebrated professionals, emerging artists and amateurs alike.

The competition was established in 1993 and last year drew 4,929 submissions. For the first time, photographers were encouraged to submit works as a series in addition to stand-alone portraits.

Among those exhibited in Edinburgh is Five Girls 2014 by David Stewart which won the £12,000 first prize.

It is a group portrait of his daughter and her four friends and mirrors a photograph he took of the young women seven years ago when they were about to start their GCSEs, and which featured in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2008 exhibition.

Born in Lancaster, England, Stewart began his career photographing punk bands, including The Clash and The Ramones. After graduating at Blackpool and The Fylde College, Stewart moved to London in 1981 and works on a mix of personal projects and commissions. This year is the sixteenth time he has had a photograph in the exhibition.

Speaking of his winning portrait, he said: “I have always had a fascination with the way people interact – or, in this case, fail to interact, which inspired the photograph of this group of girls. While the girls are physically very close and their style and clothing highlight their membership of the same peer group, there is an element of distance between them.”

This is one of the better exhibitions of portrait photography, arguably better than last year’s David Bailey show which was more of a collection of famous faces. This show is more varied and prompts more thought about why and how the photos were taken.

One criticism is that the winning picture is not highlighted at the entrance. The board detailing the prize puzzlingly features the photograph which came second, taken by Anoush Abrar for Hector, his photograph of a friend’s child, inspired by Caravaggio’s painting Sleeping Cupid from 1608.

Taylor Wessing 2Third prize was one by Peter Zelewski’s photograph of a woman he spotted on Oxford Street whilst working on his series Beautiful Strangers, and fourth prize was awarded to Ivor Prickett’s photograph of a displaced Iraqi family who had fled their village near Mosul after Isis took control of the area.

The John Kobal New Work Award, worth £5,000, was won by Tereza Červeňová for her portrait of her friend Yngvild (right).

Among the diverse range of sitters and subjects featured in the show are a number of engaging portraits of well-known figures such as the President of the United States Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama; actor Benedict Cumberbatch; artists Gilbert and George; actor Peter Capaldi; and artist and writer Yayoi Kusama.

Recent work by the award-winning South African photographer Pieter Hugo is included in the exhibition as part of the new In Focus display.

Speaking of the exhibition, Anne Lyden, International Photography Curator at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and competition judge, said: The diversity of images and issues represented in this year’s competition make for a strong and provocative display.”

Tim Eyles, UK Managing Partner at international law firm Taylor Wessing and competition judge, commented: “Yet again the excitement and anticipation of seeing this year’s submissions was fulfilled by their striking diversity and fascinating array of styles, settings and subject matter.”

The competition was judged from original prints by Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery; Dr Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery; Hannah Starkey, Photographer; Anne Lyden, International Photography Curator, Scottish National Portrait Gallery; David Drake, Director, Ffotogallery, Cardiff; and Tim Eyles, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015
18 June – 2 October
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen St, Edinburgh
Admission free

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