Four photographs have been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015, the major international photography award organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London. The prize-winning portraits include Anoush Abrar’s photograph of a young boy, inspired by Caravaggio’s painting Sleeping Cupid; Ivor Prickett’s photograph of a displaced Iraqi family who had fled their village near Mosul after Isis took control of the area; David Stewart’s portrait of his daughter and her friends, which was inspired by the photographer’s fascination with human interaction; and Peter Zelewski’s photograph of a woman he spotted on Oxford Street whilst working on his series Beautiful Strangers.
The annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world and showcases new work that has been submitted by some of the most exciting and cutting-edge contemporary photographers. Since the international competition began in 1993, it has remained a hugely important platform for portrait photographers and offers an unparalleled opportunity for celebrated professionals, emerging artists and amateurs alike.
Judged anonymously, the diversity of styles in the exhibition reflects the international mix of entries as well as photographers’ individual and varied approaches to the genre of portraiture. For the first time, photographers were encouraged to submit works as a series in addition to stand-alone portraits, and there was no minimum size requirement for prints.
This year’s exhibition will also feature previously unseen prints from a new body of work by the award-winning South African photographer, Pieter Hugo. The prints will form the inaugural In Focus display, an annual showcase for new work by an internationally renowned photographer, which will be exhibited alongside the photographs selected from the competition entries. As the first ever In Focus artist, Hugo was chosen by the Gallery for his uncompromising, insightful and occasionally provocative approach to portraiture.
The prize-winning photographs and those selected for inclusion in the exhibition were chosen from 4929 submissions entered by 2201 photographers from 70 countries.
The following four photographs have been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015:
Hector by Anoush Abrar
Anoush Abrar was born in Tehran, Iran, and lived in Switzerland from the age of five. He studied at the University of Arts in Lausanne and has taught photography there since 2005. Abrar has had his work exhibited in museums and galleries around the world and now lives and works between London and Lausanne. The idea behind Abrar’s portrait Hector stems from the photographer’s fascination with Caravaggio’s work, particularly his painting Sleeping Cupid from 1608. Abrar explains: ‘Somehow I needed to make my own Sleeping Cupid. I found my portrait of Hector so powerful and iconic that it inspired me to continue this project as a series called Cherubs.’
Amira and her Children by Ivor Prickett
Ivor Prickett is a documentary photographer who works on personal projects whilst carrying out assignments for a diverse range of international clients. Having lived and worked in the Middle East and Turkey for nearly 5 years, he is now based in London. Prickett took the photograph Amira and her Children in Northern Iraq in September 2014 when working on an assignment for UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). Prickett explains: ‘I met Amira and her family in the tent where they were living in at the Baharka camp near Erbil; they had fled their village near Mosul after Isis had taken control of the area. I spent some time speaking with Amira about what her family had gone through. As they became more comfortable with me being there they really started to express their closeness and became very tactile. It was a beautiful moment to witness in the midst of such a difficult situation.’
Five Girls by David Stewart
Born in Lancaster, England, David Stewart began his career photographing punk bands, including The Clash and The Ramones, and the colourful characters seen on Morecambe Promenade. After graduating at Blackpool and The Fylde College, Stewart moved to London in 1981 and works on a mix of personal projects and commissions. His photograph Five Girls is of his daughter and her friends, and mirrors a photograph he took of them seven years ago when they were about to start their GCSEs. Stewart says: ‘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.’ The original photograph of the five girls was displayed in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2008 exhibition and this year is the sixteenth time Stewart has had a photograph in the exhibition.
Nyaueth by Peter Zelewski
Peter Zelewski is a London-based portrait and documentary photographer. Born in Detroit, USA, he moved to London in the late 80s and studied Graphic Design at North London Polytechnic. Through his fascination and love of the city, he was drawn to the streets of London to take photographs of its citizens. Zelewski now divides his time between graphic design, commercial photography and his personal street portraiture projects. Zelewski’s portrait Nyaueth was taken near Oxford Street as part of his series Beautiful Strangers. Zelewski explains: ‘The aim of Beautiful Strangers is to challenge the concept of traditional beauty with a series of spontaneous and powerful street portraits of everyday citizens who show character, uniqueness and a special inner quality, which I try to interpret in my photographs.’
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 LLP.
Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘The strength of the four shortlisted works reflects the outstanding level that photographers across the world are working at today. The exhibition will be especially exciting this year as we will be displaying a number of photographs that were submitted as a series of portraits, as well as new and unseen work by acclaimed photographer Pieter Hugo.’
Tim Eyles, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing LLP, says: ‘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. Although there was much lively debate amongst the judges, it was noteworthy how the final selection had endured powerful analysis but ultimately reflected a commonality of view. The process is intense, emotional and elevating. I felt privileged to be witness to such a myriad of exciting images and talent, and learned much from the inspired approach of my fellow judges.’
The prizes for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2015 and the winner of the fourth John Kobal New Work Award will be announced on Tuesday 10 November 2015 at 19.00.