Taylor Wessing 2016 Photographic Portrait award – International Traditional and contemporary photography
I visited this exhibition with a group of fellow OCA students as an “unofficial” study day.
The works in final exhibition reflect the inventiveness and the breadth of their subject matter. The 57 portraits were chosen from 4303 photos. The judges Criteria was: the impact upon viewer and effective use of subject matter.
These are the photographs that most impacted upon me the most.
Frances – Josh Redman 2016
Redman was previously a sculptor and this shows in this image. He photographed nude sitters in identitical lighting and backgrounds to enhance his understanding of portraiture. This image which combines elegance and spontaneous expressions seems to embody the spirit of the subject. Frances is eighty three and appears strong rather than fragile as you would expect at that age, proud of her skin and body aged and lined. Her skin appears warm and alive. He has captured her from an unusual angle looking upwards to her, perhaps this is part of what gives her the power in the image. I am in awe of this powerful image.
Sleeping worker 2015 – Etienne Malapert. The figure on the grass could be mistaken for dead with the cloth positioned over its head, however the title indicates otherwise. I was drawn by its ambiguity but lingered to enjoy the dappled lighting and subtle colours.
Rosanna and Maria Grazia – Fabio Boni 2016. Portraits of volunteers of Italian Red Cross have been photographed against a vibrant red Background which was chosen to suggest vigor and strength. Again it is the choice and effect of the background that attracts me.
John McCrea – Phil Sharp 2015. He normally takes publicity head shots for aspiring actors. He has used a very shallow depth of field which puts just the left eye and the chin in focus The subject has a cigarette in his mouth as a performance pose and gazes pensively in front of a black background, it is both a nostalgic and contemporary image.
Margo – Rachel Molina 2016
This image was noted for its sensitive use of focus. The sharp focus falls on the elderly lady’s face and the caring hand resting on her shoulder. The possible loneliness shown on her face is softened by her physical connection to a person out of shot. The vulnerability and caring suggested here is what interests me.
John Anastazia – Tom Merilion 2015 from the series Tanzanian street children
These photographs were commissioned by a Tanzanian charity supporting vulnerable children. They were all posed against a white background which was used to disconnect them from the streets that they live on. This definitely focuses the eyes on small details such as his Chelsea football glove and his burnt arm.
Nigel Farage smoking a cigar – Charlie Clift 2016
(T and Luke,2017)
Photographed in a Belgravia cigar club he has encapsulated his public persona, buoyant, cheeky, and larger than life. The shallow depth of field leaves just his face in focus, arms/hands in front not in focus, though this is obvious in the large gallery print, not so obvious when viewing in a smaller format on line. Once again a plain background, this time blue, definitely enhances the subject and the details.
Boy Scout 2016 Karl Ohiri and Riikka Kassinen
The scout was watched from a distance as they were setting up a studio for another purpose in Lagos Nigeria. He was invited to stand in front if their bold yellow background which contrasts brilliantly against his dark skin and green uniform. As you look closely at the portraits you notice the small details that are enhanced, such as his fraying scarf and oversized uniform which contribute to his vulnerability. I think it’s the effect of the background against the subject and his clothing that attracts me, as it seems to bring the details in a sharp focus.
Simon callow – Andy Lo Po
This causes me to comment as it shows the actor i a reflective mood rather than as his usual exuberant character. It is obviously a good shot but I don’t like it as it doesn’t reflect the character that I know.
Angela – Peter Mosely 2016 from the series Dermis
(Npg.org.uk, 2, 2017).
This is another of my favourites from the exhibition, It was achieved by photogravure a mechanical printing process where the image is etched onto a plate for printing. This shows her skin in forensic detail and stresses the physicality of her body. The appeal for me in this portrait is the brightness of her eyes staring piercingly and confidently at you.
John Harrison 36852 days old – Paul Stuart 2015
His face emerges from dark background with the strong directional lighting which draws attention to the lines on his face and flecks of silver in his grey hair. The depth of field is shallow with the focus on his forehead lines and the nearest eye which emphasises his alertness and curiosity.
Pink bobble hat “looking back to sea”- Katie Barlow 2016 Series in refugee transport bus Lesbos. She has framed each of her refugee by the bus windows and curtains subjects and photographed through the dirty opaque glass. The framing and slight blurring enhances the atmosphere of uncertainty and mess (metaphorical).
Wing – Fabio Forin 2016. The subject is throwing his arms up in the air in a carefree way, head up, eyes closed, with the horizon line exactly intersecting with the waist of his trousers. I think it’s his graceful pose which it at odds to the cloudy dull scene behind him that intrigues me.
The “In Focus” display show cases innovative approach to portraiture:
Christina de Middel b 1975 who tackles conventional subject matter through unorthodox means.
Her Series The Gentlemen’s Club men, shot in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, men who visit prostitutes were paid to talk about why they visited; the accompanying texts reveal the men’s thoughts and motivations. The images of the four men portray them in a manner which fits each of their stories. For instance Luis who visits because he is lonely is photographed with his back against the wall staring away in the half light. Whereas Daniel who visits for pleasure and fun without commitment, poses looking strong relaxed confident and in control, whilst photographed lying on a bed. She has protected the documentary value of the photographs by not manipulating them in any way, preferring to manipulate the reality in front of her whilst she is shooting. She believes that generally “photography has done a bad job in explaining what prostitution is about and has deliberately- for some obvious reasons- hidden the other half of the story” (McClure, 2016).
My learning points
- I could see the benefits that those who had also sculpted or used other mediums could bring to their portrait photography, such as Josh Redman.
- I can now really appreciate the importance of the background in a portrait and the way that the choice of colour can enhance the subject, most especially when it is plain: Fabio Boni, Tom Merilion, Ohiri and Kassinen.
- I appreciate the impact of using a shallow depth of field to focus on a small detail or part of a face, Phil Sharp. Rachel Molina, and Charlie Clift.
- The importance of careful use of lighting and perspective, Josh Redman and Paul Stuart.
- The impact of thoughtful framing, Katie Barlow to convey a message. The variety of ways that the photographer can capture the spirit of the subject, “The Gentlemen’s club”, “John Harrison”, “Angela”, “Nigel Farage”, “John McCrea” and “Frances”.
Lens Culture, N. (2017). Fleeting Truths: Thoughts on Portrait Photography – Interview with Head of Photographs Phillip Prodger | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/national-portrait-gallery-fleeting-truths-thoughts-on-portrait-photography [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
Mary Doggett’s Learning Log. (2017). paul-stuart-john-harrison-36852-days-old. [online] Available at: https://mary513255cn.wordpress.com/2017/01/15/exhibition-taylor-wessing-photographic-portrait-prize-2016/paul-stuart-john-harrison-36852-days-old/ [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
McClure (2016) in Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 16, National Portrait gallery Publications, London.
Npg.org.uk. 2 (2017). Weekend Workshop: Photogravure Printing – National Portrait Gallery. [online] Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/event-root/january/weekend-workshop-28012017.php [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
Npg.org.uk. (2017). Taylor Wessing photographic Portrait Prize 2016 – Exhibition. [online] Available at: http://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2016/exhibition/ [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
T and Luke, B. (2017).Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2016, review: Farage an unwelcome shock. [online] Evening Standard. Available at: http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/arts/taylor-wessing-portrait-prize-2016-exhibition-review-nigel-farage-an-unwelcome-shock-a3400591.html [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
Wyattclarkejones.com. (2017). Andy Lo Po, Taylor Wessing Award – Wyatt Clarke & Jones. [online] Available at: http://wyattclarkejones.com/andy-lo-po-taylor-wessing-award/ [Accessed 28 Mar. 2017].
Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this site are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.