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

josh redman (Npg.org.uk, 2017)

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

margo.jpg (LensCulture, 2017).

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

tom merrilon (Npg.org.uk, 2017)

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

farage-taylor-wessing (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

ohiri and kassinen.jpg (Npg.org.uk, 2017)

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

ALP.-simon-callow-telegraph-561x748 (Wyattclarkejones, 2017)

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

Angela (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

paul-stuart-john-harrison-36852-days-old (Doggett, 2017)

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.

middel daniel.jpg Daniel.(Npg.org.uk, 2017)

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.


Feminist Avante-Garde of the 1970s (The Photographers Gallery)

There are over 200 works of art by 48 artists, from 20 countries on display over 2 floors. This was my first visit to the photographers gallery and I liked it’s intimacy but spaciousness. The exhibition is a mixture of works by famous photographers such as Cindy Sherman, Francesca Woodman and Martha Rosler as well as one less familiar ones.

The exhibition addresses the female form, ownership, domesticity, sexuality, violence and female identity and is arranged in four themes: The seductive body, Domestic agenda, In my skin and Alter ego. Along with conventional photography there are exhibits of video art, photo montage and sculpture.  The exhibition is intended to reflect ‘a moment during which practices of emancipation, gender equality and civil rights protest movements became part of public discourse” (Written and Brookman, 2016). It explores the art of women “whose taboo-breaking, norm-questioning works changed the art canon forever, and opened up new ways for understanding gender, representation and sexual politics” (De Pressigny, 2016). These artists addressed political issues and challenged sexism in society and art.

Works attacking the domestic agenda were interesting and thought provoking. I was intrigued by the “semantics of the kitchen” Martha Rosler (1975) where a woman at a butchers block methodically names implements in alphabetical order, starting with a deadpan  expression “but as she demonstrates the use of each appliance her actions become increasing aggressive, suggesting murderous intent”( Güner, 2016).


(Martha Rosler, nd)

Birgit Jürgenssen’s self-portrait in a housewife’s apron, with a bored expression “redefines  the phrase ‘bun in the oven’ (Time, 2016).


(No date, 1)

Renate Eisenegger Hochhaus’s image is another attack on the domestic agenda and an interesting representation of this.


Renate Eisenegger Hochhaus (Nr.1), 1974 © Renate Eisenegger / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Vienna (Written and Brookman 2016)

Martha Wilsons “A portfolio of models”(1974)  is descriptive but more straightforward presentation of the various roles of a woman in the 70s, where she depicts models in 6 frames as a goddess, a housewife, a working girl, a lesbian, an earth mother and a professional in their stereotypes.

There are also many humorous depictions such as Penny Slingers work “wedding invitation” (Art is just a piece of cake)

(Slinger 1973, No Date 3)

An emphasis of the 70s feminist avant-garde was the female body, this decade was a time for the conceptual eradication of all that the female body had come to symbolise over thousands of years of patriarchy. I was attracted to the playful work of Katalin Landik (1978) using 6 images where a face behind a glass sheet is represented as distorted views as the subjects face presses against it.


(Ltd, 2015)

This work is contrasted by Ana Mendieta’s “Untitled “ glass on body imprints face (1972 ), a similar project where her face is pressed against a glass screen but presents much  more distorted appearances; the colour in these for me gave a more violent mood to the images. It’s performance, the poses, and documentation is unsettling, “to describe the work as disquieting is an understatement” (The Photographer’s gallery, 2016).


(No date, 2)

I was also struck with the “Destruction of an illusion” Karin Mack (1977) where a black and white facial image is gradually over the five frames reduced to a fragment and has pins placed in it.


(Ewa Partum, Change, 1974)

Annegret Soltau’s (1975) self-portrait in 15 frames with black thread increasingly wound around her head and shoulders is an effective way to portray a woman as distorted, My most important aim is to include bodily processes in my work and to use myself as a model – because I can go the furthest with myself,”  (Pangburn and Dazed, 2015). I found this to be rather like Renate Eiseneggar’s (1972) “isolation” in 8 frames where a head with Cotton wool and plaster tape is wrapped around them increasingly until they obscure the face.

On a slightly less disturbing level for me was Francesca Woodman’s work explores the formal and psychological potential of the body to create poetry, such as her portrait “self- deceit”.


(Francesca Woodman Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italy, 1978/1979)

 Learning points

The artists displayed were pioneers challenging depictions and ideas of women in the 1970, hence the exhibition title “Avante garde”. However to be honest as a photographer I was struck not so much by the feminist issues raised and confronted but by the variety of the ways that this was represented. This was a good lead in for me to conceptual photography where ideas are stressed rather than the subject being photographed, or through it, and where the focus is drawn to expression and interpretation. It has given me inspiration for photographing “The unseen” for assignment 2. I will reflect on the many alternative and creative ways that ideas can be represented, such representation, distortions and alternative depictions of reality, as well as using metaphors and text to underline messages.

 The exhibition will also be useful to reflect on when I am preparing for assignment 3 photographing the self.


De Pressigny, C. (2016) 70s avant garde feminist art show coming to London’s photographer’s gallery | read. Available at: https://i-d.vice.com/en_gb/article/70s-avant-garde-feminist-art-show-coming-to-londons-photographers-gallery (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Ewa Partum, Change, 1974 © Ewa Partum Courtesy of Galerie M+R Fricke, Berlin / Bildrecht, Vienna, 2015 / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Vienna (Written and Brookman 2016).

Francesca Woodman Self-deceit #1, Rome, Italy, 1978/1979 © Courtesy George and Betty Woodman, New York / SAMMLUNG VERBUND, Wien (From Written and Brookman 2016).

Güner, F. (2016) Feminist art of the 1970s: Knives, nudity and terrified men. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/womens-blog/2016/oct/03/feminist-art-of-the-1970s-knives-nudity-and-terrified-men (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Ltd, A. (2015) Paul Carey Kent’s Curated London Art Exhibition picks November 2015. Available at: http://www.artlyst.com/reviews/paul-carey-kents-curated-london-art-exhibition-pick-november-2015/ (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Martha Rosler: Semiotics of the kitchen (no date) Available at: http://collection.fraclorraine.org/collection/print/469?lang=fr (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Rosenbach, U. (no date) Penny slinger wedding invitation. Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=penny+slinger+wedding+invitation&client=safari&hl=en-gb&prmd=isvn&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiR8rniyszRAhXGlxoKHRBVAIoQ_AUIBygB&biw=1024&bih=672#imgdii=JaU6BZDDqzwlXM%3A%3BCJkHWFVc-hGhjM%3A%3BCJkHWFVc-hGhjM%3A&imgrc=CJkHWFVc-hGhjM%3A (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Pangburn, D. and Dazed (2015) The dA-zed guide to 70s feminist avant-garde art. Available at: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/26094/1/the-da-zed-guide-to-70s-feminist-avant-garde-art (Accessed: 1 February 2017).

The Photographers gallery (2016) loose associations, vol 2 issue iv, Autumn 2016. London.

Time (2016) Feminist avant-garde of the 1970s. Available at: http://www.timeout.com/london/art/feminist-avant-garde-of-the-1970s (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

Written and Brookman, J. (2016) Images of the feminist avant-garde in the 1970s shine a light on an artistic movement too long overlooked. Available at: http://www.bjp-online.com/2016/09/images-of-the-feminist-avant-garde-in-the-1970s-shine-a-light-on-an-artistic-movement-too-long-overlooked/ (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

(No Date 1) Available at: http://www.timeout.com/london/art/feminist-avant-garde-of-the-1970 (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

(No Date 2) Available at: http://thenewinquiry.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/haley-1.jpg (Accessed: 18 January 2017).

(No Date 3) Available at: https://artblart.com/tag/penny-slinger/ (Accessed: 1 February 2017).

Please note: Any images by other photographers used on this post are accredited and are being used for personal research and educational purposes only.


The image as  question: An exhibition of evidential photography (Michael Hoppen Gallery).Visited 9.11.16.

Crime or evidential photography is the theme of the exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery in London, bringing together images from the 19th century, alongside relevant pieces of contemporary art. Many images are imply records of facts, “taken to prove a point” (gallery, nd), often from police records, not art photography. There are some interesting subjects such as the student who prior to the exam write prompts on her legs; she agreed to be photographed after the exam if her name wasn’t recorded, and subsequently was not caught!

Some images are documentary as art such as Dr Harold Edgerton’s “Milk drop coronet” 1957 famous images of milk drops are shown and Guy Bourdin’s “Crime scene”. Certainly  “The inclusion of these works alongside more pragmatic imagery raises thorny old questions around whether photography is art, and if so, what makes it so – aesthetics? The intent of the photographer?” (Williams 2016).

It seems to me that in the early part of the 1900s the boundaries in documentary photography were far less blurred than they are now.

These were the 1mages that most struck me

Guy Bourdin. 1975. “Crime scene”: This shot was fabricated as a crime scene for a fashion photograph to advertise shoes. On a street, with an open automobile doorcar door, lines tracing the position where a body was, and an abandoned pair of pink shoes on the pavement. If you viewed the photograph not knowing the photographer or the story behind the image, you would think it a documentary picture.

Ernst Has. 1956. “Moby Dick”. This photograph reveals the mechanics of making films and is straightforward photojournalism.

Unknown. “Decapitated man”. France 1880s. These three images are of a head placed on a stone block following being guillotined, again straightforward photojournalism.

Harold Edgerton. 1972. “Bullet through a helium balloon”. This is an amazing image, where the openings made either side of the balloont are obvious for the entry and exit sites of the bullet and yet the structure of the balloon is still intact. This image is both documentary and art.


Gallery, M.H. (no date) ? The image as question – works. Available at: http://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/exhibitions/139/overview/ (Accessed: 11 November 2016).

Williams, E. (2016) The photo as proof: An exhibition of crime photography. Available at: https://www.creativereview.co.uk/photography-proof-exhibition-crime-photography/ (Accessed: 11 November 2016).



EXHIBITION: William Eggleston portraits


I attended an OCA study day visit to the William Eggleston exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. This was my first viewing first hand of his work.

My personal response: Overall I was struck by the seemingly random nature of his images despite the everyday and familiar being the consistent subject matter. In seeking to understand his style I searched for other similarities. His framing, cropping, use of lines, composition and camera angles don’t seem to follow any pattern or style. Known of course for his experimental use of colour, this particular approach to colour, light and tonal range for me is the common denominator in his work. In the images at the exhibition his main subject is usually a vivid colour set against a dull or dark background, sometimes at odds with the background whilst occasionally in sympathy with the background. His colour appears most vivid on his dye transfer prints.


william-eggleston-1(Glover 2013)

The image below is my personal favorite from the exhibition. Both the woman and the post are similarly erect, in fact she exudes tautness and the movement of her hand adds to the rigidity of both her and the post and is actually quite eerie. I am aware that he warns against symbolic interpretations of his work.

william-eggleston-3 https://ushistorians.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/william-eggleston-memphis-c-1969-71-women-sitting.jpg

The impact his work may have on my practice

I will try using:

  • More unusual compositions and use of space in the frame
  • Horizons/leading lines that aren’t straight
  • Colourful subjects emphasized against dull backgrounds
  • Be conscious about the size of the subject in the frame and compared to surroundings according to the narrative I am setting


Michael Glover ( 2013) Genius in colour: Why William Eggleston is the world’s greatest photographer. The Independent online, April 22nd 2013 . Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/genius-in-colour-why-william-eggleston-is-the-world-s-greatest-photographer-8577202.html (Accessed 2.10.16)