Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize 2015: Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The prize, which began in 1993, attracted 4,929 submissions from 2,201 photographers from 70 countries. Nicholas Cullinan, director of the NPG, said: “I would like to thank the thousands of photographers who entered such a variety of impressive prints from across the globe, enabling the judges to form this compelling exhibition which is, essentially, a dynamic photographic portrait of the world today.”(1)

My first reaction, on viewing this exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery, was one of being underwhelmed. Nothing jumped out at me as exceptional. The prize winners were distributed among the non winners and this was a good idea. The winners tags were discretely small. The visitor could view the exhibition in the same way as judges might have done. We were also asked to vote for our choice of winner.

On my Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 08.05.06second round I looked to see the winners. I would never have picked the same winner. What I did observe was that it was very different from all the other entries. Firstly it was a group portrait whereas the others were mostly individual or family groups. Secondly it was very modern in that the young girls all have that bored style and stance of many teenagers today. The mobile phones and paper coffee cups puts the image bang in the present.

My husband observed that almost exclusively the persons represented in the images were either very serious or sad. The image of the small Nigerian boy laughing was a welcome exception. We also observed the lack of older women’s portraits, just one. The second prize went to “Hector”, a small baby. Beautiful but not exceptional I thought.

My favourite was a triptych. An African man, beautifully depicted and a brail story on black paper. One assumed the story was about him as we were not told, but this added to the mystery. My only reservation was that the brail was behind glass so could not be touched. This is understandable but frustrating for blind people since it was the only thing they could read in the exhibition.

It was very interesting to see the short listed images for this prize and the eventual winners.

  1. The Guardian. 2016. Photo of five girls eating sushi wins Taylor Wessing portrait prize | Art and design | The Guardian. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/nov/10/taylor-wessing-photography-portrait-prize-five-girls-david-stewart. [Accessed 23 August 2016].