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].



The Impressionists: Daubigny, Van Gogh and Monet.

The Scottish National Galley is showing a very interesting impressionists exhibition. The predominant painter on exhibition is Daubingy. His huge influence on the young impressionists, that were just emerging towards the middle of his career, is beautifully demonstrated.I had not known about this influence before visiting this exhibition. Daubigny was exhibiting already in the Salon when Monet was just born.

Daubigny supported the work of the young impressionists and tried to have it accepted by the Salon. There are a number of Monet’s works on display. Daubigny’s work was much darker, in the style of the time.

daubigny_1Daubingy became very successful and well off. He commissioned a river boat which he had fitted out as a floating studio. The exhibition has a model of this boat. Monet visited Daubingy and they worked on the boat on the river. Working outside like this was not the norm at the time. They both used the river as a foreground and both showed river reflections. Monet’s work was much lighter than Daubigny.

daubigny_sunset daubigny_2

Monet was so impressed with Daubigny’s outdoor river studio that he bought a similar boat and converted it to a studio.

Van Gogh was also deeply influenced by Daubingy. There are two sets of three paintings, one by each of the three painters. The different style of each is so clearly demonstrated. Daubingy, although still producing much heavier work than either Monet or Van Gogh, was being influenced by the younger painters. Monet’s work is so light and ethereal while Van Gogh’s is unmistakably his own strong brush strokes.

The exhibition is hung based on a timeline so the cross influences are very evident. The information is clearly presented. This is one of the best impressionists exhibitions I have ever seen.