The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world, celebrating the very best in contemporary portrait photography.
This year the exhibition will take place at the new arts hub Cromwell Place, London, from 10 November 2021 to 2 January 2022. The winner of the top prize will get £15,000 and will be announced on 8 November 2021. This year saw over 5,300 entries from 2,215 photographers worldwide.
The shortlist of photographers has just been announced so let’s have a look at the talent shall we…
Entitled Rosemary & Thyme, Ilina’s series of portraits celebrates positive body image and questions notions of masculinity and femininity by highlighting their fluidity. Themes of identity and gender expression are central to Ilina’s work and the series subverts time-honoured tropes of representation in Western art by depicting male sitters in poses traditionally found in portraits of females. The portrait ‘David’ is a particular standard which impressed the judges namely for its modern subversion of Renaissance references;
“From Velázquez to Ingres, painters have portrayed men in positions of power, or as muscular heroes in battle, whereas females are often pictured naked and reclining, communicating softness, weakness and openness to gaze,” explains Ilina. ‘I wanted to borrow the so-called feminine body language from those paintings and juxtapose it with male sitters. Being physically and emotionally strong still dominates Western ideologies and expectations of ‘real men’, but it’s important that contemporary men have the right to be vulnerable and gentle, and not feel ashamed of that.”
De Pibrac’s series is entitled, “Hakanai Sonzai”, meaning ‘I, myself, feel like an ephemeral creature’. It reflects Pibrac’s belief that “his sitters’ forbearance is rooted in a national culture of fatality and awareness of impermanence”. shortlisted large-format portraits were taken in Japan, where he spent eight months accompanied by his wife and children. Travelling to the country’s most troubled regions, he focused his lens on people who exhibited fortitude in the face of adversity. In Fukushima, he photographed residents still exiled from their contaminated homes following the nuclear meltdown a decade ago. Other portraits were taken in the former mining town Yubari, once known as the country’s capital of coal, now devastated by colliery closures and depopulation.
“Each portrait emanates from long discussions I had with my subjects about a painful event in their lives,’ he says. ‘In all the pictures I forbid any movement as if they are trapped by their surroundings with no visible escape.”
Australian Prichard enters with a series of portraits of First Nation women who spent most of their working lives as stock women on cattle stations in Far North Queensland.
Working for over 25 years, Prichard has documented indigenous peoples for much of his career and was commissioned to create the series by Normanton council in Queensland following a well-received 2019 exhibition that showcased First Nation rodeo riders in the region. Prichard wishes to shine a light on the indigenous community in Australia as their way of life is often unrecorded.
“Any level of investigation into Australian history reveals the years of trauma that indigenous people have suffered,” Prichard says. “One can only imagine what stock women endured, living in remote areas, in a world dominated by white colonial culture and law. I wanted to produce portraits that were dignified, strong and beautiful, and worthy to represent these women today and into the future.”
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