Each year, the National Portrait Gallery in London presents its selection of what it considers to be the best achievements in portraiture. And each year, not everyone agrees with the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize’s final selection, which features 50 portrait images, as well as four shortlisted photographs that compete for a $20,000 cash prize.
In past years, groups of photographers have joined forces to denounce the National Portrait Gallery’s process and perceived bias, which is alleged to favor a certain type of conservative imagery. Since 2011, for example, the Portrait Salon photography prize has been selecting its own winners from the pool of rejected Taylor Wessing entrants.
Yet, the National Portrait Gallery’s contest continues to play an important role in portrait photography – often confirming its own conformist tendencies, while, at times, surprising by its unconventional choices. This year, the jury seems to have decided to do both.
While Birgit Püve’s portrait of identical twin boys kneeling next to their great grandmother’s hen conforms to the prize’s tropes (young subjects embracing an animal, preferably ginger), Blerin Racaj’s shot of a group of young Kosovars and David Titlow’s cinematic portrait of his baby son being introduced to a dog seem out of place when you consider the prize’s past selections. This is a welcome mix, and one that will only confirm the National Portrait Gallery’s standing in defining portraiture, despite the many arguments leveled against the prize.
The winner, chosen from among Püve, Racaj and Titlow, as well as Jessica Fulford-Dobson’s portrait of an Afghan skate girl, will be announced on Nov. 11, 2014.
The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014 runs from Nov. 13, 2014 to Feb. 22, 2015 at the National Portrait Gallery in London.