National Portrait Gallery

It’s that time of year again where the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize comes to the National Portrait Prize. There were some great pieces of work there, and as I grow and see more work in my own practice it’s really interesting to see the different paths each photographer took before getting to a place where their photograph is selected to be shown. The winner’s work was fantastic but there were a couple others which I also found really interesting that I want to discuss.

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Shown above are the two images, Owen Harvey had displayed in the gallery, they’re from his series Skins & Suedes which is about the skinhead movement. With his portraits, he wanted to show a vulnerability to a culture which is known for its aggression. I had a look at the rest of the project on his website and these two images were definitely my favourite. The simplicity of the locations and pose shows that you don’t need a fancy set up to take a great portrait. I didn’t see anywhere however what they were shot on, my guess would be medium format but I can’t be sure.

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Next, we have two images by Catherine Hyland from her series Wait-And-See Pudding With Patience was shot on a small Caribbean island called Nevis, known for its sandy beaches but also has sugar plantations created to bring wealth to the British Empire. The island is harnessing renewable energy resources to become the world’s first carbon-neutral nation. The series was shot on commision for the British Airways magazine High Life. It’s interesting that big companies are hiring photographers to create this kind of work for their magazines, instead of just showing the beautiful sandy beaches and women in bikinis. And again the portraits are very simple but with the lighting and the subject matter, they become a comment on a certain aspect of the subjects life.

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Lastly, I wanted to talk about Danny North and their series As I Found Her – A Portrait of Eigg. The series documents the inhabitants of the Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Hebrides, which has sixty-eight residents. The residents run the area sustainably using sources of renewable energy. They were taken over the course of a year to be able to capture the close-knit community and was created to better understand this and what it means to live in the remote parts of the United Kingdom.

There are more images from the series their website which further shows different aspects of the residents’ lives. This work I found very interesting as I feel it quite closely relates to that of my own ideas as also what I would like to continue to explore after I’ve finished my degree.

Overall I always find the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize inspiring. It shows such great work but also what people are finding interesting in photography, specifically portraits. This year I was mostly interested by the work more documentary based as this is the path in which I think I might take once I finish, to them look at their gives me inspiration for what I may also want to do.


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