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TAYLOR WESSING PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT PRIZE 16

THE EXHIBITION

 For the first time in its history the National Portrait Gallery’s annual competition the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is to permit digital entries for its first round of judging, it was announced today, Friday 28 April 2017. (News Release: NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY ANNOUNCES TENTH ANNIVERSARY TAYLOR WESSING PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT PRIZE CALL FOR ENTRIES… DIGITAL SUBMISSIONS WELCOMED FOR FIRST TIME – National Portrait Gallery, no date)

The Beaney Museum, Canterbury is currently holding the

exhibition until the 29th October. https://canterburymuseums.co.uk/beaney/explore/

The exhibition is located on the first floor in a large room which was fairly well lit with spot lights over the hung mounted portraits with a few darker areas; where it enhanced the work on display in particular Angela (photogravure) February 2016 by Peter MOSELEY.

Moseley’s portrait in monochrome and using a printing technique that took me back to a time when I left school and started work in the print industry; a very evocative portrait not only for the print process but the subject reflected myself with every minute detail emphasised in the skin and atrophy.

The overall layout of the exhibition was displayed in two sections parted by a small divide with a total of 61 portraits.

In the corner of the small divide was a section ‘In Focus’ by l. The De Middel exhibition comprised of four large inkjet prints from the series ‘The Gentleman’s Club 2016’. De Middel was born in 1975 and has Spanish and Belgian parents. She studied at the Polytechnic University of Valencia gained her MA in Fine Arts but photography was to great an opportunity and was side-tracked by the

camera. ‘That’s when I fell in love with the darkroom process. I soon realised the possibilities the medium had to explain the world we live in and I wanted to try to understand the world through the lens.’ (Bloomfield and National Portrait Gallery (Great Britain), 2016)

 Working clockwise around the exhibition the prints varied in size, colour and medium with the exception of De Middel’s work. The prints had a feel of a seedy nature, solitary males in dimly lit rooms casually dressed. One male looks high on drugs with a vacant expression on his face. The narrative sitting slightly to one side of the portraits and under each a short explanation about the subject and why they use brothels.

 I progressed along the walls and immediately struck by two portraits of nurses on a bright crimson background against which the bright white uniforms leapt out of the photograph. Larger than life in size and posture. I felt quite intimidated by the pair staring at me.

The overall winning image a schoolboy in uniform seemed rather bland and boring it could have been taken at any school anywhere in the world. I did not find it in anyway stimulating or leaving me asking Who? What? Where? When and Why? I found it (Similar uniforms we refuse to compare) disappointing, however, well lit, sharp and technically correct a classic portrait. Claudio Rasano’s work does not appear to differ from any other work he has previously produced; clean backgrounds, natural lighting and without manipulating the image. (correspondent, 2016)

The second prize awarded to Joni Sternbach a tintype was outstanding! The incredible, tangible feel and look of the surfer and his girlfriend was almost three dimensional with an aged quality that you could not have achieved easily digitally. Tintypes were popular at seaside resorts in the nineteenth century, as they were cheaper and easier to produce than daguerrotypes. Sternbach processed her work using a mobile darkroom on location. (correspondent, 2016)

Sternbach made a connection with the subject and it is translated in the expression of both surfer and girlfriend the relaxed pose and intimacy between them clear. If it weren’t for the reversed lettering on the t-shirt you could be fooled into thinking it had been enhanced in photoshop.

Overall, I felt some of the aspects of the exhibition very positive others I felt indifferent and in particular the overall winners work. I think the highlight the exhibition had to be poignant picture by Ebony Fink of her late grandfather who at the time was a resident at a Melbourne palliative care facility.

The natural daylight streaming in from the window and the clean linen create the impression of a sterile environment. Yet at the same time I feel the despair and fragility of Fink’s grandfather. I cannot decide if he is sitting on the edge of the bed or about to try and get up onto his feet. The watch echoes that time is fleeting and life is ebbing away given the state of his body, again the light creating shadow and detail.

I found this a sad portrait and thought about my own plight and that of my grandfather and the last few days he spent in hospital before he passed away. This inspired me to go back home and revisit my current assignment three, the decisive moment or as suggested by my tutor the un-decisive moment.

There seemed to be a consistent theme as a source of reference of old masters, pre-Raphaelite dra

wings and Dutch masters in many of the portraits. The use of Chiaroscuro lighting was evident by Karsten Thormaehlen, Paul Stuart, Peter Moseley and Josh Redman.

Chiaroscuro lighting means light (Chiaro)and dark (Scuro). The greater the subject is separated the more three dimensional they become; and detail becomes prominent.

I would go and see this exhibition again but concentrate of those of interest to me. I would have like to have seen more documentary portrait photography but felt that this made only a small portion of the exhibition; particularly given recent world events of mass migration (Greece) and the refugee crisis. The focus seemed around age both old and young or health and death with a very specific narrative; whereas Judy Gelles work left me wanting to see more of her work and far more thought provoking. (Fourth Grade Stories – Judy Gelles, no date)

Accessibility

I think this is a really import part for me to share as I am coming across more and more obstacles in my pursuit of my degree. If I had known that it was going to be such a battle to get into this exhibition I may not have gone.

The exhibition was quite a challenge for me to access; this seems par for the course with most buildings one way or another and particularly in Canterbury. The disabled access lift from th

e street was temperamental and staff had to assist me. Once I had managed to get to the first floor and into the exhibition everything was easy to view and without restriction, apart from the obvious no photography allowed. Sadly, the lift failed when I wanted to leave and I was escorted out through one of the fire exit doors to the adjacent car park. 

Before the entrance to the exhibition on display are early examples of photographic equipment modern and old with family portraits and slides. A fascinating display!

Biblography

Bloomfield, K. and National Portrait Gallery (Great Britain) (2016) Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 16.

correspondent, M. B. A. (2016) ‘Shortlist announced for Taylor Wessing portrait prize’, The Guardian, 12 September. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/sep/12/shortlist-announced-for-taylor-wessing-portrait-prize (Accessed: 9 October 2017).

correspondent, M. B. A. (2016) ‘Taylor Wessing portrait prize won by photo of boy in school uniform’, The Guardian, 15 November. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/nov/15/taylor-wessing-portrait-prize-won-photo-boy-school-uniform-claudio-rasano (Accessed: 9 October 2017).

correspondent, M. B. A. (2017) ‘Photo of girl fleeing Isis shortlisted for Taylor Wessing portrait prize’, The Guardian, 5 September. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/sep/05/photo-girl-fleeing-isis-shortlisted-taylor-wessing-portrait-prize-2017 (Accessed: 9 October 2017).

Fourth Grade Stories – Judy Gelles (no date). Available at: http://www.judygees.com/fourth-grade-word-portraits (Accessed: 9 October 2017).

News Release: NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY ANNOUNCES TENTH ANNIVERSARY TAYLOR WESSING PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAIT PRIZE CALL FOR ENTRIES… DIGITAL SUBMISSIONS WELCOMED FOR FIRST TIME – National Portrait Gallery (no date). Available at: https://www.npg.org.uk/about/press/tenth-anniversary-taylor-wessing (Accessed: 9 October 2017).

 

 

 

 

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