Exhibition 2012

Prize Winners

The prize winners for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2012, and the winner of the John Kobal New Work Award, were announced at an award ceremony on 5 November 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery

Read the press release here

Read a blog on the judges’ view by Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery here


The £12,000 first prize was awarded to Jordi Ruiz Cirera for Margarita Teichroeb

Born in Spain in 1984, Jordi Ruiz Cirera studied Design at Elisava College, Barcelona before moving to the UK and gaining an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication. His shortlisted portrait of Margarita, a Mennonite from the Swift Current Colony in Bolivia, is part of his long term project portraying the daily life of this community.

He says, ‘Almost all of the houses have tables in front of their windows giving fantastic light to the scene. Sitting in front of the camera was not easy for Margarita, photography is forbidden for Mennonites and having her direct portrait taken was quite difficult so I could only take two frames of her. Even though we were enjoying the situation, Margarita posed with this sort of awkward expression.’

Ruiz Cirera’s work has been included in numerous exhibitions and this year he has won the AOP Student Awards as well as the Deutsche Bank Award in Photography.

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The £3,000 second prize was awarded to Jennifer Pattison for Lynne, Brighton

Born in Hertfordshire in 1978, Jennifer Pattison gained a BA in Photography at the London College of Printing before beginning a career as a photographic agent and producer. Her shortlisted portrait is of her friend Lynne and was taken in the empty bedroom of a derelict house in Brighton. It is part of a currently untitled series of naked portraits and landscapes.

Pattison says, ‘There is an interesting shift in the consciousness of the sitter during the slow process of making these portraits; a moment in the quiet where they become unaware that they are naked. I capture them as they drift to another place. With no direction Lynne adopted this straightforward pose, bare and undaunted, looking straight down the lens and beyond.’

Pattison has worked for many photographers including David Sims and interned in the photographs department at the Victoria & Albert Museum, and is currently focusing on her own career as a photographer.

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The £2,000 third prize was awarded to Spencer Murphy for Mark Rylance

Spencer Murphy, born in 1978, grew up in Kent and studied at the Kent Institute of Art and Design before gaining a BA in Photography at the Falmouth College of Arts. His shortlisted portrait is of actor Mark Rylance and was commissioned for the cover of the Telegraph Magazine to mark the actor’s return to the Globe to play Richard III.

Murphy says, ‘I’ve always enjoyed working with actors as there’s no awkwardness or discomfort in front of the camera and they are able to understand direction and react to it very easily. Mark was no exception.’

The recipient of many awards and shortlisted for the Sony World Photography Awards in both 2010 and 2011, Murphy’s work has been exhibited internationally. His work has been exhibited as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize six times, although this is the first time he has been shortlisted.

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The £1,000 fourth prize was awarded to Alma Haser for The Ventriloquist

Born into an artistic family in the Black Forest, Germany in 1989, Alma Haser moved to the UK in 1995 and gained a BA in Photography from Nottingham Trent University. Her shortlisted portrait, taken in her shared house in South London, is of friends Luke and James who have known each other since they were 12. Struck by their hairstyles, Haser initially planned to take separate portraits but it was difficult to get them to concentrate so she decided to photograph them together.

She says, ‘I asked them to sit on a tiny, wobbly coffee table, forcing them to almost cling onto each other. Ultimately I wanted to turn their verbal banter into a visual image. The title is designed to help viewers make up their own stories about what is going on.’

Chosen by the British Journal of Photography as one of the four best graduates of 2010, her work has featured in 10 exhibitions internationally and she received third place in the People’s Choice at Foto8 Summer Show 2012.

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The competition was judged on an equal and anonymous basis from original prints by:

Emma Hardy, Photographer
Lauren Heinz
, Editor, Foto8
Glyn Morgan
, Partner, Taylor Wessing LLP
Sandy Nairne
, Director, National Portrait Gallery (Chair)
Sean O’Hagan
, Writer on Photography for the Observer and the Guardian
Terence Pepper
, Curator of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery


The John Kobal New Work Award was awarded to Matthew Niederhauser for The Nine Lives of Ai Weiwei.

Matthew Niederhauser’s fascination with China was forged during his high-school studies in Mandarin, and the American photographer now lives in Beijing, where he documents aspects of Chinese life for a range of publications including the New Yorker and Time. Artist and political activist Ai Weiwei, the subject of Niederhauser’s entry, has crossed those lines on many occasions.

At the time the portrait was taken, as a commission for Foreign Policy magazine, Ai was being held under virtual house arrest and forbidden to leave China following his three-month detention a year earlier. Wanting to capture Ai with one of the many cats that hang around his compound, Niederhauser persuaded him to pose with a ginger stray, its colouring setting off the teal-blue gates of the studio. ‘There was a tense moment when I didn’t think the cat was going to cooperate, but it finally glanced back, allowing me to get a few frames with everything melding together.’

All selected photographers under the age of 30 were eligible for the first John Kobal New Work Award. The winning photographer receives a cash prize of £4,000 and a commission from the Gallery to photograph a sitter connected with the UK film industry. The Award was judged by Simon Crocker, Chairman of the John Kobal Foundation, and writer and journalist Liz Jobey, a Trustee of the John Kobal Foundation.

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Margarita Teichroeb (detail)
by Jordi Ruiz Cirera, 2011 © the artist