5 November 2009 - 14 February 2010
  • Prize winners

    The prize winners for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 were announced at the awards ceremony on the 3 November 2009 at the National Portrait Gallery:

    The First Prize was awarded to Paul Floyd Blake for Rosie Bancroft, 2009 from an ongoing project entitled On Track for 2012

    Born in London in 1961, Paul Floyd Blake took his first photograph aged thirteen but didn't begin his photographic career until he was forty. Since graduating from Bradford College, his work has been exhibited in six solo exhibitions and he works for a variety of arts organisations and commercial clients.

    Blake's shortlisted portrait is part of a series called On Track for 2012 in which each year from 2007 - 2012 he will photograph twelve young athletes with the potential to compete in the 2012 Olympics, regardless of whether or not they make it to London 2012. Shot in large format with a 5x4 Wista field camera the series will show 'ordinary youngsters striving to do extraordinary things' says Blake. 'The series is probably less about sport than it is about young people growing up and the transition from childhood into adulthood. These teenagers exist in this ultra-professional world that can often be very isolating. It is about them growing up and how the experiences they have now shape them for the future.'

    The Second Prize was awarded to Vanessa Winship for Girl in a Golden Dress, Georgia, 2009 from the series Georgia Song

    Born in 1960, Winship grew up in Lincolnshire and was the winner of the Godfrey Argent Award 2008. Represented by Agence VU, Winship gained a BA in film, video and photographic arts from the Polytechnic of Central London and a postgraduate Diploma in photojournalism at the London College of Printing. In 2003 she moved to Istanbul to work on a project about the Black Sea which was published in Germany in 2007, entitled Schwarzes Mee, and her second book, Sweet Nothings was published in 2008. Winship's portrait was taken on one of several trips to Georgia where she was searching for people who represented the contemporary face of the country. 'I found this particular young girl in the capital, Tbilisi, at one of the Palaces of Marriage. I liked the delicacy of her features and the way she held herself in what looked like a new and best outfit.'

    Third Prize was awarded to Michal Chelbin for Murder, Juvenile Prison, Russia 2009 from the series Locked.

    Michal Chelbin was born in Israel in 1974 and graduated from The Wizo School of Design and Education, Haifa, in 2001. Her work has been exhibited in the United States and Europe, most recently at Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York, and has been published in ArtForum, The New York Times, The New Yorker and GQ amongst others. Chelbin's first monograph, Strangely Familiar: Acrobats, Athletes and other Travelling Troupes, was published in 2008 by Aperture and a second monograph will be published in autumn 2009 by Twin Palms. Chelbin's shortlisted portrait is part of a larger series called Locked and depicts Stas, a 15-year-old inmate of a maximum security prison in Russia. Chelbin spent several days in the prison but only noticed Stas on the last day. 'He was extremely quiet and distant... I could feel there was an enormous burden on his shoulders. I spent several hours with Stas in different locations in order to build up his trust. When we finished I learned that he had been sentenced for murder.'

    Fourth Prize was awarded to Mirjana Vrbaski for Girl, 2009

    Mirjana Vrbaski was born 1978 in Montreal, Canada, but grew up in Serbia. Aged sixteen she moved back to Canada due to the Balkan wars and remained there until she was twenty-seven. She studied English Literature at the University of Guelph and is now studying photography at the Royal Academy of Art, in The Hague. Vrbraski's work aims to 'balance the notions of ambiguity and universality' in a portrait and her shortlisted photograph is of an anonymous girl shot in June 2009 in the Netherlands. She says, 'I find that a truly outstanding expression captured within a truly outstanding combination of elements happens very rarely and the best way of finding such a combination is by photographing as many people as possible.' Of the girl in the portrait,'I only took one shot of her because I could immediately feel that I reached my ideal image with her.'

    The Godfrey Argent Award and the inaugural ELLE commission were awarded to Ali Lomas for Untitled 1 of 4 from the series To Feel Beautiful

    Ali Lomas, twenty-two, is the winner of the 2009 Godfrey Argent Award and the inaugural ELLE Commission. The Godfrey Argent Award this year acknowledges an outstanding portrait taken by an exhibitor aged between eighteen and twenty-five.

    As winner of the ELLE Commission, which is new this year, Lomas will be given the opportunity to shoot a feature story for ELLE magazine. The ELLE Commission was judged by the fashion magazine's editor-in-chief, Lorraine Candy, together with the creative director, Marissa Bourke and picture editor, Hannah Ridley.

    Born in Burton upon Trent, Lomas graduated from Loughborough University School of Art and Design in July with a degree in fine art specializing in photography. Since graduating she has been looking for photographic work while considering whether to return to college to take a Masters degree in fashion photography. 'It's hard being a graduate with no work experience,' she says. 'I'd love to be in the position one day when I'm shooting fashion campaigns for the high-end, couture brands. I feel I have a distinctive style and signature that I could bring to the industry.'

    Taken from her degree show, Lomas's portrait reflects her interest in combining narrative-based portraiture with fashion photography. Shot on her university campus using a digital Hasselblad camera with flash, a student friend, Laura Daley, posed for the picture. Lomas says 'I didn't want the series to self-narrate; I wanted to keep things ambiguous. The portrait of Laura is meant to portray a moment of unspoken personal trauma and I hope people can perhaps read into it a similar experience of their own. It's meant to be disquieting and uncomfortable to look at.'

    Rosie Bancroft, 2009 from an ongoing project entitled On Track for 2012 (detail)
    by Paul Floyd Blake © the artist