Congratulations to our prize winners for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2021, who were announced at our Awards Ceremony on 8 November.
First Place: David Prichard
Merna Beasley, Kurtijar Woman
from the series Tribute to Indigenous Stock Women
© David Prichard
Second Place: Pierre-Elie de Pibrac
from the series Hakanai Sonzai
© Pierre-Elie de Pibrac
Third Place: Katya Ilina
from the series Rosemary & Thyme
© Katya Ilina
This year’s competition was judged by
Nicholas Cullinan Chair (Director, National Portrait Gallery, London)
Selecting the works that will feature in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is always one of my highlights of the year. I am grateful for the opportunity to encounter such a diverse array of photographic portraits and to consider these carefully with my fellow judges. Our long and animated conversations when shortlisting the exhibitors are testament to the quality of the entries and the difficulty of judging. The exceptional portraits chosen this year vary wildly in approach, highlighting the genre’s constant opportunity for invention, but all share a remarkable ability to capture an essential insight into human life. I hope that the works shown in the 2021 competition will continue to inspire.
Mariama Attah (Curator, Open Eye Gallery)
The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is a unique and thrilling opportunity to be introduced to a world of photography that I wasn’t previously aware of. It’s a great reminder of how photography can be used as a way of creating engaging narratives with people and humanity at the centre. The judging also gave me a chance to see how broadly and creatively artists approach and interpret the idea of a photographic portrait. The Prize is a view into intimate, unexpected, revealing projects and I am honoured to have been a part of it.
Susan Bright (Curator and Writer)
I have been on jury panels for nearly twenty years and nothing makes the experience better than seeing the actual prints rather than working from a projection or, even worse, on screen. Experiencing the prints shows the photographer’s intention and desire – it finishes the project in many ways. The way the process is run at the NPG means that you don’t get any background information on the works. Without this context I was looking at the work in a totally different way from my usual route into looking and thinking about photography. In a way you have to go back to your ‘beginners mind’ (a term used in Buddhist meditation) and look with an attitude of openness, and without any preconceptions or prejudice. It also forced me to articulate why I chose something based on what initially might be quite an intuitive response.
Magda Keaney (Senior Curator, Photographs, National Portrait Gallery)
After 2020’s digital judging it was a joy to be back in a room with such a fabulous and generous panel and to be able to shortlist the exhibition from prints again. Working on the Prize is always exciting and the annual exhibition is one of the Photographs team's very favourite events. This year it felt like creativity, beauty and strength were brimming over – from our entrants’ hearts and minds, from their probably-too-familiar four walls – and mainlined into prints and projects dreamt up and made real during what has been a challenging year for most of us. It just goes to show – you can’t keep a good photographer down!
Misan Harriman (Photographer)
I really enjoyed the judging process because it was collaborative, and sometimes seeing other people who are so experienced within the field of photography give their viewpoint helps you have a bird’s eye view on the medium in itself. I greatly enjoyed going through that process with the judges. Portrait photography for me will always mean finding the truth: the truth of light and the shadows on earth for the human mind. The truth of the subject. Sometimes we don’t always realise how honest a photograph is until we take a second look, and I love that. I love the fact that there’s no small talk in portraiture. You take it in, digest it. And that is, in its essence, the real power of the still image, especially of a human subject – that it cuts straight to the bone.