Portrait Photography Prize Mesmerising As Ever

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 39 months ago
Portrait Photography Prize Mesmerising As Ever ★★★★☆ 4
Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow. The wonderful interplay of light and shadow gives this family scene a sense of occasion - a worthy overall winner.  Copyright: David Titlow
Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow. The wonderful interplay of light and shadow gives this family scene a sense of occasion - a worthy overall winner. Copyright: David Titlow
Skate Girl. Skate parks have been set up for girls in Afghanistan and the traditional dress contrasts with the brightly coloured skateboard. Copyright: Jessica Fulford-Dobson
Skate Girl. Skate parks have been set up for girls in Afghanistan and the traditional dress contrasts with the brightly coloured skateboard. Copyright: Jessica Fulford-Dobson
Chayla at Shul. Each year's prize doesn't feel complete without the obligatory shot of a red haired girl, and this year's has a great alignment between her hair colour and the benches. Copyright: Laura Pannack
Chayla at Shul. Each year's prize doesn't feel complete without the obligatory shot of a red haired girl, and this year's has a great alignment between her hair colour and the benches. Copyright: Laura Pannack
Dog and Boy. In this comical scene a boy poses with the family dog. Copyright: Laurence Cartwright
Dog and Boy. In this comical scene a boy poses with the family dog. Copyright: Laurence Cartwright
Roger Lloyd-Pack. Taken not long before the actor's death earlier this year. Copyright: Jon Cartwright
Roger Lloyd-Pack. Taken not long before the actor's death earlier this year. Copyright: Jon Cartwright
Euromaidan Protestors in Kyiv, Ukraine. Protestors before the conflict in Ukraine escalated. Copyright: Tom Jamieson
Euromaidan Protestors in Kyiv, Ukraine. Protestors before the conflict in Ukraine escalated. Copyright: Tom Jamieson

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Every year the Taylor Wessing prize pulls together the best in portrait photography from around the world, covering newsworthy subjects and brilliantly composed shots. This year is no different with some stunning images within the 60 entries on display.

There are some great photographs showing how Eastern and Western cultures mix, including one of two girls in Qatar — one wearing a hijab and a henna pattern on her hand next to her cousin with a Chanel bow in her hair. Likewise with an Afghan girl posing with her skateboard whose luminous colours contrast with her traditional dress.

Some of the best images show the vulnerability of children, including a frightened looking boy wrapped up and protected by his father's coat and another older boy trying to conceal himself with a curtain at a school for children with complex social and emotional disorders.

There are a lot of photographs reflecting political happenings across the world and though there is a gravitas to these situations, the photographs themselves are often not posed effectively. Some exceptions exist including the resolute survivors of the conflict in Syria and a victim of an acid burn attack in Uganda. We were also impressed by the solemnity of a BBC news reader composing herself before going live to deliver the news.

The overall winner is a painterly shot of a baby greeting the family dog with an outstretched hand. The way the light naturally lands on the infant while the rest of the family is relegated to the shadows gives it an almost biblical feel — just as in Renaissance paintings where heavenly light may land on Jesus or the Virgin.

There are a lot of traditional portraits on display and we would have preferred to see some more innovative photographs. Having said this, the best images in this show are spectacular and in our view this raises the overall quality of this year's exhibition.

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 14 is on at National Portrait Gallery until 22 February 2015. Tickets are £3 for adults, concessions £2.

Also still on at National Portrait Gallery are Grayson Perry's social commentary pieces and the William Morris exhibition.

For more art to see in London, visit our November listings.

Last Updated 14 November 2014