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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Taylor Wessing Photography Prize 2010 at The National Portrait Gallery

My lunchbreak today cost me £2, and it was one of my most productive yet. I am lucky to have a tube station right outside my workplace which makes getting into central London quick and easy. Lunchtime lasts an hour, but deciding how to spend it can often be a whole morning's activity. Being so close to Harvey Nichols and Harrods, shopping is inevitably a regular excursion, but... this week, feeling the financial strain of Christmas, I decided to do something a bit different. I took a trip to The National Portrait Gallery to see the Taylor Wessing 2010 Photographic Portrait Prize.

Entrance to the exhibition is £2, a fee that some attitude-y teens were trying to dodge as I went in. The prize presents the very best in contemporary portrait photography, showcasing work from amateurs and professionals and even photography students. From the 5,984 images submitted only 60 were chosen to feature in the show, with four of those being the prizewinners.

The photographers vary immensely in subject matter, style and approach. The collection is powerful, some images are particularly moving and others are very clever in their realisation. Many reveal an underlying story, or an insight into a person’s life. I loved the photograph by Toby Coulson called ‘Jack’, it pictured a young boy holding a small tortoise, his pet that had been bought with the savings he collected from mowing the lawns of friends and neighbours. Such a sweet story and equally endearing image.

Some of the pictures depict famous figures: Tony Blair by Kalpesh Lathigra, Charlie Watts (drummer of The Rolling Stones) by Michael Donald and the artist David Hockney with his dog by Jonathan Root. I found the photos of random people interesting too, Oliver Reed took a photo of an unknown girl on a train texting, just because he felt compelled by the composition; images like this show an intriguing moment in time. Third prize went to Jeffrey Stockbridge for his photograph ‘Tic Tac and Tootsie’ of twin sisters Carroll and Shelly McKean. The girls had been homeless for a year and consequently turned to drugs and prostitution. It is a confrontational image, worryingly disturbing. First prize was awarded to David Chancellor for his picture ‘Huntress with Buck’ it shows 14 year old Josie Slaughter, a skilled hunter from Birmingham, Alabama. It is part of the artist’s project documenting hunting and hunters. The picture is arresting with a stark contrast between the vivid foreground and serene background. See above.

Despite only having an hour off, I managed to spend 25 minutes looking round this exhibition and even had time to grab a coffee from Nero on my way back. I got back to my desk with 5 minutes to spare; 55 minute lunchbreak, well spent!

On until 20 February 2011, more info here.

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