November 2014 forum competition results – Not the Taylor Wessing
This was a round that I was very much looking forward to. I’m a big fan of portraiture and, controversially, the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. Like many of you, I don’t always agree with the overall winners but one of my favourite times of the year is when I’m free to wander around the National Portrait Gallery and view the extraordinarily revealing images taken by photographers we know and photographers we don’t.
A good portrait can come in many forms. It can tell us much about an individual from the way they dress, pose and look into the camera. They can be both serious and fun, and, on occasion, tell us a great deal about the social and political make-up of our time.
Of course I wasn’t looking for anything so hard-hitting from you, but it’s great to see that you all jumped at the challenge of producing effective and engaging portraits. There were a frightening number of standout images, which made my job all the more difficult.
Our first prize winner receives a Manfrotto Active Backpack I. The bag is a structurally sound, high-capacity yet compact rucksack that can also be used as a standard daypack. With its capacity to hold a DSLR system with 2 standard lenses, 15″ laptop as well as personal items and accessories. The bag has four zippered compartments with the top part designed for personal items and the bottom for photo gear.
Beatnick69 – Rarrr!
This was such a sweet-natured picture that it’s exclusion from the top three would have made me feel like a rotten cad. Dressing up and play-acting is something we all did as a child. I remember sending my mother insane because I kept using her tea towel as a cape and pretending I was Superman. Actually, not much has changed. You’ll note that the child’s red hair creates a great link to the Taylor Wessing Prize. They certainly like a redhead! It’s a portrait caught at the perfect moment of the child’s expression and also perfectly lit. It looks like a photograph taken in a studio, though I suspect it was taken at home. All in all, it’s a really sweet shot.
Parapadakis – Larger than Life!
This image from Parapadakis was an instant winner for me. Everything about it works: the framing, the light, and the pose and expression of the subject. Just the simple inclusion of a cigarette is a great detail (you can also just make out the fragile trail of smoke leaving the end of the cigarette). However, there’s one thing that makes this shot really appeal to me: the combination of grain and monochrome. This aesthetic gives the image a classic quality and makes me think it could have been taken in the 1970s. I feel like I’m looking at an image taken in a pub or social club that has long since closed down. It’s helped me to build a personal narrative. It’s an entirely fictional one but it has stayed in my head nonetheless.
Helander – Donald MacDonald
To begin with, let’s hear what Helander has to say about this image. ‘This old farmer obliged for a portrait as he proudly surveyed his livestock and collection of vintage tractors strewn across his land,’ he says. ‘His face is etched with a thousand stories of a hard life crofting in the Scottish Highlands.’
It would be a little insulting to your intelligence to go into the details of why this shot works. It’s obvious. Every element of it (pose, depth of field, monochrome, and so on) has come together to create a portrait that is near perfect. The stillness of photography allows us the time to study the subjects we capture and this is one of those shots that I could study for a long while. There are details in the face that make we want to learn as much as I can about this farmer. This is a wonderful portrait and brilliantly executed.
Find out how to enter the 2014 competition
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