The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery is an international competition in its eleventh year of sponsorship by Taylor Wessing, a leading full-service international law firm with over 400 partners and 1100 lawyers in 19 jurisdictions around the world.  Since the international competition began in 1993, it has remained a hugely important platform for portrait photographers and offers an unparalleled opportunity for celebrated professionals, emerging artists and amateurs alike.

This year nearly 2,000 photographers entered 4,462 photographs, out of which 57 are shown in the final selection. The exhibits span the globe. The portraits are often disturbing images into lives of children and the elderly, you can see the trauma in the eyes of the fragile child survivors from the fire at the Grenfell Tower and the Manchester bombing of the Ariana Grande concert. The variety of lives on display is eclectic, from the Roma guest at a Graduation party in Plovdiv, Bulgaria photographed by Adam Hinton, to the profile photograph by Kurtiss Aaron Lloyd of Charanpreet Singh Lall, the first Sikh Coldstream Guardsman to wear Turban during the Trooping of the Colour Ceremony- HM The Queen’s official birthday celebrations- in 2018. There are celebrities young and older, sports men- women and children, androgynous people, hospital patients and conservation heroes captured in portraits that observe or reveal something of their personal story.

Among the many entries from the African continent is the prizewinning series “Drummies” by Alice Man, the All-Female Drum Majorettes come from South Africa’s Western Province and this is the first time a series of four has won the first prize of £15,000.The judges’ commented: “Mann’s series is consistent in its evocation of a sustained and intriguing narrative. Each sitter is precisely framed within a carefully considered composition, and the girls confidently meet the camera’s gaze. Their pristine and vibrant outfits jar with the rundown surroundings, lending a surreal and enigmatic atmosphere to the portraits.”

The joint third prize is a graphic contrast to the first and second, the black and white image by Max Barstow of a couple of sophisticated London Arab lady shoppers, which has a vintage Vogue-ish quality. The judges’ commented: “This arresting double portrait, with its stark white background, possesses a classic studio aesthetic, isolating the two women from their surroundings in an unexplained tableau. The precision and tonal balance of the composition is all the more remarkable for having been taken in a fleeting moment on a busy London street.”

The exhibition is open until  27 January.

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