David Titlow wins the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014
As this year's winners are announced, Alice Godwin tells you all you need to know about the National Portrait Gallery's new exhibition of photographic portraiture
Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow (2014) was taken in the hazy light of a new day following a raucous midsummer party in Rataryd, Sweden. Reaching out to touch the nose of a young dog, Titlow’s baby son Konrad squeals with delight as friends and family surround the adorable scene. The strong lighting of the photograph makes it look like a dramatic modern day interpretation of a Caravaggio painting, with Konrad playing the part of the Christ-child in a Renaissance masterpiece.
Titlow himself has already had an illustrious career, with commissions under his belt from Vanity Fair, Esquire and Rolling Stone magazines. A former musician turned fashion and advertising photographer, he even dated Alexa Chung back in the day.
Though bleary-eyed after last night’s announcement of the 2014 winners, the press view of the new Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition this morning was nonetheless an upbeat affair. Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Sandy Nairne reminds us that since its conception in 2008 the Taylor Wessing Prize has highlighted the very best in photographic portraiture from around the world. There is certainly a terrific variety this year amongst the 60 selected photographs which range from monumental portraits of powerful individuals to everyday happenstance.
Birgit Püve's winning portrait 'Braian and Ryan', 2013
Other winners this year not to be missed include Birgit Püve and her study of eighty identical twins and triplets in Estonia. Unable to capture the image she wanted during her first sitting with the pair of mischievous young boys, Püve returned for a second day of shooting: ‘this time, the boys had already become used to me, the light was perfect – all the pieces fitted together’.
Second prize winner Jessica Fulford-Dobson’s Skate Girl (2014) is also a special moment, capturing the unlikely project from non-governmental organisation, Skateistan, which turned an old, disused fountain in Kabul into a skateboarding school. Another winner worth seeing is Chayla in Shul (2014) by Laura Pannack which considers the lives of Orthodox Jewish women living in Stamford Hill.
But we all know that the fun part of a London photography exhibition like this is comparing your favourites to those of the judging panel. In this case, the winners are certainly worth making a beeline for, but don’t forget to examine the rest of the exhibition where other gems can be found.
Laura Pannack's Chayla in Shul, 2014
Stand-out moments for me were the joyful images of the silver-haired Indian guru, Vijay Rudanlalji Banspal, who beams broadly at the photographer Karan Kumar Sachdev, and Neil Raja’s Dolly & Co. (2014), in which two elderly women toss their heads back in boisterous laughter. Sian Davey’s Untitled (2013) also has human emotion in bucket-loads. In what seems like a modern day version of Edouard Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe (1862-3), a young child screams violently while friends and family tuck into a chaotic picnic by the edge of a river.
Images that will stay on in your mind are the modest and intimate Arvi (2014) by Sami Parkkinen, which pictures the photographer’s small son swamped in his father’s overcoat, and Robert Timothy’s portrait of BBC news reader Martine Croxall moments before going live on air. Timothy’s fascinating project One Minute to Go… (2014) pictures the pivotal seconds before the news of atrocities is broadcast across the world. Another arresting portrait was Buki Koshoni’s Embrace (2014), which shows the photographer’s wife Marianne holding her newly born son in her arms, the umbilical cord still connecting mother and baby.
And of course there are celebrities to spot too. One famous face that caught my eye was Steve McQueen (2014) by Giles Price; a portrait that appeared in the Guardian Weekend Magazine alongside an interview with the director after Twelve years a Slave was awarded an Oscar. Even politicians David Cameron and Silvio Berlusconi have crept in amongst the subjects.
Don’t miss one of the best photography exhibitions in London right now, where you’ll go to admire this year’s winners, but stay to debate your personal favourites.