Huntress with Buck, 2010 from the series ‘Hunters’, © David Chancellor

David Chancellor has won the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize for his image of a young American huntress astride a horse in South Africa. It’s a worthy winner.

Unfortunately, for web audiences only the five shortlisted portraits are presented on the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize website. There are 55 more in the accompanying exhibition.

Tom Martin‘s group portrait of children inside Ruyigi prison, Burundi (below, part of flyer) is one of the sixty portraits included in the Wessing show at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

I’ll be following up with Tom shortly for the background on the circumstances of the photograph, which are difficult to say the least; photographer Nathalie Mohadjer has talked at length here at Prison Photography about life in Burundi’s prisons. At 230% capacity, Burundi’s prisons are the most overcrowded in Africa.

THE WINNERS AND THE WINNERS

I don’t want to sound too simplistic here, but any additional exposure to the stories of the dispossessed – even in the context of a £12,000 award – is a good thing. Nathalie Mohadjer commented, “Let’s face it, Burundi just isn’t important to the world”. She has struggled to find interest in her work and I expect Tom Martin has experienced the similar dead-ends.

I am not idealistic and I know that distribution of images only changes little, but in light of the subjects recognised by the Taylor Wessing Prize (TWP) I want to be positive, constructive. The shortlisted entries over the years seem to be those that weigh skilled technique with a careful presentation of unexpected (often disenfranchised) social groups:

Photographic Portrait Prize 2010
Photographic Portrait Prize 2009
Photographic Portrait Prize 2008
Photographic Portrait Prize 2007
Photographic Portrait Prize 2006
Photographic Portrait Prize 2005

The TWP has a social conscience and it plays that to full advantage by picking striking portraits with direct routes to empathy. This is the mark of good photography, no? Everyone’s a winner.

The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Exhibition runs at the National Portrait Gallery from November 11th until 20 February and then at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens from 16 April until 26 June.

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