This is my learning log for the OCA Ditigal Photographic Practice course

Monday, 6 January 2014

OCA TV Group Visit - Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Exhibition - 04 January 2014



DPP scans026 

With sixty prints to look at, this is a daunting exhibition to review in depth. The five prize winning images (four TWPP and the John Kobal New Work Award) are shown and written about here:

Half a dozen of the images are shown on the exhibition web site here: and I have purchased the catalogue for reference.

I enjoyed this exhibition, there was a wide range of styles used for portraiture and while I don't make a lot of portraits I do enjoy looking at the work of others.

What impressed me about the winners was the simplicity and apparent ease with which the photographer has communicated something about the sitter.

Spencer Murphy's portrait of Katie Walsh, mud spattered, shows a hardness and resolve which I would imagine being a top female jockey requires.

Giles Price’ portrait of Mumta Dubey and her child, taken in a temporary studio in India, captures the pride of motherhood in the way that the child is held and presented for the camera.

Kofi Annan's face shows his character (the commission brief stipulated that his eyes be closed) but also said to me, this is a man who has had one of the hardest jobs in the world . It has taken its toll. (He doesn't like be photographed)

Dorothee Diess' portrait of twins Esther and Ruth is informal and was posed in this way "…. to depict their relationship in all its honesty tenderness and strength" Diess (a paediatric endocrinologist) also talks about parallels between medicine and photography; "As a doctor, I strongly believe in the importance of facial language. Faces are vivid maps of human experience which I have to read in order to understand somebody to some extent. In my relationship with a patient , I depend on what their facial expression tells me about them, beyond their spoken words. This is the same in portraiture"

From the fifty-five images in the exhibition that accompanied the prize winning entries, I have selected these which made the biggest impact on me:

Carmen Ballvé Girls in Barracón Two Dominican girls are looking over a veranda, the older is gazing out at the street, anticipating something or the arrival of someone, the younger is looking thoughtfully in the other direction with her cheek resting on her left arm. Threadbare washing is hanging above their heads, framing the older girls head. The label "Lisa Jo" is clearly visible on one of the garments contrasting a world far removed from the poverty the sugar towns of the Dominican Republic. The older girl's name is Benita and Ballvé has been recording her life for a decade.

John Nassari No 61. East London I found this evocative of the only time I've lived in a city. In a very similar street in Reading I would watch the daily comings and goings of the family opposite. Although I never got to know them, similar gatherings happened on summer evenings and at weekends.

Rosie Hallam Choirmaster. To me, this is one of the outstanding images of the exhibition. It is of Peter, a Ghanaian teacher standing at the head of the class with the verse of a hymn written on the chalkboard behind him. His hands are raised and the expression on his face is one of pure joy and exuberance.

Néstor Diaz Sophia. In the caption for the photograph the artist says ‘Sofía looks us in the eye and tells us who she is and how she lives today: accepting her new reality, valuing a different kind of beauty, more authentic and more profound.’ I found this quite moving. I have known several women who have undergone surgery for breast cancer and have a friend who will undergo surgery this month. As a man, it was difficult for me to understand what this kind of radical surgery means to a woman, perhaps I now have a least some understanding.

Ji Yeo Beauty recovery Room 01. This Korean woman is recovering from elective facial plastic surgery to make her more western looking. I have selected this image purely because its contrast to the image of Sofia.

Paul Dewitte Elise from the series In de Huid in which Dewitte photographed young people wearing their parents clothes. It attracted me because of the quality of the image, the pose and expression of the girl reminded me of an old master's painting from the 17th century.

Proyecto Mirame Lima Hombres de Mar (Fishermen) I was attracted to this family portrait because of its scale and detail . I have pasted the full caption below:

The portrait is of Ventura Gonzales Salazar and his family at Chorillos, Lima, Peru. The work is part of the Mirame – Lima project that consists of portraits made to reflect the diversity of cultures, religions and aspirations of the people of Lima. The protagonists believe that if communities understand each other, they will co-exist more happily.

Proyecto Mírame Lima is a team made up of Jaime Travezan, Morgana Vargas Llosa (photographers) and David Tortora (art director).

John Kobal New Work Award Hana Knizova Elza and Nellie from the series Family Matters

This is the second of three photographs featuring twins in the exhibition. A subject obviously appealing to portraitists. In an interview , the photographer says of the shoot, 'I like how the anticipation of the final image can be read in their pose, leading to a slight awkwardness. They know they are being photographed but they don't know when I am going to press the shutter or what exactly I am seeing through the lens'…………..'it was great to observe the twins similarities and differences and especially their mutual close attachment'

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