Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review : The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 at the National Portrait Gallery – 16th November 2017 to 8th February 2018

Exhibition Review : The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 at the National Portrait Gallery – 16th November 2017 to 8th February 2018


The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibition 2017 is an opportunity to see over fifty new portraits by some of the best contemporary photographers from around the world. The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is one of the leading competitions for contemporary portrait photography and attracts a large number of submissions from professionals and amateurs.

The prize-winning photographs and those selected for inclusion in the exhibition were chosen from 5,717 submissions entered by 2,423 photographers from 66 countries. While the photographs are judged anonymously from prints, this was the first year in which the competition permitted digital entries for the initial selection.

The Prize continues its tradition for diversity of subject matter submitted by a range of photographers, all competing to win one of the four prestigious prizes including the £15,000 first prize.


Spanish photographer César Dezfuli won the Tenth Anniversary Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 for his portrait of a migrant rescued in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Dezfuli, who was born in Madrid works as a journalist and documentary photographer, and focuses on issues of migration, identity and human rights.


The winner of the £3,000 Second Prize is Abbie Trayler-Smith for her photograph of a girl fleeing ISIS in Mosul, Iraq. Trayler-Smith was there undertaking a commission for Oxfam documenting the camp where the charity was providing aid.


The winner of the £2,000 Third Prize and the John Kobal New Work Award for a photographer under 35, is Maija Tammi from Finland for her portrait of a Japanese android called Erica. This is the first time in the competition’s history that one of the photographers shortlisted for a prize has also won the John Kobal New Work Award which offers a cash prize of £5,000 to include undertaking a commission to photograph a sitter for the Gallery’s Collection.


The exhibition also features an In Focus display of previously unseen prints from a new body of work by the photographer, Todd Hido, who is known for juxtaposing mysterious and cinematic ruminations on the American landscape alongside portraits of women, which together speak of a fragmented and personal memory of the past. In Focus is an annual showcase for new work by internationally renowned photographers.


The images around the exhibition explore many different aspects of the photographic portrait and feature a few famous faces but more often the friends and family of the photographers. This year, a number of photographers have explored many different areas around the world and especially the on-going migrant crisis in many parts of the world.


In a competition of this size, the standard is always high and the various subject matter wide ranging which makes it very difficult to choose winners. However, few would argue with the competition winners who all displayed technical expertise but had a strong narrative.


This enjoyable exhibition is always interesting and entertaining with some wonderful contemporary portraits, the range of photographs offer a wide variety of subject matter which provides evidence of the large number of talented photographers using their skills to record all facets of the human condition.

Video Review here

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like to find out more about the exhibition, visit the National Portrait Gallery website here

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