Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Annie Leibovitz’

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 6th November, 2008

An impressive (free) exhibition of photo portraits by young photographers, photography students and gifted amateurs opens today at the National Portrait Gallery in London (where work by the American super-photographer Annie Leibovitz is coincidentally currently on display). There is something about good portrait photographs which I find eerily compelling, as they can give one an entry into the sitter’s soul. Amongst the most treasured volumes in my library are books of black-and-white prints by Bill Brandt, John Deakin and Richard Avedon, and the walls of my study are covered in signed, framed photos of people I have written about, including W H Auden, Christopher Isherwood, Edith Sitwell, Dylan Thomas and Oscar Wilde.

Over 2,500 people entered this year’s Taylor Wessing prize (sponsored by the European law firm of the same name). The winner was Lottie Davies, for her representation of a friend’s nightmare of giving birth to quintuplets, though I have to say I was more struck by Hendrik Kertstens’ ‘Bag’, a witty and evocative potrait of a young Dutch woman with a plastic bag on her head, shaped like a seventeenth-century cap, echoing Vermeer and other old Dutch masters. Kerstens was awarded the second prize. Otherwise, the images which really struck me were not those of beautiful young women (or indeed men), of which there were plenty, but the characterful lined faces of novelist Doris Lessing and sculptor Louise Bourgeois, and a chilling picture of an almost zombie-like Vladimir Putin.

The exhibition runs until 15 February and as often at the NPG, there is an accompanying book (NPG, £12.99), with a forward by Ben Okri and interviews with the prizewinners by Richard McClure.


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