World class photography on show in Sunderland

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize

An exhibition showcasing one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world is coming to Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

Running from Saturday 18 March until Sunday 4 June, and organised by The National Portrait Gallery London, The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is the leading international competition, open to all, which celebrates and promotes the very best in contemporary portrait photography from around the world.

Showcasing talented young photographers, gifted amateurs and established professionals, the 2016 competition features a diverse range of images and tells the often fascinating stories behind the creation of the works, from formal commissioned portraits to more spontaneous and intimate moments capturing friends and family.

Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Culture, said: “Sunderland is once again the first venue outside of London to host this year’s exhibition organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London. As a city bidding for UK City of Culture 2021 we should be proud of our ever-growing reputation for hosting such world class exhibitions.

“The exhibition showcases new works that have been submitted by some of the world’s most exciting contemporary photographers and as well as the competition winner there will be more than 50 other images capturing a wide range of characters and locations. I encourage everyone to take some time to go along and make the most of this fantastic opportunity to see some truly stunning photography here in Sunderland.”

The winning portrait of a Johannesburg schoolboy was submitted by Claudio Rasano. Part of Rasano’s series Similar Uniforms: We Refuse to Compare, it was taken in February 2016, in Johannesburg, South Africa and focuses on issues of preserving individuality in the context of school uniforms. The photograph was shot in daylight, outdoors and in front of a plain white paper background. The sitter for this was eighteen-year-old Katlehong Matsenen.

Rasano explains: “Children themselves have been known to rebel against uniforms, especially as they approach the awkward age characterised by the need to fit in and the desire to stand out, all at the same time. Some experts too have spoken against school uniforms on the grounds that they suppress individuality and diversity.”

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, said: “My congratulations to Claudio Rasano for his winning portrait of schoolboy Katlehong Matsenen taken in Johannesburg early last year. The quality and diversity of both the shortlist and exhibition are a testament to the engaging work being produced by international photographers. Each and every photographer who entered has contributed their part to the debate and evolution of contemporary portrait photography.”

The selected images, many of which will be on display for the first time, explore both traditional and contemporary approaches to the photographic portrait whilst capturing a range of characters, moods and locations. The exhibition of fifty-seven works features all of the prestigious prize winners including the winner of the £15,000 first prize.

Since the international competition began in 1993, it has remained a hugely important platform for portrait photographers and offers an unparalleled opportunity for everyone from celebrated professionals to emerging artists and amateurs too.

Tim Eyles, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing LLP, says: “One of the great joys and honours of sponsoring the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize for the past nine years, and being part of the judging panel, is having the rare opportunity to catch an intimate glimpse into the lives of people from around the world. Each winning portrait tells a different, unique story and builds a genuine connection between the viewer, the subject and the photographer. I hope that you will share our enjoyment of the photographs in this year's exhibition, and join me in congratulating the photographers whose portraits are featured.”

Claudio Rasano was born in 1970 in Basel, Switzerland. His work has been included in numerous international exhibitions and previously featured in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize in 2011 and 2013. Rasano’s awards include the Shortlist for the Athens Photo Festival, 2016; Bieler Fototage 2015; Leica Oskar Branack Prize 2015 and a finalist in the Photography Masters Cup 2015.

The competition was judged from original prints by Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery; Dr Phillip Prodger, Head of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery; Carole Sandrin, Curator, Musée de l'Elysée, Lausanne; Christiane Monarchi, Editor Photomonitor; Nadav Kander, Photographer and Tim Eyles, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing LLP.

Competition judges had no knowledge of the identity of the entrants’, and the diversity of styles in the exhibition reflects the international mix of entries as well as photographers’ individual and varied approaches to the genre of portraiture.

For the second time, photographers were encouraged to submit works as a series in addition to stand-alone portraits, and there was no minimum size requirement for prints. This year, for the first time, the rules also allowed photographers to submit photographs on different supports to the competition – to encourage the demonstration of a range of different photographic processes.

The prize-winning photographs and those selected for inclusion in the exhibition were chosen from 4303 submissions entered by 1842 photographers from 61 countries.

The exhibition also features an In Focus display of previously unseen prints from a new body of work by the award-winning Spanish photographer, Cristina de Middel. The photographs, making their international debut in the exhibition, are part of the series ‘Gentleman’s Club’, taken of prostitutes' clients in brothels in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. By recruiting her sitters through a newspaper advert, she inverted the normal roles of the business by placing herself in a position of power. Sitters were asked about their experience, personal history and motivations. In Focus has become an annual showcase for new work by an internationally-renowned photographer, which is exhibited alongside the images selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2016. De Middel is the second In Focus artist, selected by National Portrait Gallery curators, following last year’s inaugural display which featured the work of Pieter Hugo.

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