Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2013

Today is the first day of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2013 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I have to admit that I was not even aware of this competition until recently when I saw the past catalogues in their bookshop.

I’m not sure it is absolutely necessary to visit this exhibition when compared to the BP Portrait Award. My thinking is that photographic prints can be whatever size you want. There is no reason why it can’t be just as easily appreciated in the catalogue that will accompany the exhibition.

A painting or sculpture is created to a size which the artist has in their mind. If the artwork is to fill the whole side of a building it can never be reproduced in any book or online. You have to be physically there to take in that piece.

I haven’t had a chance to get this year’s catalogue yet to decide which is my favourite. But when the shortlist was published a fews weeks ago, I saw a comment about this competition posted online which said that all the pictures were rubbish and why was an art gallery exhibiting them.

By coincidence this year’s Reith Lectures delivered by the artist Grayson Perry were broadcast recently on BBC Radio on the subject of modern art. So what makes this collection of images worthy of space on a wall in an art gallery?

He takes photography as an example, a form of visual culture he thinks is “pouring into the world like sewage”. He asked his friend – the artist/photographer Martin Parr – what’s the difference between a smartphone snap and a revered photographic artwork.

“When the print is bigger than two metres and costs more than five figures,” Parr replied. An employee of an auction house added that “it helps if it’s in an edition of five”.

Quote from BBC News article – Grayson Perry: Serious character and loveable artist by Will Gompertz

Well, is that right? Do photographs need to be printed huge to match the price tag to be called art? Don’t get me wrong, if you have the time to visit this exhibition I’m sure it will be worthwhile. Me? Instead of seeing the exhibition, I’m going to listen to the Reith Lectures by Grayson Perry for the second time.

Photographing Women

I have got to the stage where I’m starting to develop a bad habit of producing safe images. Images that I know work and take very little effort for me to create. Having the chance to work with others and to view the world from a different perspective is a good way to break this habit.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending a day-long workshop run by Fabiana & Carlo called Photographing Women.

For me, just watching Fabiana & Carlo interact with the models was a lesson in itself. They have a real passion for what they are doing, a professional manner and a desire to get the best they could from the models they booked.

So what did I learn? The first thing is that it only takes a small variation in positioning to make the difference between an average picture and an excellent picture.

Looking back on the pictures that I took during the workshop, I’m not particularly happy with what I produced. But that is not a bad thing as it is all part of the learning process.

Knowing how to pose a subject is an art in itself. Stage one of this art is to know what is pleasing to the eye. But with this comes the fact that everyone has different views on what that is and the beauty of aesthetics is another in-depth discussion all in itself. As for the second stage, it is to communicate that idea to the person in front of the camera.

The more I think about it, I’m still a novice in terms of knowing what I like and what I don’t like in my portraits. Which means there is plenty to think about before my next shoot.

With thanks to London Boudoir Photography, models Nina Carter and Amy Sellu and make-up by Claudette Fruchier.