Photographs of a woman holding her baby, two shoppers, a drum majorette, and a child from a remote village in Sierra Leone have all been shortlisted for the National Portrait Gallery’s prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize this year. The prize winners will be announced at an award ceremony at the NPG on 16 October, with the overall winner receiving £15,000 and other cash prizes awarded to the shortlisted photographers at the judges’ discretion.
Two of the images were shot in London, with Max Barstow behind a striking photograph of two women in a busy shopping street in the city centre. The image comes from his series Londoners and in it, he says, his aim has been to “make unposed portraits with the intensity of images made by great studio photographers such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn”.
“Tish believed that photography was an important form of visual communication that could stimulate discussions about real life situations and captured accurate records of the world we live in. She was trying to force people to look at the truth and learn from it,” explains Ella Murtha, the daughter of the documentary photographer. In honour of her mother’s memory, Ella has put together a new photobook, Youth Unemployment, which gathers Tish Murtha’s work photographing poverty-ridden communities in Newcastle in the 70s and 80s. Raw, powerful and emotional, Murtha has captured youngsters trying to survive turbulent economic times, when they had limited prospects – something which has recently come full circle as a new generation has had to deal with the global financial crisis.
“It was also about reshaping that American icon: everyone thinks of the cowboy as this white American hero who has come to slay Native Americans. Actually the word cowboy is a racist term. It comes from when slave masters called all their slaves ‘boys’ and so the cow boy was the boy who looked after the cows and the horse boy was the boy who looked after the horses.” Cian Oba-Smith journeys to Philadelphia at a politically charged time during the 2016 U.S. election to meet with an infamous group of horsemen dealing with this ingrained racism on a daily basis.
“I hope the project can make the audience feel like they walking through a cloud of mist.” Zhao Qian, a Chinese photographer living in San Francisco, has recently been announced as a runner-up in this year’s BJP Breakthrough Awards. His series, Offcut, the edge, is inspired in part by the feeling of jetlag, which he describes as creating a fog on his surroundings.
“If you’ve been to Morocco I think you’ll understand that we’re a very colourful country, a colourful people. We see every colour being worn. In Morocco that there is the clash of colours and an attitude not to be scared of colours,” says Hassan Hajjaj. His latest exhibition, La Caravane, is about to launch at Somerset House, the first display for the British-Moroccan photographer in London in seven years. His work reflects on identity and culture, which has featured as a big part of his life and work since moving to the UK from a small port town in Morocco aged just 13.
“People might not have a lot, but they will give you what they can. That’s true of so many Irish people. They’re a very warm and friendly and welcoming people. They will tell you stories and their lives and give you their time.” Josh Adam Jones, a student at the University of West England, Bristol, developed his project 99 Peace Walls whilst volunteering at Belfast’s photo festival this summer. The youth of the city helped him to understand the divides that are still ingrained into the culture there, and how, in spite of this, there is a warm community to be found throughout the city.
The Portrait Issue returns this September just as The British Journal of Photography launches the return of Portrait of Britain, which will once again appear on digital JCDecaux screens across the country, in partnership with photography giant Nikon. Portraits have a rare capacity to capture a person, family and community in a way that reshapes a narrative or empowers an entire group of people. Each photoseries in this issue manages to shed new light on an individual or group and move beyond stereotypes to find a more honest truth – whether with a Roma group in the south of France, or a working class neighbourhood in The Netherlands.
“This portrait does not simply show a man who earns a living as a tattoo artist but the reason why that living is so important to him – his family,” says Jamain Gordon, reflecting on the portrait of Ricardo and his daughter outside their home and tattoo parlour in the South American country of Guyana. “It was Ricardo who wanted to have his daughter in the photograph and the warmth of their relationship can clearly be seen.” The image is now featured in a photobook, One People, One Nation, One Destiny, which shows the traditions and culture of this small but proud country.
“The beautiful blooms seemed lonely and desolate. Sadly, it reminded me of the fact that soon it would be razed to the ground, into dull but common urban landscape with standing skyscrapers,” says Lv Meng. His photograph comes from the series Urban Fringes which explores the growth of megacities as the slowly expand outwards and take over the countryside.
Portrait of Britain returns for a second year with 100 more images that encapsulate life the length and breadth of the UK. From almost 8,000 entries this year, the final hundred will now be displayed in a digital exhibition across JCDecaux screens in shopping centres and commuter hubs around the country throughout September. In partnership with Nikon, the photography giant, Portrait of Britain aims to show the social and cultural diversity of people in the UK and showcase everyday citizens and unsung heroes in a gallery of the people, by the people, for the people. Simon Bainbridge, Editorial Director at the British Journal of Photography, was excited about the latest portraits for 2017, saying, “Collectively, the portraits celebrate the unique heritage and diversity of modern Britain, as much as its thriving photography culture and the myriad styles and approaches they employ in their work.”