How come shortlists are always unveiled rather than released? I like it, it brings to mind the image of a ruddy-faced dignitary pulling away a velvet curtain. To be honest I don’t think that’s how The National Portrait Gallery does it when it comes to announcing the shortlist for the prestigious Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize, but nevermind because the four photographs in the running are, as ever, stunning.
Some 5,340 portraits were submitted this year by 2,352 photographers so the competition to make even the 60-strong exhibition list is fierce. But the four chosen to go forward and battle it out for the very top prize should be the cream of the crop.
Spanish photographer Jordi Ruiz Cirera’s shortlisted shot (top) shows Maria, a Mennonite Protestant from the Swift Current Colony in Bolivia. He said: “Sitting in front of the camera was not easy for Maria, photography is forbidden for Mennonites and having her direct portrait taken was quite difficult so I could only take two frames of her. Even though we were enjoying the situation, Maria posed with this sort of awkward expression.”
Alma Hauer: The Ventriloquist
This year young German-born photographer Alma Haser brings a lovely dose of weird with her work The Ventriloquist, a photo of her friends Luke and James in her South London house. “I asked them to sit on a tiny, wobbly coffee table, forcing them to almost cling onto each other,” she said. “Ultimately I wanted to turn their verbal banter into a visual image. The title is designed to help viewers make up their own stories about what is going on.”
Spencer Murphy: Mark Rylance
The obligatory celebrity portrait comes form long-time friend of the site Spencer Murphy but there’s nothing run-of-the-mill about his wonderful shot of the actor ark Rylance. It was commissioned for The Telegraph magazine to coincide with the thespian’s return to The Globe to play Richard III. Spencer said: “I’ve always enjoyed working with actors as there’s no awkwardness or discomfort in front of the camera and they are able to understand direction and react to it very easily. Mark was no exception.”
Jennifer Pattison: Lynne, Brighton
Since graduating from the London College of Printing, Jennifer Pattison has pursued a career as a photographic agent and producer but now it’s her own work that’s in the spotlight. Her portrait is of her friend Lynne taken in a derelict house in Brighton. “There is an interesting shift in the consciousness of the sitter during the slow process of making these portraits; a moment in the quiet where they become unaware that they are naked,” Jennifer said. “I capture them as they drift to another place. With no direction Lynne adopted this straightforward pose, bare and undaunted, looking straight down the lens and beyond.”
The winner will be announced (or we hope, “unveiled”) on November 5 with the show running from November 8 until February 17.