Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize Won By Claudio Rasano

Claudio Rasano has won the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2016. His portrait of a Johannesburg schoolboy, on exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, has taken the prestigious £15,000 award. The Swiss-Italian photographer was at an awards ceremony last night (Tuesday, 15 November 2016). 

The winning portrait, part of Rasano’s series Similar Uniforms: We Refuse to Compare, 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 particular inkjet print is 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.”

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.

Second prize has been awarded to Joni Sternbach’s large-format tintype portrait of surfers Thea Adler and Maxwell Schultz and third prize has gone to Kovi Konowiecki for his photographs Shimi Beitar Illit and Tilly and Itty Beitar Illit part of a series of inkjet prints that portray Orthodox Jews from around the world. The John Kobal New Work Award, worth £5,000, was won by Josh Redman for his portrait, Frances.

The winning portraits will be on display as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2016 exhibition from 17 November 2016 to 26 February 2017. The annual exhibition is one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world and showcases new work that has been submitted by some of the most exciting contemporary photographers. Since the international competition began in 1993, it has remained a hugely important platform for portrait photographers and offers an unparalleled opportunity for celebrated professionals, emerging artists and amateurs alike.

The 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.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, says ‘My congratulations to Claudio Rasano for his winning portrait of schoolboy Katlehong Matsenen taken in Johannesburg earlier this year. The quality and diversity of both this year’s 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.’

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.’

£3,000 Second Prize: Joni Sternbach for 16.02.20 #1 Thea+Maxwell from the series Surfland

American artist Joni Sternbach was born in the Bronx, New York and is a Visiting Artist at Cooper Union School of Art, faculty member at the International Centre of Photography and The Penumbra Foundation in New York, where she teaches wet plate collodion. Sternbach uses early photographic processes to create contemporary landscapes and environmental portraits, centring on man’s relationship to water. Her series Surfland, features large-format tintype portraits of surfers. Her prize-winning portrait was taken in February 2016 at Davenport Landing, Santa Cruz, California, USA. Sternbach says: ‘For me, this photograph represents many of the challenging aspects of creating a portrait. I was in an entirely new location and faced with people I’d never met before. In this spectacular environment, I aimed to create a dynamic complexity within the picture that was both unique to that person and also understandable to others.’

£2,000-Third Prize: Kovi Konowiecki for Tilly and Itty Beitar Illit, and Shimi Beitar Illit, from the series Bei Mir Bistu Shein

American artist Kovi Konowiecki was born and raised in Long Beach, California. After pursuing a professional career in football, Konowiecki is in the final stages of an MA in photography at the University of the Arts, London. His work lies between documentary and fine art, often focusing on portraiture and telling stories that also reveal his identity, and his experiences of growing up in Long Beach. Shimi Beitar Illit and Tilly and Itty Beitar Illit are part of a series of inkjet prints that portray Orthodox Jews from around the world. The colours and floral background create a painting-like quality, highlighting the mysticism of the subjects and their association with a history that many may find unfamiliar.

Konowiecki explains: ‘When I set out to photograph the faces of Orthodox Jews around the world, it was an attempt to both strengthen my ties to my family’s history and shed light on the traditions of a people that seem strange to modern society. The project started by contacting members of the Jewish community from where I grew up, and evolved into travels across the world to capture Orthodox Jews who, although they live thousands of miles apart, are bound together by history, tradition and a set of values that serve as the cornerstone of the lives of many who live in today’s society.’

£5,000 John Kobal New Work Award: Josh Redman for Frances

The £5,000 John Kobal New Work Award has been awarded to Josh Redman for his photograph Frances, from an on-going series of pared down studio portraits. Redman says, ‘This was Frances’s first serious photo shoot, and it’s an honour to have been part of her initiation into modeling at age 83. During the 3-hour sitting, we chatted over pastries about her late husband, the War, her lifelong job as a typist and her daughter Tineka.’ Born in the UK in 1984, Redman was a sculptor and potter until 2012 when he decided to sell his kiln, buy a camera and move to London. Since then he has worked as a freelance photographer, winning the AOP Assistant Award in 2014 and has been commissioned by Adidas, SKY TV and The British Museum amongst others.

The John Kobal New Work Award is given to a photographer under thirty-five whose work has been selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition. The winner receives a cash prize of £5,000 to include undertaking a commission to photograph a sitter connected with the UK film industry for the Gallery’s Collection.

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.

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 is 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 the Gallery’s curators, following last year’s inaugural display which featured the work of Pieter Hugo.

Image: Katlehong Matsenen 2016 from the series Similar Uniforms: We Refuse to Compare by Claudio Rasano © Claudio Rasano. All images © the artist, courtesy National Portrait Gallery and Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize.


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