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3 November 2020

All-women shortlist announced for Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2020

Winning portraits to be displayed in National Portrait Gallery online exhibition

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Three photographers have been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2020, the international photography award organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London. Judged anonymously by a panel of judges including Edward Enninful, Editor-in-chief of British Vogue and photographer Mark Neville, for the first time all the prize-winning photographers are women.

The shortlisted photographs include a portrait of model, plus size advocate and Instagram influencer, Enam Ewura Adjoa Asiama; an image of an artist’s three year old-daughter in her garden during lockdown, and a series of black and white portraits of London school leavers dressed up for their cancelled end of year prom.

The annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, now celebrating 13 years under our sponsorship, is one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world and showcases new work submitted by some of the most exciting contemporary photographers.

The winner of the first prize will receive £15,000. The second prize-winner receives £3,000 and the third prize £2,000. The winner will be announced on the Gallery’s social media channels on Tuesday 24 November 2020. 

The following three photographers have been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2020:

Lydia Goldblatt for Eden

Lydia Goldblatt was born in 1978 in London where she continues to live and work. She studied for a Masters Degree in Photography at London College of Communication. Her work has been exhibited and published internationally with group and solo shows in the UK, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Greece, China and Malaysia. This is the first time she has been selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition. 

Lydia’s shortlisted portrait Eden is part of a larger series made during 2020, titled Fugue. Created with four people within a 50 metre radius of her home, the work draws on mothering and family life as a central theme, and is driven by her need to explore and respond to the fundamental themes of intimacy and distance, brought to the fore through lockdown and COVID-19. 

As Lydia explains: "In such close, sometimes blissful, sometimes painful proximity to my children, I am aware of all that remains unknown. We are fused and separate, elusive. The child protected but alone in her den, the perfect spring blossom, articulate a psychological suspension in which both joy and fear oscillate."

Yolanda Y. Liou for Enam Ewura Adjoa Asiama

Yolanda Y. Liou is a 30 year old, Taiwan-born photographer and moving image maker, based in London & Brighton. Her work has been featured in publications including The British Journal of Photography, i-D, and It's Nice That. Her commissioned fashion work includes GQ, Marie Claire and Rouge Fashionbook. This is the first time she has been selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition.

Yolanda’s shortlisted portrait is from a collaborative on-going project Thank You For Playing With Me with artists Enam Ewura Adjoa Asiama (the sitter) and Vanessa Charnell Marshall Russell. 

Speaking about the photograph, she highlights how it captures the uncompromising energy and confidence of the sitter: "The expectation of being skinny as standard is relentless in Asian culture. I’ve experienced the stress of this since a very young age. I was taken by Enam’s confidence and charisma. A key component of the photo was to demonstrate self-love and being comfortable with who you are in your own body."

Alys Tomlinson for Samuel, Jack and Jameela from the series Lost Summer

Born in 1975 in Brighton, Alys Tomlinson lives and works in London. She studied photography at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design. Alys was selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition in 2017 and won the Sony World Photographer of the Year Award in 2018. Her book Ex-Voto, the culmination of a five-year photographic journey to Catholic pilgrimage sites in Ireland, Poland, and France, was published in 2019. 

Alys’ shortlisted series Lost Summer was born out of her frustration at not being able to travel for work. She decided to photograph local teenagers whose proms were cancelled, dressed up in what they would have worn, but captured in their gardens, backyards or local parks. 

Reflecting on the works Alys says: "I feel that there is a vulnerability and sadness to the portraits, but also a resilience. The school year ended abruptly, with no opportunity to say goodbye to friends and nothing to mark the occasion of leaving school. I wanted to photograph each teenager framed by nature, merging their inner and outer worlds. There is a quietness to the images and they represent a loss and longing, but also celebrate each teenager as an individual, navigating this extraordinary time."

This year’s prize will be displayed as a virtual exhibition on the National Portrait Gallery’s website, in order to reach a wide international audience and ensure that the competition is able to continue as planned during the current coronavirus pandemic. The photographs will be displayed in a virtual gallery space that replicates the rooms of the National Portrait Gallery, enabling online visitors to view the portraits collectively, as well as exploring each individual work in more detail.

The popular People’s Pick feature, which offers the public the opportunity to vote for their favourite portrait will also run online. The National Portrait Gallery building in London is now closed until spring 2023, while essential building works take place on the Gallery’s Inspiring People redevelopment.

The prize-winning photographs and those selected for inclusion in the exhibition were chosen from 5,531 submissions entered by 2,169 photographers from 75 countries. A total of 54 portraits from 37 artists have been selected for display. 

Judged anonymously, 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. Photographers were again encouraged to submit works as a series in addition to stand-alone portraits. 

This year’s judging panel was Dr Nicholas Cullinan Director, National Portrait Gallery (Chair); Edward Enninful, Editor-in-chief of British Vogue; Magda Keaney, Senior Curator, Photographs, National Portrait Gallery; Penny Martin: Editor-in-Chief, The Gentlewoman, and Mark Neville, Photographer.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director National Portrait Gallery said: "Congratulations to all the shortlisted artists. Once again, this year’s entries demonstrate an extraordinary range of themes and styles in what has been an unprecedented and challenging year for portrait photography. I am delighted that through our online exhibition we will be able to share these outstanding portraits with audiences across the world, many of whom would not ordinarily have the opportunity to visit the exhibition in London."

Shane Gleghorn, Managing Partner at Taylor Wessing, said: "The NPG has done an amazing job of delivering this exhibition virtually. The gallery has ensured that artists around the world continue to have an opportunity to showcase their work. Playing a part in supporting the artists throughout this extraordinary period is a privilege for Taylor Wessing. The works displays a broad variety of techniques and subject matter and they are, in each case, striking images from an all-female list of prize winners, which is wonderful to see. We have no doubt that everyone will enjoy viewing these amazing images."

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