So that time of year arrived again when I received my annual email from the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize saying that “I am sorry to inform you that on this occasion your work has not been selected for exhibition.” Not that I think I have been singled out by Taylor Wessing – I also got rejected when the event was sponsored by Schweppes, when it was the John Kobal Portrait Prize, and even the year when there was no sponsor.
To be fair it’s not an easy competition to get in to – this year there were 4929 prints submitted (yes you read that right – it’s a prints only competition, which I find quite refreshing in this digital day and age) of which about 60 are selected for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, as well as reproduced in a book. The exhibition also embarks on a national tour, so it really is quite something to be selected for.
On the other hand being rejected is now becoming the in thing due to the Portrait Salon, which is a sort of Salon Des Refusés for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. The Portrait Salon has been running for 5 years, and showcases the best of the work that didn’t get selected. There are some really quite amazing images in the Portrait Salon by some great photographers like Julia Fullerton-Batten, Harry Borden and Kelvin Murray, so being rejected puts me in very good company!
It’s impossible to know what the Taylor Wessing judges are looking for (and some of them change every year) but there are definitely are some constants – twins and redheads being amongst them – and in some cases red headed twins! Also a lot of famous people seem to feature; smiling is generally omitted; and there is usually somebody naked. So planning ahead for next years prize I’m on the look out for some miserable, red headed celebrity twins who won’t mind being photographed naked!
I have been thinking about starting a new project and have decided that I am going to have a shot at putting together a body of work that will Try To Win The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize, which is a bit of a mouthful for a project title so I will call it TTWTTWPP (much catchier), and reserve the right to change the title if the lead sponsor changes in between now and the announcement of next years awards! I’ll post updates along the way with the work I am creating, but for now here’s a quick look back at some of the photos that didn’t get in.