Portraits of Aspiring Olympian and Teenage Prisoner Make Shortlist for Photographic Prize
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Portraits of Aspiring Olympian and Teenage Prisoner Make Shortlist for Photographic Prize
Stas, Sentenced for Murder, Juvenile Prison, Russia 2009 by Michal Chelbin. ©Michael Chelbin

LONDON.- Four photographers have been shortlisted for the £12,000 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, the major international photography award. Firmly established as the leading showcase for new talent in portrait photography the prize is sponsored by law firm, Taylor Wessing.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 will showcase the work of some of the most talented emerging young photographers, alongside that of established professionals, photography students and gifted amateurs. Selected anonymously from an open competition, the diversity of styles reflects the international mix of entrants as well as the range of approaches to the portrait genre encompassing editorial, advertising and fine art images. The judges have selected 60 portraits for the exhibition from over 6,300 submissions entered by 2,452 photographers from around the world. The exhibition will run from 5 November 2009 through to 14 February 2010 at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

As well as the first-prize winner and three runners-up, the exhibition will feature the Godfrey Argent Award, and the ELLE Commission. The Godfrey Argent Award this year will acknowledge an outstanding portrait taken by an exhibitor aged between 18 and 25. The Award is named in honour of British photographer Godfrey Argent (1937-2006). The winner will receive £2,500. New for 2009, ELLE magazine will commission a photographer selected for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition to shoot a feature story. The ELLE Commission was judged by the fashion magazine's editor-in-chief, Lorraine Candy, together with the creative director and picture editor.

With its substantial prize fund and high-profile exhibition and tour, the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize continues the Gallery's long tradition of championing the very best contemporary portrait photography. The following four photographers have been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2009:

Paul Floyd Blake for Rosie Bancroft, 2008 from the series On track for 2012
Born in London in 1961, Paul Floyd Blake took his first photograph aged 13 but didn't begin his photographic career until he was 40. Since graduating from Bradford College, his work has been exhibited in six solo exhibitions and he works for a variety of arts organisations and commercial clients. Blake's shortlisted portrait is part of a series in which he will photograph twelve young athletes with the potential to compete in the 2012 Olympics each year from 2007 - 2012, regardless of whether or not they make London 2012. The series will show, he says 'ordinary youngsters striving to do extraordinary things, as they move from childhood to adulthood'. Swimmer, Rosie Bancroft from Oxford is featured in his portrait. Blake says 'The image was taken moments after she had successfully beaten her personal best and captures her gentleness alongside her confidence and determination'.

Michal Chelbin for Stas, Sentenced for Murder, Juvenile Prison, Russia 2009 from the series Locked
Michal Chelbin was born in Israel in 1974 and graduated from The Wizo School of Design and Education, Haifa, in 2001. Her work has been exhibited in the United States and Europe, most recently at Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York, and has been published in ArtForum, The New York Times, The New Yorker and GQ amongst others. Chelbin's first monograph, Strangely Familiar: Acrobats, Athletes and other Travelling Troupes, was published in 2008 by Aperture and a second monograph will be published in autumn 2009 by Twin Palms. Chelbin's shortlisted portrait is part of a larger series called Locked and depicts Stas, a 15 year old inmate of a maximum security prison in Russia. Chelbin spent several days in the prison but only noticed Stas on the last day. 'He was extremely quiet and distant... I could feel there was an enormous burden on his shoulders. I spent several hours with Stas in different locations in order to build up his trust. When we finished I learned that he had been sentenced for murder.'

Mirjana Vrbaski for Girl, 2009
Mirjana Vrbaski was born 1978 in Montreal, Canada, but grew up in Serbia. Aged 16 she moved back to Canada due to the Balkan wars and remained there until she was 27. She studied English Literature at the University of Guelph and is now studying Photography at The Royal Academy of Art, in The Hague. Vrbraski's work aims to 'balance the notions of ambiguity and universality in a portrait and her shortlisted photograph is of an anonymous girl shot in June 2009 in the Netherlands. She says, 'I find that a truly outstanding expression captured within a truly outstanding combination of elements happens very rarely and the best way of finding such a combination is by photographing as many people as possible.' Of the girl in the portrait, 'I only took one shot of her because I could immediately feel that I reached my ideal image with her.

Vanessa Winship for Girl in a golden dress, Georgia, 2009 from the series Georgia for a song
Born in 1960, Winship grew up in Lincolnshire and was the winner of the Godfrey Argent Award 2008. Represented by Agence VU, Winship gained a BA in Film, Video and Photographic Arts from the Polytechnic of Central London and a postgraduate Diploma in Photojournalism at the London College of Printing. In 2003 she moved to Istanbul to work on a project about the Black Sea which was published in Germany in 2007, entitled Schwarzes Mee 2007, and her second book, Sweet Nothings was published in 2008. Winship's portrait was taken on one of several trips to Georgia where she was searching for people who represented the face of contemporary Georgia. 'I found this particular young girl in the capital, Tbilisi, at one of the Palaces of Marriage. She was there as a guest at one of the many weddings that took place on that summer's day. I particularly liked the delicacy of her features and the way she held herself in what looked like a new and best outfit.'

The prizes for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 will be announced at the awards ceremony on Tuesday 3 November 2009 at 7pm. The Godfrey Argent Award for the best photographer under the age of 25, and the winner of the ELLE Commission 2009 will also be presented that evening. The Press View for the exhibition will be Wednesday 4 November 11am-1pm. The exhibition opens to the public on Thursday 5 November and will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London until 14 February 2010. The exhibition will tour to The Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead from 27 March - 6 June 2010 and then to The New Art Gallery, Walsall from July - September 2010.

The competition was judged from original prints by: Sian Bonnell, Artist and Curator; Michael Frawley, Partner, Taylor Wessing; Fergus Greer, Photographer; Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery (Chair); Terence Pepper, Curator of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery; Stephen Snoddy, Director, The New Walsall Art Gallery; Diane Smyth, Deputy Editor the British Journal of Photography.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, says: 'The Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize 2009 proved to be another outstanding year for the quality and diversity of the entries- making it very hard for the judges, but also offering an excellent shortlist for the prizes,'

Michael Frawley, Partner, Taylor Wessing says: 'The quality of the entries for this year's prize was, like last year, exceptionally high. With entries like this there can be no doubt as to the talent and artistic vision of today's photographers at both the professional and amateur level.'

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