This morning the BJP dropped on the mat. The predictable November Portrait Issue… to tie in with Taylor Wessing.
But what’s that I read in the editor’s foreword? Has the BJP finally realised what we all knew all along? “There are, as ever, striking and perceptive images among the 60 that go on show at the NPG in London in mid November, but collectively the pictures represent some kind of timewarp, where identical twins, sallow youths and freckled redheads are taking over the world.”
Simon Bainbridge goes on to say:
"Look out for this year’s most TWPPP-esque photograph featuring 2 lookalike red-haired girls wearing contrasting green jumpers, sat on a green bench against a green backdrop, sharing space with a giant ginger tomcat. Either the photographer thought they had struck Taylor Wessing gold, or someone’s taking the piss. The judges, who change round each year, tend to get the blame, but its the photographers, who keep entering the same pictures, hoping to replicate previous year’s successes but end up damning the competition to endless repetition."
Portrait Salon was formed three years ago because James and I were fed up with the monotony of the Taylor Wessing. We were curious; we wanted to see whether what Simon Bainbridge states here is true. Did photographers really submit what they thought was going to get in? Or did it go deeper than that?
So we did an experiment. We set up this blog, set up an email address, and asked as many people as possible to send us their rejected entries. While there were an abundance of redheads (but haven’t redheads always been muses in the arts? Think of the pre-raphaelites, for one) there were LOADS of other, different types of portraits. And non portraits. That was perhaps the biggest surprise - that people entered images which weren’t actually portraits, but maybe more documentary or candid images… but that’s another argument.
Yes, the judges do change each year, but only four of them do. Two of them stay the same. And, so we’ve heard from photographers who have been honoured to be judges in the past, it’s those two same people who have the upper hand in the judging process. The Taylor Wessing Prize is really the work of Sir Terance Pepper and Sandy Nairn; it is what they want to show the world. To blame the photographers seems to be a little blinkered and very unfair.
This year, for the first time, Portrait Salon will show ALL the images which we received at Four Corners in Bethnal Green from 12 November. We will also be chairing a panel discussion about judging and the point of competitions, on 14 November at the same place. This will be free, and the panel consists of Harry Borden, ex-judge of TW prize, Eleanor Macnair, who used to work for National Portrait Gallery in the marketing department, and Steve Macleod from METRO Imaging, one of our sponsors who’s been a judge for many photography competitions.
Our message to BJP is this; come to our launch night, come see the images which have been rejected from Taylor Wessing prize, chat to photographers who are frustrated with it being the most important competition of the photography calendar. And open your eyes to what smaller organisations are doing to provide a true representation of contemporary photographic portraiture.
In previous years, Portrait Salon has existed as a projection at a one off event. This year, we will be stationed at Four Corners Gallery in Bethnal Green for a week. The selected work will be shown as a projection and published in a newspaper, but we will also show all the images we received which were rejected from the Taylor Wessing prize.
This year, we received almost 2,000 images from 740 photographers from around the world. Our three selectors, photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith, Harry Hardie from HERE Press, and Jim Stephenson from Miniclick Talks, had a hard time making their selection. The final 41 images for the final selection are almost half of what previous editions have featured, but Portrait Salon is as much about debating the competition process as it is about showcasing good portraiture:
“We know that everyone wants something tangible to rank their work against when entering competitions, but deep down, the truth is that we are just people who try to remain objective but who also have our own preferences and opinions. We’ve tried here to show an exploration (of sorts) of what a portrait can be, from the studio to the rolling hills of some far foreign land.”
Jim Stephenson, Miniclick Talks, on the Portrait Salon selection process.
This year’s Portrait Salon will take this debate further, with a panel discussion on 14 November. Steve Macleod from Metro Imaging, photographer Harry Borden and Eleanor Macnair from MediaSpace will discuss the nature of competitions; the judging process, their relevance in the industry and their popularity.
The exhibition will launch at Four Corners on Tuesday 12 November with a projection of the selected images. The projection will also be shown in four venues across the UK on the same night, with a live link up at 8pm. The venues are:
LONDON: Four Corners, 121 Roman Rd, London, E2 0QN
LEEDS: White Cloth Gallery, 24 - 26 Aire Street, Leeds, LS1 4HT
EDINBURGH: Document Scotland present Portrait Salon ’13 at Stills Gallery, 23 Cockburn St, Edinburgh, Scotland, EH1 1BP
BRIGHTON: Hotel Pelirocco, 10 Regency Square, Brighton, BN1 2FG, hosted by Miniclick Talks
The accompanying newspaper is designed by Stanley James, and will feature all 41 selected images, introduced by Photomonitor’s Christiane Monarchi and containing text on the selecting process by Jim Stephenson.
Tuesday 12 November: Launch and Simultaneous Projection across four venues in the UK
Thursday 14 November: Panel Discussion at Four Corners Gallery. Steve Macleod, Eleanor Macnair and Harry Borden discuss the nature of photography competitions.
Exhibition of all submitted images including projection continues until 16 November.
Well, it’s that time of year again. The rush to printers has subsided as photographers lie in wait for that email from the National Portrait Gallery which will/will not inform them of their success in this year’s Taylor Wessing Prize.
Meanwhile, we’re busy at Portrait Salon making plans for our third year of showing rejected images from the Prize. This year will be bigger than previous years, as we will be situated in a dedicated space for a whole week. From 12 - 16 November we will be based at Four Corners, in East London, where will show a selection of the rejected images, chosen this year by: Harry Hardie from HERE Press, photographer Abbie Trayler-Smith, and Jim Stephenson, co-founder of Miniclick Talks in Brighton.
Every year we get asked why we make a selection, and the reason we do so is to maintain a high standard of work. We realise, however, that fellow photographers are curious beings and would like to get a taste of all the images which are rejected from the prestigious prize. This year, for the first time, there will be that opportunity - look out on this blog for more details on that!
As well as the launch night, which will be 12 November, we will also host a panel discussion on 14 November and a portfolio review day on the 15 November. Details will be on this blog and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.
This year we are indebted to our sponsors:
We love this pic of Jim from Miniclick framed in the Portrait Salon logo… pic taken by Manel Ortega, who also did the pics for the timelapse below.
Miniclick have got some newspapers left and will be selling them at their event tonight. If you’re in Brighton, head on down to the Old Market to hear Jim Mortram in conversation with Wayne Ford. More details here.
A timelapse movie of images taken by Manel Ortega at the Brighton leg of Portrait Salon ‘12… where the screen collapsed and the slideshow was projected onto the wall of the opposite building! Which looked great.
Thanks to Jim and his sidekicks for all their hard work…
Here we are… after a year of fundraising, marketing, gathering rejected images and putting this edition of the newspaper together, Portrait Salon 2012 will finally go public this evening, in four venues around the UK…
Over the past 24 hours there has been quite a buzz on Twitter and other social media, and we’ve been featured on the wonderful Feature Shoot, run by Alison Zavos. You can read the article here.
And then today, the icing on the cake… a lovely article written by Phil Coomes on the BBC website, which you can read here
So we’re all set! All we need now is you… Projections kick off at 7pm, and there will be an attempt at a live link-up between the venues at around 8.30pm. With no technical hitches, honest!
For details of a projection near you, see previous post on this blog. And, if you’re on Twitter, spread the word! Let’s try and get #portraitsalon trending.
One week to go… and everything’s coming together. The newspapers have arrived, flyers have been distributed, the live link up between the venues has been checked, and the slideshow is almost done. We’ve even had some press!
We were very pleased to be featured in the Independent on Sunday last weekend; 3 double page spreads featuring a great article and ten images from our chosen photographers, complete with captions. If you missed the hard copy, you can read the article here. The headline in the newspaper was “We are the 99%” which we thought very apt… so many thanks to the team at the Independent for your support.
We also have a short article in the current issue of fLIP, the magazine for the London Independent Photography. Sadly not available online, but you can buy a copy from all good photographic book shops. (Joni Karanka, Director of Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff, which will also be showing Portrait Salon next week, has an article in there too..)
So we are looking forward to seeing you all next week! Spread the word.
Many thanks (again!) to all who submitted to Portrait Salon this year. We had an amazing 1,105 images submitted to us, from around 400 photographers, which is about twice as many as last year. We really appreciate your support. The selections have now been made and, if you did submit to us, you should have been notified of the decision today.
To celebrate our second year the event is also getting bigger. It will still be in the form of a projection, with the publication of a newspaper, but this time the slideshow will be screened in four venues across the UK on the same night! The date is 29 November, and hopefully you’ll be able to get to one of these places:
LONDON: Roxy Bar and Screen, 128 – 132 Borough High St, London, SE1 1LB
LEEDS: White Cloth Gallery, 24 - 26 Aire Street, Leeds, LS1 4HT
CARDIFF: Third Floor Gallery. 102 Bute St, Cardiff, CF10 5AD
BRIGHTON: Upstairs at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar, 9-12 Middle Street, Brighton, BN1 1AL
Get the date in your diaries! It’s gonna be quite a night…