Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2022 at Cromwell Place
This year’s prize was won by Clementine Schneidermann for Laundry Day #2 and Laundry Day #3, which were taken of her neighbours during lockdown last year. The judges praised the simplicity and the unusual choice of not having the subject’s face visible, which adds something enigmatic to the images. The obscuring of the face references the invisibility older people can experience in our society. Schneidermann took the photos near her home in South Wales, where she lives and works when not based in Paris. She says, “These images are a response to a quiet time when approaching strangers was very challenging. They speak about the duality between stagnation and passage of time. My neighbour’s garden became a tiny imaginary stage where from my window I documented small moments of her life.” Picked from almost 5,000 entries from around the world, she wins the prize of £15,000.
One of the most intriguing of the rest of the selection is Lewis Khan’s Mike. The young man closes his eyes in a moment of vulnerability that contrasts visually with his extensive neck tattoos. The image is striking and tender, almost as though the subject never gets to be vulnerable in his life and wanted to be seen in a different way. Like the best portraiture, one wants to know more about Mike and his life, and what he was thinking. Khan’s deadpan description piques curiosity even more: “He told me not to mind the bullet holes but stay out of the way of his dog.” One wonders if it was an incident in his life that caused the bullet holes or merely an accident of geography. How dangerous was the dog? Was Khan nervous?
Another image that draws the viewer in is Rania Matar’s Demi, Brummana, Lebanon, 2021. The young woman peers out from behind jagged shards of broken windows in a bombed building in the centre of the city, impassive and beautiful.
There is plenty to interest although the show feels a little cramped for space on the walls of the two small rooms. The selection might also benefit from some more active portraits. They are necessarily quite a static art form but some of the most interesting shots came from subjects who did not engage directly with the camera.
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2022 is at Cromwell Place from 27th October until 18th December 2022. For further information visit the exhibition’s website here.