David by Katya Ilina © Katya Ilina. All images courtesy of National Portrait Gallery and the artists.
Organised by the National Portrait Gallery in London, the annual event showcases new work submitted by some of the most exciting contemporary photographers. The winner of the top prize will get £15,000 and will be announced on 8 November 2021. This year saw over 5,300 entries from 2,215 photographers worldwide.
“From Velázquez to Ingres, painters have portrayed men in positions of power, or as muscular heroes in battle, whereas females are often pictured naked and reclining, communicating softness, weakness and openness to gaze,” explains Ilina. ‘I wanted to borrow the so-called feminine body language from those paintings and juxtapose it with male sitters. Being physically and emotionally strong still dominates Western ideologies and expectations of ‘real men’, but it’s important that contemporary men have the right to be vulnerable and gentle, and not feel ashamed of that.”
Yuki San from the series Hakanai Sonzai by Pierre-Elie de Pibrac © Pierre-Elie de Pibrac
Miyashita San from the series Hakanai Sonzai by Pierre-Elie de Pibrac © Pierre-Elie de Pibrac
“Each portrait emanates from long discussions I had with my subjects about a painful event in their lives,’ he says. ‘In all the pictures I forbid any movement as if they are trapped by their surroundings with no visible escape.”
The series title, Hakanai Sonzai, translates as ‘I, myself, feel like an ephemeral creature’. It reflects Pibrac’s belief that “his sitters’ forbearance is rooted in a national culture of fatality and awareness of impermanence”.
Sudo San from the series Hakanai Sonzai by Pierre-Elie de Pibrac © Pierre-Elie de Pibrac
Merna Beasley, Kurtijar Woman from the series Tribute to Indigenous Stock Women by David Prichard © David Prichard
Born in Sydney, Australia in 1966, Prichard has documented indigenous peoples for much of his career and was commissioned to create the series by Normanton council in Queensland following a well-received 2019 exhibition that showcased First Nation rodeo riders in the region. The cultural and social history of stock women has gone almost completely unrecorded, and Prichard welcomed the opportunity to help their voices be heard.
“Any level of investigation into Australian history reveals the years of trauma that indigenous people have suffered,” Prichard says. “One can only imagine what stock women endured, living in remote areas, in a world dominated by white colonial culture and law. I wanted to produce portraits that were dignified, strong and beautiful, and worthy to represent these women today and into the future.”
Following the announcement of the winners of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize on 9 November, an exhibition will take place at the National Portrait Gallery in London until 2 January 2022. Find out more at