Pat Martin's intimate portraits of his late mother win the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019

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Pat Martin's intimate portraits of his late mother win the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019
Pat Martin with his winning portraits. Photograph by Jorge Herrera.

LONDON.- Pat Martin has won the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 for two works from his portrait series of his late mother, Goldie (Mother). The £15,000 award was presented to the Los Angeles-based photographer at an awards ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery, London, on Tuesday 5 November 2019. Second prize was awarded to Enda Bowe for his portrait Neil, a young man photographed as part of Bowe’s series on the Belfast Conway estate, a project documenting youth culture on either side of the Belfast ‘peace walls’. Garrod Kirkwood was awarded third prize for his photograph The Hubbucks, a family on the cusp of a holiday adventure to Whitley Bay beach, England.

The winning portraits will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 exhibition from 7 November 2019 to 16 February 2020.

Pat Martin (10.07.1992) is a photographer from Los Angeles, who uses photography to connect with personal memories, while also working to understand his own relationship with time. His intimate series of portraits of his mother, who struggled with addiction issues throughout her life, allowed Martin to reconnect with her and gave him the opportunity to build upon an empty photo album. Martin says, ‘For most of my life, I misunderstood my mother and witnessed how the world misunderstood her. Photographing her became a way of looking into a mirror and finding details I never noticed. There were always new ones to discover, and something new to hide… I began this project when at the 11th hour, and needing to reconnect, I chose to focus where I was fearful to look. When I recognized I was without a document of her existence, the camera became a magnet, pulling in her direction over and over, taking one memory at a time.’

The judges were unanimous in their depth of engagement with the two winning portraits which are, in turn, sensitive, tough and even humorous. The photographer has captured something of the struggle and pride of his mother which they felt speaks to the fragility of human experience and the power of the photographic portrait to express loss and evoke memory. The photographer’s assured use of light and a confidence in his compositional approach to the figure was greatly admired. Three further portraits from the series have been included in the display at the judges’ discretion to show the complexity of feeling expressed in Martin’s work.

£3,000 Second Prize: Enda Bowe for Neil from the series Love's Fire Song.
Enda Bowe (21.05.1972) is an Irish photographer based in London. Bowe’s work is concerned with storytelling and the search for light and beauty in the ordinary. He has had work exhibited at Red Hook Gallery, New York; The V&A Museum, London; Fotohof, Salzburg; Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; and The Visual Centre Of Contemporary Art, Ireland. Bowe’s shortlisted work portrays Neil, a young man photographed as par t of Bowe’s series on the Belfast Conway estate. Bowe says, ‘I concentrated on the ordinary, the everyday. I used a saturated colour palette with only subtle symbolisms, and without reference to the specific locations they were taken. Free from political and geographical context, the photographs speak of longing, yearning, aspirations and vulnerabilities of young people in Belfast today.’

The judges responded to the simplicity and beauty of this portrait, particularly in the photographer’s use of natural light as well as the pose and expression achieved with his sitter. They found the sense of the subject’s interiority compelling and that the image conveyed something of the confusion, uncertainty and rebellion of youth.

£2,000 Third Prize: Garrod Kirkwood for The Hubbucks from the series England.
Garrod Kirkwood (29.05.1979) is a British photographer based on the North East coast of England. His work is driven by the environment and the people that inhabit it. Kirkwood’s shortlisted photograph shows a family of individual personalities, on the cusp of a holiday adventure. Kirkwood says, ‘This is a magical moment and portrait of a family and group of individuals that we can all relate to.’ Kirkwood describes the photograph, taken in Whitley Bay, England, as ‘a cinematic scene from real life’.

The judges greatly enjoyed the vibrancy and sense of spontaneity in this image. They admired the strong and playful use of colour as well as the interesting composition in which the car sits low in the frame. They agreed that the photograph which shows a family - carefree and ready for adventure - was one that revelled in a collectively treasured holiday memory many could relate to.

The annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition is one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world and showcases new work that has been submitted by some of the most exciting contemporary photographers. Since the international competition began in 1993, it has remained a hugely important platform for portrait photographers and offers an unparalleled opportunity for celebrated professionals, emerging artists and amateurs alike. The competition is in its twelfth year of sponsorship by Taylor Wessing.

The photographs are judged anonymously, and photographers were once again encouraged to submit works as a series in addition to stand-alone portraits. The diversity of styles in the exhibition reflects the international mix of entries as well as photographers’ individual and varied approaches to the genre of portraiture. The prize-winning photographs were chosen from 3,700 submissions entered by 1,611 photographers from 70 countries. A total of 55 portraits from 31 artists have been selected for display, of which 13 submissions are a series.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2019 exhibition brings together a wide selection of works that exemplify leading approaches to the genre of photographic portraiture. I am grateful to all the photographers who entered photographs into this year’s competition, and I would especially like to congratulate this year’s three prize winners, Pat Martin, Enda Bowe and Garrod Kirkwood, for their outstanding contributions to the competition.’

Shane Gleghorn, Managing Partner at Taylor Wessing LLP, says: "Every year the Photographic Portrait Prize showcases brilliant talent from across the world. We would like to offer our thanks to the photographers, who entered from over 70 countries and exceeded 1600 in number, and of course congratulations to those who were shortlisted. As the overall quality of the entrants was amazing, it was very difficult to select the final 55 portraits but I believe that those final portraits are challenging, evocative and uplifting. The prize has become world-renowned because of the unceasing quality of the images that are submitted and this year has seen an exceptional breadth of vision and artistry from the photographers. We are grateful for the opportunity to support the National Portrait Gallery in supporting such talent, and we take great pride in having championed these artists for the last 12 years."

This year’s judging panel was Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Chair (Director, National Portrait Gallery, London); Elaine Constantine, Photographer and Film Director; Shane Gleghorn, Managing Partner, Taylor Wessing; Sara Hemming, Co-Founder & Creative Director NATAAL, Magda Keaney (Senior Curator of Photographs, National Portrait Gallery, London) and Nicola Shipley, Director GRAIN Projects.

This year’s exhibition will also feature previously unseen prints from a new body of work by New York based photographer Ethan James Green. The prints will form the fifth In Focus display, an annual showcase for new work by an internationally renowned photographer, which will be exhibited alongside the photographs selected from the competition entries. Green’s first monograph ‘Young New York’ was published by Aperture in March 2019. These striking black and white portraits were made between 2014-2018, focusing on the artist’s friends and community, many taken in Corlears Red Hook Park on the Lower East Side. His new series of portraits sees him continue to work with his own generation this time photographing couples. Green mixes personal projects with work as a high profile fashion photographer working for magazines including Arena Homme+, i-D, LOVE, Self-Service, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Vogue Homme, Vogue Italia, Vogue Paris, W and WSJ. Magazine.

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