Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize -reviews

This year's 'joyous' prize exhibition seduces with stories of real people and real lives

Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow,
(Image credit: David Titlow, 2014)

What you need to know

An exhibition featuring the finalists of the 2014 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is showing at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It presents 60 new portraits by contemporary photographers from around the world, selected from over 4,000 entries.

This year's winner is fashion photographer David Titlow's portrait of his infant son, Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow. There are also portraits of film-maker Steve McQueen, actor-comedian Lenny Henry and Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi. Runs until 22 February.

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What the critics like

The Taylor Wessing show "seduces with stories" - real people, real lives, the hand of the artist hidden behind the seeming truth of a photograph, says Nancy Durrant in The Times. This year's true stories seem in the main to reflect strength, being ordinary, being ourselves, like Titlow's winning image and Buki Koshoni's startlingly intimate shot of his wife Marianne and newborn son Ace – perfection.

The exhibition delivers portraits that are variously "elegant, jubilant and unsettling from a consistently accomplished selection", says Christian House in the Daily Telegraph. The judges have adopted a more joyous approach than last year: works celebrate rather than commiserate with their subjects.

Titlow's work captures a beautiful moment, but there are a dozen or so fine images that "represent the breadth and freedom of contemporary portraiture", says Simon Bainbridge in the British Journal of Photographers. Paul Stuart's portrait of Silvio Berlusconi is extraordinary, and presents a stark contrast to the Prize's obsession with youth, as do Kelvin Murray and Ivan Maslarov's portraits of their ageing parents.

What they don't like

"Tongues will still wag" because many will consider Titlow's winning image, in which three adults, a baby and a dog vie for prominence, is not really a portrait, says Christian House in the Daily Telegraph. Other works veer into reportage or flirt with familiar themes of woodland scenes, red-headed youth, scars and twins, but "go, view, smile and tut-tut and then discuss".

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