Australian photographer David Prichard has won first prize in the 2021 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize for his series ‘Tribute to Indigenous Stock Women’, portraits of First Nations women who spent most of their working lives on cattle stations in Far North Queensland.
Prichard’s series of portraits of the women depict them sitting or standing alone in a room. These women spent most of their lives in physically hard labour, working with livestock, riding horses and doing a wide range of other homestead chores. The series is culturally and socially significant given that the history of the First Nations stock women’s lives has largely been unrecorded.
Reflecting on the series, David said, “I have always been respectful of cultural and social sensitivities and subsequently built trust with the community, which led me to be invited to photograph the women. The project is not about me. I am only the vehicle for the women to tell their stories.”
The second prize went to French photographer Pierre-Elie de Pibrac, for his series ‘Hakanai Sonzai’, (‘I, myself, feel like an
ephemeral creature’). The series is portraits of people in Japan that show the photographer’s belief that his sitters’ forbearance in the face of adversity is rooted in the Japanese national culture of fatality and awareness of impermanence.
In Fukushima, he photographed residents exiled from their contaminated homes following the nuclear disaster the city witnessed a decade ago. Other portraits were made in the former mining town Yubari, once known as the country’s capital of coal, now devastated by colliery closures and depopulation. Pibrac said, “Each portrait emanates from long discussions I had with my subjects about a painful event in their lives. In all the pictures I forbid any movement, as if they are trapped by their surroundings with no visible escape.”
The winner of the third prize was Russian photographer Katya Ilina for her image ‘David’. The photograph is part of a series titled ‘Rosemary and Thyme’ and celebrates body positivity, questioning notions of masculinity and feminity. The male subjects were photographed in traditionally female poses found in Western art, exploring the idea that traditional Western depictions and expectations of masculinity can be just as damaging as those so-called feminine ideals imposed on women and people identifying as women. Speaking about her work, Ilina said, “I strive to show beauty in all its forms. I’m interested in things
that make us human in the modern world and everything I do comes from my personal experiences, one way or another.”
The National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2021 exhibition is open at Cromwell Place from 10 November 2021 until 2 January 2022 www.npg.org.uk/photoprize.