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National Portrait Gallery announces the shortlisted photographers for the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize

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Abbie Trayler Smith: Fleeing Mosul

The three shortlisted artists for The National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize have been announced, with each portrait capturing a wider sense of the turbulent times we’re living in.

One portrait is by Spanish-Persian photographer, César Dezfuli, a journalist and documentary photographer who “focuses on issues of migration, identity and human rights,” says the National Portrait Gallery. César’s portrait of Amadou Sumalia was taken in the Mediterranean Sea while the photographer was “documenting the search and rescue of migrants on board an NGO vessel in the Central Mediterranean Route”.

The second portrait is by Finnish artist Maija Tammi, titled One of Them Is a Human #1, featuring Erica, an android developed by Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories. As an artist, Maija’s work regularly uses photojournalism to “engage with science and aesthetics,” says the gallery. “ One of Them Is a Human #1 is part of a broader series which presents androids alongside one human and asks questions about what it means to be alive.” The artist had just half an hour with Erica the android, accompanied by a researcher. “The researcher told me that Erica had said that she finds Pokemon Go scarier than artificial intelligence,” says Maija.

The final short-listed photograph is by Welsh photographer, Abbie Trayler-Smith titled Fleeing Mosul from her series Women in War: Life After ISIS. As a photographer Abbie’s work “covers women’s rights, social development and the aftermath of conflict,” says the gallery. Fleeing Mosul was taken while the photographer was on commission by Oxfam “documenting the camp where the charity was providing aid, talking to women who had lived under ISIS who were prepared to be photographed". Her portrait features a woman on a bus which had arrived from Mosul, “bringing people to safety who had escaped the battle just hours before”. On the experience Abbie told the gallery: “I just remember seeing her face looking out at the camp and the shock and the bewilderment in her’s and other’s faces and it made me shudder to imagine what living under ISIS had been like. To me the uncertainty in her face echoes the faces of people having to flee their homes around the world and references a global feeling of insecurity.”

Both professionals and amateurs can enter the award to receive the £15,000 prize. This year’s judging panel includes Nicholas Cullinan the chair and director of the National Portrait Gallery, writer, curator and artist David Campany, Tim Eyles a managing partner at Taylor Wessing who sponsor the award, Sabina Jaskot-Gill the associate curator of photographs at National Portrait Gallery, head of photography at The Guardian Fiona Shields, and artist, Gillian Wearing.

Selected photographers under the age of 35 are additionally eligible for the John Kobal New Work Award, receiving £5,000 and a commission from the gallery “to photograph a sitter connected with the UK film industry”.

The winner will be announced at the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize ceremony on 14 November, 2017. The exhibition will open to the public two days later on 16 November, running until 4 February 2018.

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César Dezfuli: Amadou Sumalia

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Maija Tammi: One of Them Is a Human #1