Saturday, 18 September 2010

Intimacy explicit

The National Portrait Gallery in London is one of my favourites for its exhibitions. And favourite among the exhibitions are the photographic portrait award exhibition (open to submissions from professionals or amateurs) and the painting portrait award (similarly so).

The latest Taylor Wessing photographic portrait exhibition award shortlist features a delightfully shocking portrait, My British Wife by a photographer named Panayiotis Lamprou. It's a casual, intimate, lovely – and perhaps pornographic – shot of the (Greek) photographer's (British) wife outside their summer house on the island of Schinousa. She wears a short summer dress, has just finished eating (the pan is at her elbow), has her legs slightly apart and is revealing her pudenda as the already-short skirt rides up. The light in the image is Aegian: bright and gentle at once. Her expression is one of comfort with the photographer (in a photograph that was not originally intended for display, apparently).

Such "pornographic" shots are easy to shoot when aiming for pornography, but it's harder to achieve a casual familiarity and an intimate portrait of the subject (intentionally or unintentionally). I love this shot. (I also love its title, with just a hint of something: cross-national relationships, pride, assumed national characteristics. The final image belies any cheapened use of the title, where you could argue that "British" or "wife" are unnecessary, since one could just use the sitter's name.)

The sitter is attractive and strong – belying any "ownership" inherent in the title. (And she presumably agreed to the photo's submission!) The photographer has achieved something strong and beautiful too. Read The Guardian article here (also see the full photo).

Good luck, too, to my ex-colleague Abbie Trayler-Smith with her excellent photo from a series on childhood obesity, also short-listed.

Update, Wed. Nov 10,  2010: First prize went to an excellent shot of a 14-year-old hunter. "My British Wife" claimed second.

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