Opinion - Androids and Portrait Competitions

opinion For any photographer trying to make a name for themselves in the creative world, one of the biggest opportunities has always been the Taylor Wessing Portrait competition. This yearly event draws thousands of entries from photographers around the world, all hoping to either win the prize money or at least feature in the exhibition of around 60 images carefully selected from those entries and shown in the prestigious National Portrait Gallery in London.

Whilst the winning images and those that make the exhibition are very often controversial, these have all in the past at least been of human beings. Indeed, one of the rules of the competition is that the sitter must be alive. This year though, that rule has been broken by the very people who run the competition. This was to allow the inclusion of a portrait of an android, albeit a very realistic human-looking android but still an android.

I personally think this makes a mockery of the whole competition and is an insult to the entrants both past and present who worked with their strict rules of entry in order to make it to the final selection. Thereís no wiggle room for any entrant on any of their rules so why have they decided on this particular occasion it's acceptable? Taking a quote from an article on the BBC website the National Portrait Gallery have said:

ďThe gallery has decided not to disqualify this portrait though accepts it is in breach of the rules. The rules are reviewed every year and this issue will be taken into consideration for next year.

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is dedicated to showcasing the best in contemporary portraiture. There are occasions when particularly compelling portraits raise interesting questions about the genre of portraiture, and these may be included at the judges' discretion."

(Link to the BBC page here: www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-41161964

This isnít portrait photography, itís a very interesting product photograph. That itís been selected for the exhibition is surprising but itís also been chosen as a contender for the top prize in this yearís competition which I find incredible. I wonder at times if work like this is chosen because itís controversial which brings publicity to the competition? I certainly wouldnít be writing about an annual photography competition if it wasnít for this peculiarity so if that was the intention, itís job done. If controversy is the name of the game, I predict this image will win the top prize. I await the announcement of the winner with great interest.

Photography competitions are often mired in controversy because entrants have tried to fool the judges with manipulations or have ignored certain aspects of the rules by erasing unsightly parts of an image but in my experience this is the first time the people running the competition have decided to bend their own rules to allow an image in. Personally I think theyíre wrong to do this. If itís something they wish to allow then yes, as they have said, change the rules for next year, but this yearís competition should have stuck with the rules as written and the credibility of the competition would have been retained. If next year's rules are amended, I look forward to seeing how those changes accomodate images of products.

Tell us what you think about this in the comments below.

This article reflects the opinion of the writer and not necessarily that of CreativesGo or Peter Hatter Photography Ltd.

Article Date - 14th September 2017

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