Arresting portrait of migrant scoops photography prize
An arresting, unsettling photograph of a determined 16-year-old migrant from Mali taken after he had been rescued from the Mediterranean sea has won a prestigious portrait award.
The Spanish photojournalist César Dezfuli was named winner of the 2017 Taylor Wessing prize at a ceremony last night at the National Portrait Gallery in London, the award’s organiser.
He won for his photograph of Amadou Sumaila, one of more than 100 people who were rescued from the sea on 1 August 2016, about 20 nautical miles from Libya.
Judges said that, set against the balance and precision of Dezfuli’s composition, “the directness of Sumaila’s gaze is striking and unsettling. The portrait powerfully conveys his loss, solitude and determination.”
Dezfuli was on board a rescue vessel documenting the plight of migrants escaping war, persecution and poverty.
He said the 16-year-old’s portrait, above, stood out because of the emotion it transmitted. “He had just been rescued by a European vessel, apparently fulfilling his dream. However, his look and his attitude show fear, mistrust and uncertainty, as well as determination and strength.”
The 26-year-old photographer won £15,000, while in second place, with a prize of £3,000, was Abbie Trayler-Smith for her picture of a girl fleeing Isis in Mosul, Iraq, taken while she was working on a commission for Oxfam.
Third place went to a portrait that has raised some eyebrows because it is not of a human. Instead Maija Tammi’s photograph is of an android called Erica, created at the Hiroshi Ishiguro Laboratories in Osaka, Japan.
As well as third overall, it won the Finnish photographer the John Kobal new work award, with a £5,000 prize and a commission from the National Portrait Gallery.
The winning photographs and those included in the annual Taylor Wessing exhibition were chosen from 5,717 submissions entered by 2,423 photographers from 66 countries. This was the first year in which digital entries were allowed for the initial sift. Mark Brown
• The Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize 2017 exhibition is at the NPG, 16 November-8 February