Ar­rest­ing por­trait of mi­grant scoops pho­tog­ra­phy prize

The Guardian - - NATIONAL -

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

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