Lydia Goldblatt, Yolanda Y. Liou, and Alys Tomlinson have been shortlisted for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2020, the international photography award organised by London's National Portrait Gallery.
Judged anonymously by a panel that includes Edward Enninful, editor-in-chief of British Vogue and photographer Mark Neville, this year sees all the prize-winning photographers as women for the first time ever.
The shortlisted images include a portrait of the model, plus-size advocate and Instagram influencer, Enam Ewura Adjoa Asiama; an image of an artist's three-year-old daughter in her garden during the lockdown, and a series of black and white portraits of London school leavers dressed up for their cancelled end-of-year prom.
The annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is one of the most prestigious photography awards in the world and showcases new work submitted by some of the most exciting contemporary photographers. The winner of the first prize will receive £15,000, second prize-winner will get £3,000 and the third prize is £2,000. The winner will be announced on Tuesday 24 November.
Lydia Goldblatt's shortlisted portrait, Eden, is part of a larger series made during 2020, titled Fugue. Created with four people within a 50-metre radius of her home, the work draws on mothering and family life as a central theme, and is driven by her need to explore and respond to the fundamental themes of intimacy and distance, brought to the fore through lockdown and Covid-19.
As Lydia explains: "In such close, sometimes blissful, sometimes painful proximity to my children, I am aware of all that remains unknown. We are fused and separate, elusive. The child protected but alone in her den, the perfect spring blossom, articulate a psychological suspension in which both joy and fear oscillate."
Yolanda Y. Liou's shortlisted work is from a collaborative ongoing project, Thank You For Playing With Me, with artists Enam Ewura Adjoa Asiama (the sitter) and Vanessa Charnell Marshall Russell. Speaking about the photograph, she highlights how it captures the uncompromising energy and confidence of the sitter: "The expectation of being skinny as standard is relentless in Asian culture. I’ve experienced the stress of this since a very young age. I was taken by Enam's confidence and charisma. A key component of the photo was to demonstrate self-love and being comfortable with who you are in your own body."
Alys Tomlinson's shortlisted series, Lost Summer, was born out of her frustration at not being able to travel for work. She decided to photograph local teenagers whose proms were cancelled, dressed up in what they would have worn, but captured in their gardens, backyards or local parks.
Reflecting on the works Alys says: "I feel that there is a vulnerability and sadness to the portraits, but also resilience. The school year ended abruptly, with no opportunity to say goodbye to friends and nothing to mark the occasion of leaving school. I wanted to photograph each teenager framed by nature, merging their inner and outer worlds. There is a quietness to the images and they represent a loss and longing, but also celebrate each teenager as an individual, navigating this extraordinary time."
To see the work, you can visit a virtual exhibition on the National Portrait Gallery's website. The prize-winning photographs and those selected for inclusion in the exhibition were chosen from 5,531 submissions entered by 2,169 photographers from 75 countries. A total of 54 portraits from 37 artists have been selected for display.