Since 1993, the prestigious competition has invited photographers internationally to submit photographic work and it has become known for the diverse and individual nature of approaches to portraiture from entrants. For the first time this year, photographers were also encouraged to submit work in a series along with stand-alone images.
The winning portrait, Five Girls 2014, mirrors Stewart’s image of the same group taken seven years ago, also entered in the competition. In the original the girls were about to take their GCSEs and in the new version they have graduated from university. This is the sixteenth time Stewart has entered the annual competition, and his winning image this year was chosen from 4929 submissions from 2201 photographers in 70 countries.
“I have always had a fascination with the way people interact – or, in this case, fail to interact, which inspired the photograph of this group of girls. While the girls are physically very close and their style and clothing highlight their membership of the same peer group, there is an element of distance between them,” Stewart says.
Second prize went to Anoush Abrar for his photograph of a friend’s child, Hector, from the Cherubs series, inspired by Caravaggio’s Sleeping Cupid.“Caravaggio’s cherub gives you the impression that it is a fallen angel – though he has a child’s body, the face seems older,” he says.
Peter Zelewski’s photograph Nyaueth, won third prize, from the street cast Beautiful Strangers series. Fourth prize was awarded to Ivor Prickett for Amira and her Children, a photograph of a displaced Iraqi family. And the John Kobal New Work Award, went to Tereza Červeňová for her portrait of her friend Yngvild.
This year’s judges were Dr Nicholas Cullinan, director of the National Portrait Gallery; Dr Phillip Prodger, head of photographs at the National Portrait Gallery; photographer Hannah Starkey; Anne Lyden, international photography curator at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery; David Drake, director of Ffotogallery, Cardiff; and Tim Eyles, managing partner of Taylor Wessing LLP.
Here are some of our other favourites from this year’s prize…
Tom Oldham’s Gilbert and George (2015) portrait was commissioned by Time Out New York. “So few figures are as recognisable from behind as their distinct form,” he said.
Winter Virus (2015) by Sian Davey is a portrait of the photographer’s daughter, from the Looking for Alice series, an illustration of family life.
Marton Perlaki’s Elemér with his ear on the table (2014), is from the series Bird, Bald, Book, Bubble, Bucket, Brick, Potato.“He was extremely patient and cooperative, but because of ight sensitivity Elemér could not open his eyes. Without any eye contact his head and face became unrealistic and sculptural,” he says.
Joseph P. Smith’s portrait Village Butcher, captures Anthony, a third generation butcher from Zurrieq, Malta, pictured producing his favourite delicacy of Maltese sausage, made using traditional methods.
André on his couch (2015) by Jouk Oosterhof, is from the series My Muse André. “He is a wonderful model with a gentle character, always willing and allowing me plenty of freedom,” he says. “I wanted to photograph André in women’s clothing without excessive feminine characterization. No wigs or make-up, as he is a heterosexual man who does not wear organza or blouses.”
Noriko Takasugi’s And I wake up and start drawing (2014) is from a portrait of the artist and writer Yayoi Kusama, taken at her studio in Tokyo, commissioned by the Sunday Telegraph.
Fanda Smoking (2014), by Pamela Landau Connolly is from the Salon Smoking series, which looks at 45 to 65-year-old women and the choices they make about altering appearance through colouring their hair.
Stephen Lee playing hide and seek (2014), by Mattia Zoppellaro, from the series Appleby. He is pictured enjoying a game of hide and seek with his friends, at the Appleby Horse Fair in Westmoreland, an annual gathering for the Irish Traveller community.
The winning and shortlists portraits will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery from 12 November 2015 to 21 February 2016.