Monday, February 21, 2011

more about the Taylor Wessing Portrait Photography prize

I come across this piece of news ... it makes me reflect further on the day I attended at the NPG recently!!

London's National Portrait Gallery has found itself in an embarrassing situation involving one of the judges for its prestigious annual Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize who, it was recently discovered, is in an intimate relationship with one of the prize winners. The fact only came to light after the couple appeared at the awards ceremony with their young baby.

Harry Borden, an award-winning portrait photographer himself, was chosen back in August 2010 as one of the six judges to determine the four recipients of the coveted prize. By the time the award ceremony was held in November, it was clear that fourth-prize winner Abbie Trayler-Smith was the mother of Borden's child. "It was only at that moment, on that night, that I realized that we should investigate," Sandy Nairne, director of the NGP, told

The National Portrait Gallery's annual Photographic Portrait Prize draws thousands of applicants each year, serving as a standard by which to judge the leaders in contemporary portrait photography. There are four winners each year and this year's top prize and the accompanying £12,000 went to David Chancellor for his captivating image of a modern-day Diana-esque teenage deer-hunter.

After the revelation of the apparent conflict of interest, an investigation of Borden's actions was conducted by an independent committee and it was determined that Trayler-Smith's prize would not be confiscated, although the kerfuffle has lead the NPG to lay out guidelines for subsequent years, dictating that judges be briefed about declaring conflicts of interest immediately.

Nairne said that Borden told him he did not know that Trayler-Smith had entered the competition when he was asked to judge. Also, since the competition is judged anonymously and the work is reviewed without the names attached, Borden insists that he did not violate any rules.

One might argue, however, that it it would be extremely strange if the subject of the competition never came up over the dinner table, and that it is also unlikely that Borden would not recognize her photograph of an obese teenager from her series entitled "Childhood Obesity." "Obviously it's none of my business to comment on their relationship," stated Nairne diplomatically — although, clearly, Borden himself should have commented so as to avoid the embarassment.