Taylor Wessing at the National Portrait Gallery

A casually explicit image by photographer Panayiotis Lamprou entitled “Portrait of my British Wife” has been awarded second place in this year’s Taylor Wessing photographic portrait prize – selected entries for which will be on show at the National Portrait Gallery in London for the next few months.

The British Journal of Photography published the outcome of this year’s contest today showing both the winning image (by David Chancellor) and the second place image in its report. Strangely the NPG are not upfront about the image that they had selected for second place, choosing to crop the lower half of it out completely in its presentation on its website inviting the viewer to click though to see the full image.

I like the image. It’s forthright and intimate. There’s some chatter about it not being erotic or pornographic but some people say that to excuse themselves liking such an image. In my view the subject is pornographic – however in its style and presentation, it hits me also as art.

So why am I writing? I’ve 2 issues:

  • If the NPG don’t feel that they can present the image properly then they really should not have chosen it as second prize in the most prestigious photo competition that there is in the UK.
  • The title – “Portrait of my British Wife”. The idea of the photographer showing off his possession instantly comes to mind. “And here is her vagina. Do you approve?”. You are left wondering about the motivation – is he just being doubly provocative?

It’s cool to have an essentially erotic portrait do well, but please not one with that title and next time don’t sensationalise it by censoring it. I like the image but it’s surely not strong enough to come second in such a prize.

With grants from government declining am I being too cynical if I suspect that the NPG have hit on a way of boosting publicity, attendances, and income?

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