Portrait Competitions, 4 April 2019

There was much interesting debate a while back on our Forums about what constitutes a portrait. We never agreed, but I think the debate informed our indecision! For the purposes of our two portrait competitions this year we kept to adopting the Taylor-Wessing Portrait Prize definition of a portrait being about a person – a nice, open definition which permits both character studies and the more purely descriptive as well as the experimental.

Our 37 PDI portraits vying for the Howard Edwards Trophy and the 13 prints in the Maurice Ashwin came under the scrutiny of Tillman Kleinhans, justly one of the most popular judges on the circuit. Tillman is a delight to listen to drawing you in to look at the work in the same way he does, frequently making you realise the subconscious effect of details you had not realised were there. It is all a world away from a catalog of dreary negativity.

Tillman had no easy job, with so many really good photographs in the line-up. The quality was a tribute to the strong standard of work in the club. There were one or two more experimental ones, always good to see, but the majority were what you might call traditional studies.

In the end Dolores Williams dominated the PDIs with a first and second place. It is great to have Dolores entering work again, she has that special quality in a portraitist of drawing out that something extra in her model; capturing a feeling of the person rather than a mere likeness. Then she tops it all by processing her work to bring out its strengths.

The hidden battle in the competition was over who would be Photographer of the Year, with the best three scoring images being the last contribution to the total scores. Peter Robinson and Wallace Baxter were pretty close before this event but Peter managed, in the end, to pull ahead with good scores for one of his jaunty shots of King Charles(!) and a beautiful mono PDI called (prosaically) “Muscular Mike” and a crisp print called “Army Photographer” (who was holding an immaculate rangefinder Contax).

Before ending I must mention someone who has progressed so well this year it is heart-warming to see – Keith Mulliner. Keith did really well in this competition, with a 19 for “The Eyes” but all year we have seen strong work from Keith and I wonder what 2020 will bring.

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