Portrait Salon: A Real Win-Win Opportunity
Imagine entering your work for a major international exhibition, which if you fail to be selected, makes you automatically eligible to enter another exhibition with a greater chance of having your work seen, and, arguably, a fairer selection system..? Too good to be true? Nope.
I first read about Portrait Salon in the Professional Photographer magazine and was instantly impressed with the brilliance of it’s simple and audacious concept. So impressed, in fact, that I invited the peeps behind it, Carole Evans and James O Jenkins, to come up from London and tell Fotofilia’s THE CLUB (plus a few f2 members) all about it.
The story goes something like this: Ever so slightly disgruntled at being rejected for inclusion in the famous/infamous Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2011 (along with all but 60 of the 6000 entries), Carole and James began sharing their frustration via social media. And an idea was born. The Taylor Wessing is not a cheap event to enter – there’s the £25 submission cost plus printing (yes, only prints may be submitted) and all of the associated delivery/collection/travel expenses. For the “lucky” 1% who are selected and have their work hung in the National Portrait Gallery, this is probably money well spent. But what about the 99% whose work is rejected?
Carole and James hastily printed up some flyers and loitered hopefully outside the exhibition’s collection point. Approaching anyone who appeared to be collecting their rejected prints, they asked if the photographer would be interested in taking part in a sort of Salon des Refusés of the Taylor Wessing, but for free. Some did, some didn’t – but those who did were then entered into another selection process, this time for what was to become Portrait Salon 2011. The selected images were published in a specially-published colour magazine.
Interestingly, once the national press began to take notice of this upstart project, some of the Portrait Salon’s images were then reproduced and disseminated to a much wider audience than (most of ) the Taylor Wessing selectees. The “failed” 99% were suddenly being seen – and people liked them! There have been murmurs in the photographic community for some time about the… how shall we put this… “not entirely objective” Taylor Wessing selection process, a process usually conducted by the same group of people, year in, year out. Some feel this has resulted in a predictable and staid “style” of photography being repeatedly shown.
Portrait Salon repeated the process in 2012 but this time with a different jury, resulting in a different type of images being selected. I like Portrait Salon. It appeals to my long-standing belief that organisations within the arts need to be shaken up and challenged from time to time.
So, enter the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize from now on and if you’re rejected (and let’s face it, the odds aren’t great) you can enter Portrait Salon instead – and might do better for it! Find out more about Portrait Salon at http://portraitsalon.co.uk/ and this is where you can also order copies of the magazine for 2011 and 2012 (incredible value!).
Of course you can also follow them on Twitter – @Portrait_Salon
Remember, to be considered, you must first be REFUSED by the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize. Time to get printing…