This week our Parliament Hill students visited the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery. We started at the NPG with a talk from one of their staff on the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. She showed the students a selection of works that were in the show, explained their back-story and shared some quotes from the photographers.
The presentation was useful as it introduced the students to some of the themes, and got them discussing which images they were more attracted to. There was a lively discussion on whether an portrait of Silvio Berlusconi should be included or not, and the rare view of Steve McQueen sitting for a portrait.
Following the presentation, the students had time to explore the exhibition. The Taylor Wessing show is always busy, and getting up close to the work is often requires a balance of patience and determination. The teachers and I encouraged the students to get as close to the work as possible, to observe the subjects and forms of the images, as well as the relationships between them.
Each student was invited to choose four images images and fill out a small card to help them engage with the work (What, How, Why, Links with, Ideas). We also asked to the students to look at the show’s prize winners, to reflect how they would distribute the prizes to if they were on the judging panel.
The show featured a relatively wide interpretation of the portraiture, which created a lot disagreement on which works deserved to win and why. The students questions whether David Titlow’s image of his baby son being introduced to a dog the morning at a midsummer party. There was also an interesting conversation on to what extent nudity is necessary in photography and why.
The National Gallery is a very different space to view visual art work due to the large rooms, tall ceilings and the scale of the works. Compared with the NPG, students tended to walk into the middle of the room, spot a painting and approach it. They experiencing the exhibitions in a linear way. The students were invited to choose one painting to respond to in photography.
They were given a small card with some prompts on, this helped them identify which which elements of the paintings they would work with.