I usually approach this show with mixed feelings and inevitably feel let down when my favourites fail to win a prize! Without exception every year I find the reasoning behind some of the judges' choices unfathomable - why some were picked and others ignored - but as always with photography and art in general, preference is entirely subjective. The exhibition attracts a huge number of entries and the selection process is entirely anonymous. The successful entrants range from professional photographers submitting highly polished work commissioned by newspapers and magazines through to students and amateur photographers.
On display are the usual suspects - wan and miserable young people staring balefully into the camera, a sprinkling of glossy sports stars and celebrities, some of staggeringly huge proportions where every pore and hair is magnified, and a couple of provocative nudes including some children, which given current issues surrounding child welfare I found rather surprising! I felt that some hardly ranked as a portrait at all and seemed more like a figure in the landscape, so small in the frame did the person appear. In amongst this lot however were some gems - a beautiful and quietly dignified portrait of a girl with Down's Syndrome, a Libyan migrant worker caught through a rain-streaked bus window, an African boy framed by the natural light streaming into a dark schoolroom - all really strong and memorable images. Unfortunately none of these images seem to be available on the web but here are some of the prize winners and a few others that caught my eye....
1st prize winner: Jordi Ruiz Cirera
2nd prize winner: Lynne, Brighton by Jennifer Pattison
Kitty, Christine and Kira by Lydia Panas
Gillian Wearing by Robin Friend from the series Sanctuary: Artists and their Studios
Julie Hill by Peer Lindgreen
Hilary Mantel by Michael Birt
The exhibition runs until 17th February 2013 - details here. All images copyright the artist.