Portrait Of Rescued Migrant Wins Taylor Wessing Prize

Written by Gina Stephens

Amadou Sumaila by César Dezfuli &duplication; César Dezfuli


César Dezfuli has won the Tenth Anniversary Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017 for his portrait of a migrant rescued in the Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan strand.

His sitter Amadou Sumaila, a sixteen-year-old from Mali, was photographed in the Mediterranean Sea, in international Waters 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast.

The image was taken as part of Dezfuli’s work as a freelancer, documenting the search and rescue of migrants on board an NGO vessel in the Central Mediterranean Route. 

"I believe Amadou’s portrait stands out because of the emotions it transmits," says Dezfuli. "He had just been rescued by a European barque, apparently fulfilling his dream. However, his look and his attitude show fear, mistrust and uncertainty, as well as determination and strength."

Commenting on the representative, the judges said: "Against the balance and precision of Dezfuli’s composition, the directness of Sumaila’s gaze is striking and unsettling. The description powerfully conveys his loss, solitude and determination."

César Dezfuli was awarded his £15,000 at an awards ceremony last night-time along with the winner of the £3,000 Second Prize, Abbie Trayler-Smith for her photograph of a girl fleeing ISIS in Mosul, Iraq.


Disappearing Mosul from the series Women in War: Life After ISIS by Abbie Trayler-Smith © Abbie Trayler-Smith


Trayler-Smith was there Hades a commission for Oxfam documenting the camp where the charity was providing aid and talking to women who had lived under ISIS who were prepared to be photographed.

The champ of the £2,000 Third Prize and the John Kobal New Work Award for a photographer under 35, is Maija Tammi from Finland for her description of a Japanese android called Erica. This is the first time in the competition’s history that one of the photographers shortlisted for a prize has also won the John Kobal New Operate Award which offers a cash prize of £5,000 to include undertaking a commission to photograph a sitter for the Gallery’s Collection.

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One of Them Is a Human #1 by Maija Tammi (Erica: Erato Ishiguro Symbiotic Human-Robot Interaction Design) © Maija Tammi


The winning portraits will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrayal Prize prize is an award to be given to a person, a group of people like a sports team, or organization to recognise and reward actions or 2017 exhibition from 16 November 2016 to 8 February 2017. 

The prize-winning photographs and those selected for inclusion in the fair were chosen from 5,717 submissions entered by 2,423 photographers from 66 countries.


About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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