Alice Mann has won the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2018 for her portrait series on the all-female teams of drum majorettes ‘drummies’ in South Africa’s Western Province. This is the first time in the competition’s history the judges have awarded the first prize to a series of four pictures rather than an individual photograph.
Mann spent three months photographing different teams of girls across South Africa’s Western Province, beginning at the Dr Van der Ross Primary school in one of the poorer parts of Cape Town. Many of the drum majorettes, or ‘drummies’, come from South Africa’s most disadvantaged communities. Mann is a South African photographic artist based in London whose intimate portraiture essays explore notions of picture making as an act of collaboration.
The £15,000 award was presented to the South African photographer at an awards ceremony at the National Portrait Gallery, London on Tuesday 16 October 2018.
‘The images are part of a much larger body of work, which is a combination of a more documentary approach and portraits,’ says Mann. ‘These four portraits are some of my favourite images, especially the one of Riley and Wakiesha because they are so charismatic. For these girls, involvement in ‘drummies’ becomes a vehicle for them to excel, and the distinctive uniforms serve as a visual marker of perceived success and represents emancipation from their surroundings. Continuing my consideration into notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society, it was my intent to create images that reflect the pride and confidence the girls achieve through identifying as ‘drummies’.’
The judges’ commented: ‘Mann’s series is consistent in its evocation of a sustained and intriguing narrative. Each sitter is precisely framed within a carefully considered composition, and the girls confidently meet the camera’s gaze. Their pristine and vibrant outfits jar with the rundown surroundings, lending a surreal and enigmatic atmosphere to the portraits.’
The winning portraits will be on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2018 exhibition from 18 October 2018 to 27 January 2019. While the photographs are judged anonymously from prints this was the second year in which the competition permitted digital entries for the initial sift. The prize-winning photographs and those selected for inclusion in the exhibition were chosen from 4,462 submissions entered by 1,973 photographers from 70 countries. A total of 57 portraits from 49 artists have been selected for display, of which 4 submissions are a series.