The winners of the MPB Scottish Portrait Awards in Photography 2023 have been announced, showcasing talented young photographers, skilled amateurs and established professionals.
David Gillanders from Glasgow has been crowned the winner in the black and white category with his portrait ‘The Makers – Alastair. E. Blain, artist & poet’.
The work is part of an ongoing portraiture project depicting Scottish people with an infectious passion for what they do, whose lives are devoted to the pursuit and perfection of their craft.
Ruaridh Fraser, also from Glasgow, has won the new colour category with the portrait ‘Vanilla in the Kitchen’.
The image captures an intimate moment between brothers during the juvenile budding stages of drag, set against a timeless domestic backdrop.
Each winner also received a total of £2,000.
This year the awards welcomed guest judge, the internationally renowned photographer Albert Watson OBE, who personally reviewed every photographic work entered before choosing ‘Summer’ by Nina Davidson as the winner of the SPA Albert Watson Portrait Prize.
Open to anyone over 16-years-old, born, living or studying in Scotland, regardless of experience, the Scottish Portrait Awards has quickly established itself as a barometer of contemporary Scottish art practice.
It aims to give visibility to a mix of well-established artists as well as newcomers across a diversity of styles.
The exhibition spotlights artists and photographers telling the stories of our time.
Presenting the awards in photography, Simon Murphy, chair of the photography panel, said: “One of the most exciting things for me about this competition is the opportunity it gives those new to the medium to have their work displayed alongside some of Scotland’s best and most experienced practitioners.
“What matters is the power of the portrait, and everyone has the capability to produce a memorable and meaningful image whether it’s a meticulously crafted portrait or a simple captured moment that exudes joy and energy. Expanding the exhibition to include categories for colour and phone photography makes the competition even more relevant and accessible.”
On learning of winning the new MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Black and White Photography, David Gillanders said: “To win and for your work to be recognised is incredible. One of the great privileges about being a photographer is that you get to meet so many incredible people and walk in their shoes a little bit to try and understand them.
“Alastair, my sitter is a remarkable character, incredibly distinctive and fascinating to speak to – he makes his own paints, he tans his own leather, he is one of those characters who after meeting him, you just keep thinking about him. I always like to try to make portraits of people that show more of their character rather than my style as a photographer. What you see is a portrait of Alastair – who he is, surrounded by his work, a very proud man, very distinguished, very hard-working, and incredibly passionate about what he does.”
In response to being selected as winner of the new MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Colour Photography, Ruaridh Fraser said: “It means so much to be recognised by the Scottish Portrait Awards in this way. My brother had just started getting into drag.
“We decided that my parents’ retro kitchen would be a great setting for a photoshoot as it would become a timeless backdrop, just as my brother, in his drag, was timeless and not pinpointed to a particular moment in time.
“The film came out very dark because it was set to the wrong settings but this added to the image, bringing in all these other colours. It was a lot luck and chance but it worked out really well.”
Receiving the new Albert Watson Portrait Prize, award-winner Nina Davidson said: “It’s beyond words. I am very touched to be the first winner of the Albert Watson Portrait Prize. I entered the award on a whim so for this very striking photographer to recognise my work is humbling.
“Photography has always been a part of my life from being very young. It is a way of focusing on the good things, the little snippets in life, the beautiful moments I share with my family.”
Jaime Prada has collected the MPB Young Photographer Award and £500 prize plus an MPB voucher worth £250 with their poignant work ‘Chosen Family’.
Of the work Simon Murphy (chair) said: “This is an intimate moment bathed in orange light captured by young photographer Jaime Prada. Although the photographer is present, an affectionate, undisturbed moment reminiscent of a film still has been skilfully captured.”
Jaime Prada, originally from Madrid and now living in Edinburgh, said: “I saw the exhibition last year and it spoke to me. I have always focussed my work on the human experience and very raw representations of human emotions, so this year, I threw my hat in to the ring.
“I focus on making sure queer people see themselves represented in my work. I try to make sure that people know there is someone like them. Every picture I take represents queer joy and tenderness. This picture is a self-portrait of my fiancee and myself. The picture was taken with a makeshift tripod out of books and a camera bought through MPB.
“It was the first picture demonstrating how I wanted to work in the future – projects that take on the beauty, intimacy and warmth of our chosen families. It is important my presence in the awards is represented by this picture because it is of my chosen family, the beginning of a new chapter in my life.”
Chris Close has won the Scottish Arts Club Members Prize for Photography with his portrait ‘Professor Higgs’.
Chosen from over 280 entries, the new SPA Phone Portrait Photography Award has been won by Alliyah Enyo with her entry ‘so very very far far far away’.
This year, free entry to the awards was once again offered to photographers and artists living in Scotland who receive any form of income support or Universal Credit.
The Scottish Arts Trust Bursary Fund, established in response to the cost-of-living crisis, aims to enhance opportunities for artists who require assistance to enter the awards.
The Scottish Portrait Awards 2023 exhibition is free and launches at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh from September 9 to 30 before travelling to Kirkcudbright Galleries, Dumfries and Galloway from October 14, 2023 to January 14, 2024 and to the Charles Rennie Macintosh Gallery at the Glasgow Art Club from January 19 to February 29, 2024.
Entries to take part in the MPB Scottish Portrait Awards 2024 will open January 1 to April 30, 2024 and will again include the MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Photography (colour); the MPB Scottish Portrait Award in Photography (black and white) as well as the SPA Albert Watson Portrait Prize in photography and the online SPA Phone Portrait Photography Award.
The winner of the Sutherland Independent Scottish Portrait Award in Fine Art, and £5,000 prize will be announced on Friday.