Taylor Wessing photography prize review – could the sultry robot beat the humans?

Amid the tumultuous drama of this year’s entries – the women fleeing war and the teenager toting guns – the award could yet be scooped by a portrait of Erica the Intelligent Conversational Android

A handful of politicians, several refugees, various awkward adolescents, two skinheads, the inevitable young girl holding a furry animal and, breaking with tradition, an android – it’s that Taylor Wessing time of year again. This year’s photographic portrait prize, the first to allow digital submissions as well as prints, draws 59 images from 5,717 entries. As a show, it hangs together pretty well, not always the case in the past. The overall standard seems higher, there are fewer celebrities – always a good thing – and most of the portraits of refugees and asylum-seekers tend towards the intimate rather than the concerned.

Abbie Trayler-Smith’s shortlisted image of an unnamed young woman in a red headscarf, lost in thought as she gazes through the grime-smeared window of an Oxfam transport bus, is perhaps the most intimately powerful image in the show. For that reason alone, it deserves to take the first prize. The woman’s face is a landscape of emotions: uncertainty, bewilderment, relief and anxiety, while the full-frame composition and muted colours of the red scarf and matching curtains imbue it with an almost holy feel.

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