Sunderland snapper sees work hung in the National Portrait Gallery

Elaine Vizor
Elaine Vizor
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A SUNDERLAND photography graduate is focused on the future after her work was chosen to be displayed in an international exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Elaine Vizor’s work will hang alongside 58 of the world’s best portraits, as selected by judges from The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014.

Her piece “Now you see me...” shone out among more than 4,000 entries for the prestigious prize.

The portrait, of Elaine’s friend Kathryn, was originally part of a collection she created during her Master’s degree at the University of Sunderland.

Its aim is to celebrate the intrinsic worth of women over 50, challenging negative stereotypes related to age.

Elaine, from County Durham, said: “Being selected by the judges for the 2014 Photographic Portrait Prize is the icing on the cake and something I couldn’t have imagined two years ago. When I entered one of my MA portraits I thought being selected was something that happened to other people and not me.”

The former manager of a fostering agency, who is a trained teacher and social worker, came to photography later in life but had always maintained an interest in the subject. In 2008 she took a GCSE course after the unexpected death of her brother.

Elaine, 58, said: “Photography has always been at the back of my mind and the reality/mortality check made me think I need to do something about it while I have the chance. The GCSE led to my first exhibition at the Greenfield Gallery, County Durham, in 2010.”

The artist began her Master’s degree at the University of Sunderland in 2012 and it was during this time that she first encountered the Photographic Portrait Prize, viewing works selected for that year’s accolade at the National Portrait Gallery.

She added: “For my final project I chose sitters whom I know well and we collaborated to photograph them in places meaningful to them. The selected work is a portrait of my friend of nearly 40 years, she lives in Edinburgh - Kathryn is a retired teacher and now over 60.

“We chose the Forth Bridge as her background landscape as this is a mighty Scottish icon, meaningful to Kathryn and her heritage. Despite its magnificence and magnitude I was able to dwarf the Forth Bridge behind her and make her appear more powerful in that setting.

“I was inspired by the exhibition and having viewed the 2012 works in London I also viewed the 2013 exhibition when it was at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh - it was here that I decided I would enter my portrait.”

Sandy Nairne, director at National Portrait Gallery, said: “The 2014 submissions for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize showed huge amounts of creative talent and, with thousands of entries, the task of selecting the shortlist was daunting for the judges.

•The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014 is on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London until February 22.