The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2011

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Maja Daniels, Monette and Mady, from the series Rue Des Partants, 2010

Yesterday i went to The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2011 at the National Portrait Gallery in London. The title says it all: a law firm is sponsoring a competition of contemporary portrait photography and 60 of the best entries are exhibited in London.

There are cute kids and celebs (sadly, there were no mature men in speedo this year) but because i'm drawn to documentary photos, that's what my quick selection will be about:

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Olaf Ballnus, Chandigarh

Anastasia Taylor-Lind's looked inside the first Cossack school to accept female cadets as full time boarders. Cossack people from Crimea and Caucasus, Southern Russia are relearning their warrior traditions and cultural heritage, which were suppressed so virulently by Soviet leaders that the policy got its own name: the Decossackization.

Nowadays, children sent to Cossack military style schools divide their time between regular academic lessons and learning traditional Cossack skills, such as horse riding, martial arts, folk dancing and Shashka performance, as well as the more contemporary soldiering necessities of shooting and parachuting.

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Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Lucia Shabaeva and her year nine classmates, who are all between 15 and 16 years old, during lunch in the canteen of Ataman Platov Cossack Cadet School in Belaya Kalitva, southern Russia. From the series Women of the Cossack Resurgence

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Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Anya Romanova, center, and her year eight friends at Ataman Platov Cossack Cadet School, Belaya Kalitva, southern Russia

"Anna and Roberto got married in October 2004 aged 78. They go on holiday, they pray a lot, love makes them feel younger and they still enjoy having sex."

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Claudia Burlotti, Eighty-Five

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Lidia Kowalewicz, Mini Miss Photogenic UK 2010. From the series Beauty Pageants

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Jonathan May, The Embrace, from the series Hot Ink, 2010

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Paolo Patrizi, Migration linked to prostitution

For nearly twenty years the women of Benin City, in Nigeria, have been going to Italy to escape poverty. Most are found along the roads working as prostitutes. They live in sub-human conditions and send the little money they can save to their families in Africa.

The success of many Italos, as these women are called, is evident in Edo. For many girls prostitution in Italy has become an entirely acceptable trade and the legend of their success makes the fight against sex traffickers all the more difficult.

One concern is that the anti-trafficking crusade is causing effects opposite to its objectives. What presents itself as a campaign to protect migrants from harm is actually making their efforts to flee home, to find work, to make the most of their lives in often difficult and unforgiving circumstances, much harder.

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Jeremy Rata, The King's Palace. From the series Afghan Faces

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Ilya van Marle, Family portrait : van der Borch, 2011

Men who die on the battlefield in Southern Afghanistan are tended to by a small group of dedicated soldiers. Their responsibilities include the retrieval, identification, preparation, preservation and transportation of the dead back to the United States.

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Philip Cheung, SSG Jeffrey Holden, 34, Mortuary Affairs Specialist, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. From the series Soldiers' Angels - Mortuary Affairs Specialists in Afghanistan

Rebecca Martinez's preTenders explores the world of the makers and adopters of dolls that look, smell, weight and feel like real infants.

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Rebecca Martinez, Zoila with Freckles from the series Pretenders, 2010

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2011 is on view through 12 February 2012 at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Previously: Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2009 and Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010.

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