César Dezfuli wins Taylor Wessing photography prize with powerful portrait of rescued migrant

César Dezful's winning photo is a simplistic portrait loaded with political meaning.

10 months agoText by


César Dezfuli has won the 2017 Taylor Wessing photography prize with his portrait of a rescued refugee. The protagonist of this powerful portrait is Amadou Sumaila, a 16-year-old from Mali who was rescued 32 kilometres from the Libyan coast. The jury highlighted the “striking and unsettling” look of the young man that transmits “his loss, loneliness and determination in the face of adversity.”

The image of the rescued immigrant is simple, depicting Sumaila looking straight into the camera but it speaks to the migratory phenomenon that occurs in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea where the dreams and fear of those who arrive on the European coasts are diluted. A sea that has also become a cemetery.

Dezfuli shares the podium with Welshman Abbie Trayler-Smith (below -top) and Finnish Maija Tammi (below -bottom), authors respectively portraits of a girl fleeing the Islamic State in Mosul and a Japanese hyper-realistic android. Tammi has also won the John Kobal New Work Award, which highlights the best image made by photographers under 35.

The award-winning works can be seen in an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London until February 8, 2018.

Follow Cecilia Winter on Twitter.