Katie Walsh portrait wins Taylor Wessing prize

By Shelley Marsden

KENT-based photographer Spencer Murphy has won the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait for his post-race, mud-splattered photograph of Irish jockey, Katie Walsh. 

The 35-year-old received his £12,000 award at the National Portrait Gallery, London and the striking portrait is now on show at the Gallery until February 9, 2014 as part of the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

Taken at Kempton Park Racecourse, a sweaty and clearly exhausted Walsh was photographed whilst shooting a series of jump jockeys’ portraits for Channel Four’s The Original Extreme Sport advertising campaign, promoting The Grand National.

“I had a handful of jockeys to photograph – big hitters like Katie’s brother Ruby Walsh, A.P.McCoy, Barry Gegharty, but I was really keen to include Katie,’ said the London-based Murphy: ‘She was important because she was the only female jockey we were photographing. It was vital for me to portray her as someone that could hold her own amongst the men. As an outsider to the sport, I didn’t even know that men and women race together.

He added: “When you look at it on TV, they’re all dressed the same, hair under hats, goggles on. The amount of endurance the sport requires is incredible, and I wanted to show Katie’s steely determination, but at the same time her innate femininity. I chose to shoot the series on large format film, which gives the images a depth and a timelessness that I think would have been hard to achieve on a digital camera”.

This is the seventh time the work of the London-based photographer has been exhibited at the Gallery’s annual photographic exhibition and last year, his portrait of leading actor Mark Rylance won him Third Prize.

“You could say it’s been a long time coming”, he said, “but I had no expectations going into it; winning this was completely unexpected. I don’t want to have any expectations either – I’ve never had anything this ‘big’ happen to me in the past, but I have had other things happen where I thought yes, I’ve broken through, this is it and they haven’t. I hope it gives my career a boost, but the prize in itself is reward enough for me. I’m going to enjoy the moment.”

One of the leading female jockeys, Katie Walsh – who is seen in the colours of Seabass, the horse she came third on in last year’s Grand National – is daughter of well-known amateur jump jockey, trainer and pundit Ted Walsh, as well as younger sister to jump jockey Ruby Walsh.

There were a total of 5,410 submissions for this year’s prize; 60 of which make up the exhibition.

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