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Zazie © Cécile Birt, exhibited in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition 2016.
Zazie © Cécile Birt, exhibited in the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition 2016.

Genesis have a long history of working with photographers to achieve exceptional results for entries for the National Portrait Gallery’s Photographic Portrait Prize, in its many incarnations over the years. In our third Taylor Wessing Client Spotlight, Berlin-based Cécile Birt shares insight into the portrait of her daughter Zazie which features in this year’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery…

On her practice…

“As the daughter of a portrait photographer (Michael Birt), my interest in photography is deep-rooted. The camera has always been a trusted friend and daily companion; and the many beautiful portraits that hung from the walls of my childhood homes undoubtedly lay a firm subconscious foundation for my love of photography. From studio set-up to dark-room development, I watched my father with equal measure of joy and fascination, though never imagined I would follow in his footsteps.

It is the allure of the narrative that draws me to portraiture; the eternalising of a split-second gesture that becomes intensely symbolic of a wider whole and bares the soul of the sitter open to scrutiny. The most beautiful and immediate way of preserving a memory; a picture is worth a thousand words, and none more so than a portrait.”

On her image in The Taylor Wessing exhibition…

“The image I entered into this year’s competition was of my daughter Zazie who was 21 months old at the time, preoccupied with her food and had absolutely no interest in keeping still. I was just sitting at the table watching her eating lunch and suddenly felt the urge to grab my camera. The light was beautiful, it was a lucky shot.

As the mother of small children, I often find myself just watching them… playing, eating, talking, sleeping. I’ve never visually interrogated anyone so much I do my children and it’s truly fascinating to observe people in such detail over a number of years. My obsession with them and with capturing the narrative of their upbringing has given me a heightened visual awareness and drives me to continuously improve my work.”

On entering the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize…

“This is the second time I have entered the competition – after one unsuccessful attempt in 2014. 

As an amateur photographer I’m in no position to give advice to those entering but I am living proof that you don’t necessarily have to be to be professionally trained to capture an image that speaks to people. I didn’t think my pictures were worthy of being seen anywhere other than in our family photo album; it’s wonderful to have been proved wrong!”

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize


17 November 2016 – 26 February 2017


The National Portrait Gallery

St Martin’s Place

Visit Cecile Birt’s Website

Visit the Portrait Prize Website