Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010

An impressive selection of images from Britain and abroad at the National Portrait Gallery.

Kalpesh_Lathigra_Tony_Blair_1 

Tony Blair # 1 from the series Tony Blair by Kalpesh Lathigra © Kalpesh Lathigra

The above portrait of Tony Blair, from June 2010, seems to tell us more about the former Prime Minster's current state than any number of words could. He looks haggard, battle worn and manic. A man disillusioned, some might say; a fallen Mayor of Casterbridge for our very own 21st century. Where formerly there was passion, now there seems only to be a kind of maddened desperation in his eyes.

This striking image didn't, however, win the 2010 Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize and the £12,000 award that goes with it. That honour went to David Chancellor's extraordinary photograph of a young American huntress, "Huntress with Buck".

David_Chancellor_Huntress_with_Buck 

Huntress with Buck from the series 'Hunters' by David Chancellor © David Chancellor

It shows 14 year old Josie Slaughter, taken by her parents to South Africa to hunt for big game. The high contrast between the beauty of the auburn hair of girl, buck and horse and the African light on the plain, with the underlying brutality of the image is both visually arresting and narratively compelling, almost forcing the viewer to demand to know more about the picture's context. Taken in July 2010, with vivid medium contrast Kodak 160VC 120 film, it forms part of Chancellor's series of photographs Hunters and is featured on the front cover of this month's British Journal of Photography.

There are, however, more irreverent pleasures to be found within this exhibition, such as Jonathan Root's tender portrait of David Hockney in his Yorkshire studio, "David and Ruby". Hockney stands, cigarette held aloft, in a paint flecked pinstripe suit, a daffodil resplendent in his lapel. His dog, Ruby, looks placidly on. It seems to say, "Take me or leave me; I really couldn't care less", and gives us the artist in all his smoky, well-tailored but, nevertheless, scruffy splendor. It's a stark and lively contrast to the austere, almost statuesque nature of Lathigra's Blair.

And then there is Iranian-born photographer Ramin Talaie's superb "Haitian Women", taken in February 2010 in Haiti, showing an elderly earthquake survivor, scarred but still smiling. Talaie's photograph is a powerful visual testament to the indomitable nature of the human spirit; the solitary women in Holbein red stands tall and proud, grasping a tree trunk with one hand, seemingly holding it up rather than being supported by it.

The international scope, searingly high quality of the selected photographs and constant journeys in terms of theme and subject, from the political to the personal, from the downtrodden to the great and the good, all serve to make this a fine exhibition and a timely reminder of the fecundity of the British photographic scene.

Until 20th February 2011

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Show Hide image

Donald Trump wants to terminate the Environmental Protection Agency - can he?

"Epa, Epa, Eeeepaaaaa" – Grampa Simpson.

 

There have been countless jokes about US President Donald Trump’s aversion to academic work, with many comparing him to an infant. The Daily Show created a browser extension aptly named “Make Trump Tweets Eight Again” that converts the font of Potus’ tweets to crayon scrawlings. Indeed, it is absurd that – even without the childish font – one particular bill that was introduced within the first month of Trump taking office looked just as puerile. Proposed by Matt Gaetz, a Republican who had been in Congress for barely a month, “H.R. 861” was only one sentence long:

“The Environmental Protection Agency shall terminate on December 31, 2018”.

If this seems like a stunt, that is because Gaetz is unlikely to actually achieve his stated aim. Drafting such a short bill without any co-sponsors – and leaving it to a novice Congressman to present – is hardly the best strategy to ensure a bill will pass. 

Still, Republicans' distrust for environmental protections is well-known - long-running cartoon show The Simpsons even did a send up of the Epa where the agency had its own private army. So what else makes H.R. 861 implausible?

Well, the 10-word-long statement neglects to address the fact that many federal environmental laws assume the existence of or defer to the Epa. In the event that the Epa was abolished, all of these laws – from the 1946 Atomic Energy Act to the 2016 Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act – would need to be amended. Preferably, a way of doing this would be included in the bill itself.

Additionally, for the bill to be accepted in the Senate there would have to be eight Democratic senators who agreed with its premise. This is an awkward demand when not even all Republicans back Trump. The man Trum appointed to the helm of the Epa, Scott Pruitt, is particularly divisive because of his long opposition to the agency. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said that she was hostile to the appointment of a man who was “so manifestly opposed to the mission of the agency” that he had sued the Epa 14 times. Polls from 2016 and 2017 suggests that most Americans would be also be opposed to the agency’s termination.

But if Trump is incapable of entirely eliminating the Epa, he has other ways of rendering it futile. In January, Potus banned the Epa and National Park Services from “providing updates on social media or to reporters”, and this Friday, Trump plans to “switch off” the government’s largest citizen-linked data site – the Epa’s Open Data Web Service. This is vital not just for storing and displaying information on climate change, but also as an accessible way of civilians viewing details of local environmental changes – such as chemical spills. Given the administration’s recent announcement of his intention to repeal existing safeguards, such as those to stabilise the climate and protect the environment, defunding this public data tool is possibly an attempt to decrease awareness of Trump’s forthcoming actions.

There was also a recent update to the webpage of the Epa's Office of Science and Technology, which saw all references to “science-based” work removed, in favour of an emphasis on “national economically and technologically achievable standards”. 

Trump’s reshuffle of the Epa's priorities puts the onus on economic activity at the expense of public health and environmental safety. Pruitt, who is also eager to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain, spoke in an interview of his desire to “exit” the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. He was led to this conclusion because of his belief that the agreement means “contracting our economy to serve and really satisfy Europe, and China, and India”.

 

Rather than outright closure of the Epa, its influence and funding are being leached away. H.R. 861 might be a subtle version of one of Potus’ Twitter taunts – empty and outrageous – but it is by no means the only way to drastically alter the Epa’s landscape. With Pruitt as Epa Administrator, the organisation may become a caricature of itself – as in The Simpsons Movie. Let us hope that the #resistance movements started by “Rogue” Epa and National Parks social media accounts are able to stave off the vultures until there is “Hope” once more.

 

Anjuli R. K. Shere is a 2016/17 Wellcome Scholar and science intern at the New Statesman

0800 7318496