Every face tells a story

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Faces from all around the world are staring out from the walls of a Sheffield city centre art gallery.

They are all ages and colours, both well-known and unfamiliar, in groups and alone.

Taylor Wessing portrait prize, Millennium Gallery: Skate Girl by Jessica Fulford-Dobson, 2014 � Jessica Fulford-Dobson

Taylor Wessing portrait prize, Millennium Gallery: Skate Girl by Jessica Fulford-Dobson, 2014 � Jessica Fulford-Dobson

They are all part of a touring show from the National Portrait Gallery, featuring winners and finalists from the gallery’s annual Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize competition.

The Millennium Gallery is the only venue in the country to receive the show, said Alison Morton, curator of exhibitions and display at Museums Sheffield.

She said: “In 2014 they had more than 4,000 entries from more than 60 countries.

“There’s no theme but there is an unofficial theme about families and relationships which comes through in a lot of the photographs.

“Some are of family groups, other are of family members of the photographers and the parent-child relationship is present in a lot of the photographs.”

The stories behind some of the pictures are fascinating and take the viewer into another world.

Second prize winner Jessica Fulford-Dobson travelled over to Kabul in Afghanistan and photographed a young girl who was learning to skateboard.

Alison said: “Jessica heard about a skateboarding school open to boys and girls, exercising and socialising together.

“Forty per cent of the school were young girls.

“Until recently young girls haven’t been alllowedto exercise at all.

“The school had to close and Jessica went back in 2014.

“The girl in the photograph is only seven. She just knew how she wanted to stand and hold her skateboard. She’s so mature and composed.”

Other photographs were taken in wartorn places like Syria, which Alison said reminded her just how tough other people’s lives are.

A picture taken in Syria was of a little boy, whose only wish was to go to school but his family are too poor.

Many others are full of joy, like one of a little boy meeting as puppy.

The captions alongside the photographs explain about both the photographers and their subjects.

Dotted around the exhibition are plenty of famous faces.

They include the notorious Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi, actor and comedian Lenny Henry, TV adventurer Bear Grylls, actress Olivia Coleman and film director Steve McQueen, who won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave.

Alison said: “The exhibition reminded me just how powerful a picture can be.

“It can tell you more about a story than words sometimes.”

Some of the successful photographers appear on a video that accompanies the show, talking about their work and about what makes a portrait, rather than just a photograph of someone.

The exhibition is free to visit and it’s at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield city centre until Sunday, August 16.

n Go online at www.thestar.co.uk to see a video of Alison Morton talking about the exhibition and to see some more of the portraits from the show.