Jockey pips Kofi Annan to portrait prize

Story highlights

  • A portrait of jockey Katie Walsh has won a prestigious photography prize
  • Briton Spencer Murphy received a $19,000 check for the shot of the Irishwoman
  • Walsh is pictured in the colors of the racehorse Seabass
  • A picture of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan was awarded third place

The life of a jockey is far from glamorous -- a world away from the confines of the rarefied, hushed atmosphere of London's National Portrait Gallery.

It's a life of blood, sweat and mud-splattered silks and it's also a hazardous profession, with jockeys at frequent risk of serious injury.

That gritty reality has been key to a photograph of jockey Katie Walsh winning a prestigious portrait competition featuring esteemed subjects like former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan.

British photographer Spencer Murphy took the award-winning picture of Walsh -- sister of famed Irish jockey Ruby Walsh and the daughter of trainer Ted Walsh -- during a promotional shoot at Kempton racehorse.

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Walsh is pictured in the colors of the racehorse Seabass, who she rode to third in the 2012 Grand National steeplechase at Aintree.

"I wanted to show both her femininity and the toughness of spirit she requires to compete against the best riders in one of the most demanding disciplines in horse racing," Murphy, 35, said in a statement after picking up the $19,000 Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

"I chose to shoot the series on large format film, to give the images a depth and timelessness that I think would have been hard to achieve on a digital camera."

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It was a sweet success for Murphy, who was awarded third place in last year's competition.

A black-and-white shot of Annan captured by Iranian photographer Anoush Abrar was in third place this time around.

"In my mind it was clear what I wanted to do," said Abrar, who had previous experience of photographing Annan, "and this portrait took literally three minutes!"

Runner-up was Giles Price for a portrait of a pilgrim and her baby at India's Kumbh Mela festival.

The award ceremony took place at London's National Portrait Gallery, where a selection of the 5,410 entries will be on display until February.