The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has announced Chiemeka Offor of California and Sofia Gress of Florida as the grand prize winners of the museum’s Teen Portrait Competition. Open to students between the ages of 13 and 17 residing in the U.S. and its territories, the competition yielded 15 finalists. The museum received 629 eligible entries from 45 states; entries were limited to the medium of photography. The entries were reviewed by the Portrait Gallery’s Teen Museum Council, a group of 20 high school students from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia who create interactive programs and events inspired by the Portrait Gallery’s collection.
Offor’s self-portrait, Showtime, won the grand-prize for ages 16–17. Her work tackles an issue the artist has confronted since childhood: the underrepresentation of people of color in art, media and entertainment. Gress won the grand-prize for ages 13–15 with a portrait entitled What I Am, What I Think. In this photograph of a young man wearing a crown of wilting flowers, Gress deconstructs societal expectations of masculinity. Megan Ocelnik (Michigan) and Jayson Rodriguez (Rhode Island) received honorable mentions. All 15 finalists explore identity through the eyes of teens in America today and address themes such as urban life, family, climate change, race and LGBTQ+ youth.
Offor and Gress’ grand prize-winning photographs will go on view in the Portrait Gallery this spring. They will be displayed near the exhibition “The Outwin 2019: American Portraiture Today,” which showcases portraits by finalists of the triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition who are 18 and older.
Teen Portrait Competition Finalists