Sunday, 25 April 2010

Eyewitness at Sony World Photography Awards


That's how you do an awards ceremony. The defeat of the volcanic ash cloud added to the sense of achievement reaching Cannes for the 2010 Sony World Photography Awards and the excitement was wrenched up to maximum. Up the red carpet, 'papped' twice & safely ensconced in a Roald Dahl experience where everything was made of champagne. The company of an Eve Arnold exhibition made the fizz dance that little bit higher.

The ceremony itself, as many ceremonies are, was a little disappointing. The 1st place winners missing out on a good PR opportunity with muted & muffled speeches. The language barriers didn't help. The UK winner in 'Fashion', David Handley was the only recipient to make an attempt at humour by unravelling a large roll of paper for his speech. Tom Stoddart was drafted in to present the 'Natural History' award. Seeing him pass the trophy to Spanish winner Pere Pascual for his close up shots of silkworms was my personal highlight.

the VIP pudding was awards branded

Before the post ceremony VIP Gala Dinner I asked if I could sit at the table with some British friends. I was rewarded with a table at the opposite side of the room seated with 6 Germans. 6 Germans, 2 Brits, no French, the odds seemed historically familiar. In true Dunkirk fashion, rescue came with an invite from Vice President of Getty Images Aidan Sullivan to join his table for after dinner drinks where he, Stoddart and the charming Brent Stirton were all in ebullient form with Stoddy deploying his amazing knack of looking like a cheeky cub scout when photographed.

Tom Stoddart in 'an impression of a young boy'

Getty VP Aidan Sullivan craves more dessert

I was fortunate enough to place 2nd in the Advertising category. 10 years ago as part of IPG, an established Photojournalist agency, it was considered rather vulgar to be commercially successful, I wasn't. I even heard rumours of another prestigious agency hounding out one member for earning too much from commercial work! Now photographers are expected to excel in the multi-media approach. This award will sit with equal merit on the shelf.

The trophy of 'Current Affairs' winner Walter Astrada

2nd place Advertising, 'Someone's Had Their Weetabix'

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Negativity of Winning

Voting is currently in session for the 4th Annual Photography Masters Cup, a global online awards show recognizing excellence in color photography. I hope the eventual winners have a more positive experience than I did. Arguably it's not one of the most prestigious annual competitions, one I'd not previously considered but a few things changed my mind. Looking at previous winners there were some quality shooters in the mix, Ziv Koren and Paul Hansen stood out for me. The entry fees looked a little restrictive but I respected many of the judges, a chance to put some new work under their noses and the prize didn't look too bad - $500 + publication in a book. More decisively I had some work I was particularly proud of after trips to Liberia, India and Egypt and decided to go for it. On March 23rd 2009 I received an email from respected Danish Fashion Photographer Anders Hald saying I'd landed 1st place in the Sports Category for a shot of football in Liberia, Anders had triumphed in Fashion, back slaps all round, let the winners ride begin. Or not.

1st place Sport - Football in Liberia

2 months passed without instruction, I got in touch with The Color Awards who run the competition to ask how they expected to publish my image in a book if I hadn't sent them a highres file. They emailed details of the win, and details that I'd also had 2 images nominated which would also be required for publication. I uploaded the requested files. 4 months later I was asked to upload the requested files. I did so again. The deadline for receiving the winners cheque according to the entry terms & cons had well passed. The book was now downgraded to a magazine, a magazine that you had to purchase. With around 600 photographers published in the inaugural issue, a potentially tidy sum. I then received an email saying all winners could enter the 4th awards for free, the deadline for entries had passed. It's been a year since my win, the certificate's been filed, prize money received & spent. It's all felt rather shabby and winning has never felt so negative. I hope in time the competition flourishes and this years winners have an altogether more positive experience. I'm off to Cannes next week for the Sony World Photography Awards having been shortlisted for a prize in the Advertising Category. As a legacy of the Color Awards, a small part of me is rooting for the others shortlisted . . . but only a small part.

Street Kid Inhaling Glue, Kolkata, India


The Zabaleen of Garbage City, Egypt

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Does Faith Exist?

I haven't Faith in the religious sense. Perhaps if I did I'd have avoided some troubles. I like the idea of Faith and was keen to find out if it exists. It does, approximately 130 miles north of Rapid City, South Dakota, USA. Faith - population 548, childhood town of Cathy Bach aka 'Daisey Duke' from TV's Dukes of Hazard and home to 'Sue', the finest find of a T-Rex skeleton now on display in Chicago. I decided I must find Faith.


The motto of South Dakota reads, 'Under God the People Rule', however, the people of Faith believe that here, under God the weather rules. When I arrive the town is experiencing a crippling drought, the worst mayor Glen Haines has seen during his 53 years. The weather has had serious implications for Faith and the terrorist events of 9/11 seem detached and distant. Gilbert Jones, the only barber for 100 miles recalls the very real problems growing up in Faith in the "dirty 30's", he recalls the plagues of grasshoppers that blacked out the sun in 1936 and the absence of electricity until 1954.

Gilbert Jones

The American Way seems to be flourishing in Faith. You're not a stranger here just a friend they haven't met. The feeling of community is strong as no-one is immune from catastrophe. Sitting in Faith's 'Lone Tree Bar' I meet Tim. Tim has had 6 children 4 of which have died. On June 9th 1972, 2 of Tim's children were swept from his arms during a flood in South Texas. In 2002 on the same date a son dies from organ failure. I mention I was married on that date. Tim is convinced I am an angel sent to comfort him. I accept his blessing, thanks and 11 beers.

Tim in Faith's 'Lone Tree Bar'

Terry Botjen, local Pastor of the Faith Christian centre knew I was coming. Our meeting at 'Kris's Drive Inn', one of only 3 places to eat, was no accident. Terry is also a lightening quick artist and offers to demonstrate by painting onto a mirror a religious landscape. Terry is so hot for God he can feel his power dripping from him as he paints. Terry claims by passing one of his paintings people have experienced the healing power of God. I have to leave the painting he gives me behind as unsure whether to declare the healing power of God on my return through UK customs.

Terry Botjen

When the Milwaukee Railroad reached the end of the line Faith was established. Although named after one of the railroad president's daughters, the townsfolk have adopted the name in earnest. 6 churches serve the community including Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic and Christian with something for the Mormons planned soon. The people of Faith are proud of the balloon bursting, diving and water-melon eating 4th of July competitions. They would have been proud of the fireworks except in this time of drought they were a fire hazard. The residents of Faith will not worry as the inscription on the edge of highway 212 is optimistic - NEXT YEAR WILL BE BETTER.