We chat to the winners of the Amateur Photographer Awards to find out more about their work
Rising Star – Graeme Chesters
Back in November, we launched our brand new Rising Star Bursary. This unique chance for amateur photographers to win an incredible opportunity of a lifetime garnered an extraordinary response.
We received many fantastic entries from some supremely gifted photographers, making it very difficult for the judges to pick an overall winner.
The bursary prize consists of up to £5,000 towards expenses, along with technique, motivational support and mentoring from a professional photographer, as well as the editorial team here at Amateur Photographer. As partners, MPB will also be providing the winning photographer with an ongoing photography-kit loan from its extensive supply of used gear.
This year, the theme of the bursary was ‘Change’ and we received many different interpretations of this theme from a range of different types of photographer.
Meet the winner
We’re thrilled to announce that Graeme Chesters, an amateur photographer based in Bradford, is this year’s winner.
He impressed the judges enormously with his proposed project to document a year in the life of the northernmost town in the world – Longyearbyen (which translates as ‘The Long Year’).
The town, located on the Island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard archipelago, has many fascinating characteristics that really made Graeme’s project stand out.
Over the course of the next year, his photography will examine the social and ecological impacts of climate change on a unique community of some 2,500 people, aiming to document the ways in which this diverse and constantly changing community responds to the drama of seasonal as well as climate change, including the three months of polar night and the equivalent ever-present daylight of summertime.
Having already made preliminary trips to nearby locations, Graeme needed the bursary money to facilitate the next phase of his project. He has plans to visit the town on four separate occasions over the next year, and we’ll be bringing you news of his progress – as well as sharing the images he creates here in the magazine, online and through our social media channels.
Speaking about winning the bursary, Graeme said, ‘I’m extremely pleased and honoured to receive the bursary, and excited about undertaking this project, which will enable me to document social and environmental change in the High Arctic. Longyearbyen is a unique place and community and it will be a great pleasure to engage deeply with its people, industries and landscapes. As someone who is still very much an amateur photographer it is also a privilege to be supported and mentored by the staff at AP and MPB and I very much welcome this opportunity to deepen my understanding of different photographic practices.’
Graeme is currently working as a professor of peace and conflict studies at the University of Bradford. His well-thought-out and detailed proposal showed clear vision for how he will spend the year, and the different stories he will produce. We can’t wait to work with Graeme on this exciting project, and show you the results!
In January a panel of judges sat down to discuss all of the submitted entries to the bursary. It quickly became apparent that two particular project ideas needed the most debate, with the judges deliberating for several hours over who should be awarded the final prize – read more about the fantastic runner-up, Matt Walkley below.
The judging panel consisted of representatives from Amateur Photographer, MPB and the highly respected photographer Peter Dench, who is no stranger to completing a project and is a regular contributor to the magazine.
Here’s what the judges had to say about Graeme’s winning proposal:
Peter Dench, photographer
‘Photography is as much about access and ideas as it is about taking good pictures. Fortunately, Graeme Chesters’ bursary application delivered all three. If there was a template for submitting a brief, his wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Graeme’s project documenting the ecological impacts of climate change on the unique community that live in Longyearbyen, the northernmost town in the world, does what photography should – show the viewer what they think they know about in a different way, to inform and engage debate. It’s also very exciting and I’m excited to help mentor Graeme as he embarks on his photographic journey to document the end of the earth.’
Matt Barker, CEO and Founder, MPB
‘When we reviewed Graeme’s work, it was our clear winner in both meeting the brief of ‘Change’ head-on whilst also demonstrating his photographic pedigree and potential to become a real talent in the industry. We’re really excited about working closely with Graeme on his project, and providing the camera gear that he will use to capture his chosen topic: the rapidly evolving landscape of Svalbard.’
Amy Davies, Features Editor, Amateur Photographer
‘Picking a winner for any competition is hard, but especially so when the prize is such a fantastic and special opportunity. We wanted to make sure that the recipient would put the funds, and the kit loan, to the best use possible, facilitating a piece of work that might not be possible without it. Many of the applications were brilliant, but Graeme’s in particular stood out for its detailed plan and clear editorially minded structure. We were impressed by the level of research that had already been carried out and we felt confident that there would be lots to say (and to photograph!) over the coming year.’
Dr Graeme Chesters is a senior lecturer/associate professor in Peace Studies and International Development at the University of Bradford. In his spare time he is an amateur photographer – see more of his work at streetphoto.online
Rising Star Runner-up – Matt Walkley
Placing as runner-up was no easy feat considering the competition from a high number of other talented photographers, each with their own interesting take on the bursary’s theme of ‘Change’.
Matt’s intriguing project aimed to explore a variety of different changes across and within the USA, retracing the steps of Robert Frank’s seminal work ‘The Americans’. He wanted to show the changes which have taken place since Frank’s masterpiece was published in 1958, but also the changes that exist and occur between the USA’s different states, towns and cities – and its peoples.
In the end, it was this scale of ambition for Matt’s project that was its undoing. The bursary funding, and support, is due to last for one year and the judges felt that his project would be better suited to a multi-year approach. However, such was the quality of his portfolio – and proposal – that MPB has generously offered to support Matt with a loan of second-hand kit to help with his upcoming projects.
Judge Peter Dench said, ‘It was the ambition of Matt’s proposal that piqued my interest and the energy and diversity of his portfolio that made him a contender. He is clearly dedicated to photography and his work motivational. Matt has a maturity and technical capability that defies the relatively short time he has been working in the medium.’
Matt himself said, ‘I was honoured to make it into second place in the competition and very grateful to the staff at Amateur Photographer for letting me know that I came so close. I was obviously disappointed that I didn’t win but understand and support the decision made by AP and MPB.
‘My proposal was very ambitious and a lot of trust would have needed to be put in me to produce such a large body of work within a limited timeframe.
‘I will still try to complete the project, it will just require some more time and careful financial planning in order to do so.
‘My hope is that the competition will run again next year and I can come back with a fresh proposal that impresses the judges enough to win.’
We know that this won’t be the last we see of Matt – but in the meantime, you can visit mattwalkley.photography to see more of his great work.
Matt Walkley works in the manufacturing industry, but has been pursuing photography at an amateur level for the past six years.
Exceptional Achievement in Photography – Tom Stoddart
Tom Stoddart is one of this country’s leading photojournalists, and in 2020 celebrates 50 years in the industry. Starting his career at The Berwick Advertiser, Tom walked into the newspaper on his first day having never picked up a professional camera.
Half a century later, he has had a front-row seat at some of the world’s most historic moments. He has photographed across several continents, and was there to capture the fall of the Berlin Wall, the bloody siege of Sarajevo and the wars against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
His work has been published in several esteemed publications, including The Sunday Times, and our Exceptional Achievement award joins a plethora of his other plaudits, including the Larry Burrows Award for Exceptional War Photography. Though striking and hard-hitting, his photographs are always shot with compassion and empathy for the subject. These days, photojournalism has arguably been devalued, but Tom’s work shows exactly why it’s an art – and a science – that should not be ignored.
Tom Stoddart is one of the UK’s leading photojournalists. After spending many years in London, he is now back home in Northumberland. See tomstoddart.com for more information.
Power of Photography – Photographers Against Wildlife Crime
Co-founded by former Amateur Photographer Editor Keith Wilson and photojournalist Britta Jaschinski, Photographers Against Wildlife Crime is a collective that uses our beloved medium to effect real change in the world.
This group of like-minded photographers has produced two acclaimed photo books to document the horrific realities of the global illegal wildlife trade.
With eminent and award-winning photographers including Brent Stirton, Chris Packham, Jim Brandenburg and more among its number, the group’s commendable aim is to eradicate wildlife crime within a generation. The success of Photographers Against Wildlife Crime is already extraordinary. Since it was officially launched, just over two years ago, it has spread its important message to tens of thousands of people through exhibitions, talks and of course, books. Its most recent publication, a bilingual Chinese and English edition, is aimed at the world’s largest market for illegally traded animals.
An article written by Keith Wilson explaining the work of Photographers Against Wildlife Crime was featured in AP’s 25 January issue.
Visit photographersagainstwildlifecrime.com to learn more about this collective of internationally recognised wildlife photographers working together. Its latest book is available to buy now.
Unsung Hero – Simon Wiffen
Back in December we announced our Unsung Hero Award, in partnership with Ripe Insurance. The award is designed to celebrate the hard work and community spirit of people who are using photography for the benefit of others or to help make the world a better place, with the winner getting £1,000 to donate to a charity of their choice (they also received the accolade at the glittering AP Awards on 21 February). After much deliberation, we are pleased to announce the winner is Simon Wiffen, a portrait and events photographer from Yorkshire.
Simon’s son, Ellis, was diagnosed with cystic brosis at three weeks old, which prompted him to do a documentary photography book on people living with it. The book is called 47/A Life with Cystic Fibrosis, and features portraits of 47 individuals – 47 being the median lifespan of people with the condition. For each book sold, £5 is donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, of which Simon is a passionate supporter, and it has raised £2,120. We met up with him to find out more.
A lightbulb moment
‘I was really surprised to be named the AP and Ripe Insurance Unsung Hero, I wasn’t expecting it at all,’ Simon explains from his home in Leeds. ‘I’ve had a passion for photography since I was a kid and like a lot of people, I got into it by discovering my dad’s old gear. When I became a dad, I channelled this photographic interest into documenting my kids growing up.’
Simon works as a freelance web developer, and does some commercial work on the side to keep his hand in. Portraits and people shots have always been a passion, hence the decision – following his son’s diagnosis – to do a project on people living with cystic fibrosis. As Simon explains, it was a ‘lightbulb moment’.
‘I had been toying with idea of documenting Ellis’s everyday life, as it involves a lot of medication, treatment, and clinic visits, and at the time I was looking to shoot more meaningful and emotional portraits. Another big goal was to raise awareness of cystic fibrosis. It’s not that common and people are not always aware of the reality of the condition – a lot of times you wouldn’t know somebody has it, and it’s not always clear how challenging every single day is. So I felt this project could be a powerful piece of work and decided to fund it via Kickstarter.’
Hard work but worth it
Deciding to start the book project was the easy part, however, as it proved to be a huge commitment in terms of time and energy. ‘The book took a year of my life. As well as the photography, I had to raise money on Kickstarter, design it, everything, while also working full time. It was not only physically demanding, but emotionally arduous too. As a dad of a young boy with cystic fibrosis, I know it’s a life-limiting condition, and when you meet people further along that journey you become very aware of this. Two people have subsequently died after taking their portraits. So I had some very tough days doing the project, but I always knew it was worth it for the end result.’
As Simon explains, it wasn’t just a matter of getting all 47 subjects together in a big hotel room or similar public space and doing a group shot. ‘People with cystic fibrosis can’t mix with each other owing to the risk of cross-infection so I had to go and visit each one individually. I also had to do this in a specific order, visiting people who were at a higher risk of infection first. I had to clean all my camera gear in between visits, to make sure I didn’t contaminate anyone’s house, and carefully work out the routes to make the most of very limited time.’
Simon got a huge response when he initially asked for volunteers to be photographed for the book, so he decided to focus on three areas: Yorkshire, Lancashire/Liverpool, and the Midlands. He ended up covering about 1,500 miles, with the minimum of overnight stays.
Fortunately, this herculean task was well worth it, as the response to the book has been overwhelming. ‘I sent books all over the world, and got a great response from Europe, Asia, the US and Australia. It’s been great for spreading awareness.’ Simon was also featured in the Daily Express, as part of its campaign to increase access to cystic brosis medication here in the UK, and appeared on the BBC regional news show, Look North. Following this exposure, he received a photographic commission from the NHS to promote awareness of the need for organ donation volunteers. We’re sure more commissions will follow.
Portraits with power
‘I wanted the images in 47/A Life with Cystic Fibrosis to be consistent, with the same lighting, and everything in black & white,’ Simon explains. ‘There was to be no distraction with colour, I just wanted to focus on the individual and their story.’ He also knew he would be shooting people in a wide range of very different environments, so he tried to travel light when it came to gear.
‘I took all the portraits in the book on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, using a 50mm f/1.4 lens. The background was provided by a black pop-up re ector, and the lighting set-up was very simple – just one speedlight, through an umbrella. This was enough to give me dramatic and emotive portraits, without weighing me down with gear or taking ages to get everything set up.’ Following the travel and the shoot, the biggest challenge was choosing which images to use in the book. ‘I tended to choose the image very soon after the shoot, something which best represented the person I had just met. They’d entrusted their story to me; it is a very personal thing to have your portrait taken and also to talk to a stranger about your illness and reduced life expectancy.’
Simon is a Leeds-based photographer specialising in family, lifestyle, portrait, commercial and event photography. He started a major book project on people living with cystic fibrosis after his son was diagnosed, and it’s for this sterling work he gets our Unsung Hero Award in partnership with Ripe Insurance.
Good Service Awards
The retail industry is reported to have their worst year on record in 2019. The UK’s independent photo retailers play a vitally important role in helping our hobby to survive and thrive, yet they face multiple threats from a ‘challenging’ economy, the continuing rise of online shopping and the ever-improving cameras on smartphones.
At AP we recognise that photo retailers offer a level of customer service and product knowledge unavailable anywhere else, so we try to support them as best we can.
One of the ways that we do this is through the Good Service Awards. Voted for by you, the reader – their customers – a Good Service Award logo is a signpost to existing and potential customers saying, ‘This is a business that offers a high quality of customer service.’
But we only grant this vote of approval to retailers whose customers vote for them in sufficient numbers. This year a total of 11 Good Service Awards have been given to UK retailers. We also give a single Platinum Award for the retailer who received the most votes of confidence from their customers. For the fourth year in a row this accolade has been won by Grays of Westminster.
- Cambrian Photo Video
- Clifton Cameras
- Ffordes Photographic
- London Camera Exchange
- Mr Cad
- Park Cameras
- SRB Photographic
- Wex Photo Video
- Grays of Westminster
Chris Cheesman Memorial Award – Jeremy Gilbert
The Chris Cheesman Memorial Award was inaugurated in 2017 in memory of AP’s former News Editor, who died in 2016. It is given to someone in recognition of their outstanding contribution to the UK photo industry.
This year’s recipient is Jeremy Gilbert, who has been the Marketing Manager for Nikon UK since 1999. He began his photographic career in retail, first at Photo Markets, then Fox Talbot and City Camera Exchange. In 1986 he joined Nikon’s sales team as Sales Manager for London and the South East, and was named Salesman of the year in 1989, 1991 and 1992. In 1996 he became Product Manager for Professional Products in time to oversee the launch of the flagship F5. Since becoming Marketing Manager he has managed the UK launch for every Nikon camera of the past 20 years. He was responsible for Nikon’s acclaimed and much parodied I AM advertising campaign, which appeared in print and on TV, as well as high-profile sponsorships including Hollyoaks, London Fashion Week, Goodwood Festival of Speed, the Reading Festival and the NME Awards. He retires from Nikon next month after 34 years with the company.