Whenever I am in the UK, I always try to visit an exhibition and/or participate in a workshop for an area of photography that interests me. As I have spent such a long time in the UK this summer, I have been lucky enough to get out with my camera quiet a bit and I recently spent one tumultuous day in the big smoke, where I visited three photography exhibitions and participated in a Low Light/Night Photography workshop – phew!
So as not to miss anything, I will write separate entries for each activity I covered that day, starting here with The Press Photographer’s Year 2013.
When I ran a search to see what exhibitions would be on in London during the summer, I came across The Press Photographer’s Year 2013, which was being held at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank. I was not really sure what drew me to this exhibit, as in my mind, I have never been drawn to press photography, but in hindsight, it was probably the inclusion of photographs taken during the Olympics; I had followed the official Reuters APP religiously during the summer of 2012.
The National Theatre is an icon that sits on the South Bank of the River Thames. Better known for hosting plays and musicals, the theatre is also becoming a platform for seminars, workshops and various art exhibitions, these exhibitions are usually held in the Lyttelton Theatre’s Foyer space. This exhibition was free to view, although I was disappointed to find that no literature was available to coincide with the work (hence my further research on the Internet), although we were free to take any photographs we wished too during the show.
When I first entered the space, I thought the area a little drab and dark, that said, the photographs were well lit, with enough space between categories to enable you to move around, stand back and really take in the images. I was also lucky to attend this show near the end of its run, so thankfully there were not too many people to manoeuvre around, enabling me to view the photos two or three time.
The competition usually takes in photographs taken over the course of a year, but due to circumstance, the 2013 competition was a little different, and The Press Photographer’s Year web site states:
The 2013 competition has a more extended time frame for eligible images than seen in previous years. This is to take into account the time that has passed since the 2011 competition … All photographs entered must have been taken between 1st January 2011 and 31st January 2013”
Therefore, this time round it actually covers a two-year span.
Information surrounding this competition including its rules and regulations can be found at The Photographer’s Year (theppy) website, the details of which can be found in the source list below.
With seventeen photography categories in total, each had a single winner, with the exhibition displaying a total of 150-images, as a small selection from each category had been included in the display. There was a broad range of images to see, some of which really stood out, others that made me sad and even some that put a smile on my face.
It was not until I started looking at the images that I realised what a great couple of years it must have been to be a press photographer, as not only were there conflicts and wars to report, but also Royal Weddings, Movie Premiers, Scandals, General News and of course a multitude of sporting events.
As I wandered around the exhibition, the first images I saw were of the wars and conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria and Egypt, as well as depictions of the devastation left by the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Not all of the images were graphic, but I did find some of them quiet disturbing, showing an insight into the horrors and atrocities that happen every day in these far off distant lands. Images such as these make me realise how lucky I am to live in a liberated world and I feel nothing but admiration for those who risk their lives every day to let the world know what is happening outside of our own personal bubbles.
Closer to home, there was also a body of work under the Photo Essay category showing up close and personal events during the Tottenham riots and disturbances in Ireland. Quiet a sorry state of affairs.
From here, I moved on to images of a lighter note, especially those in the portrait and entertainment categories. In this section, one that really stood out for me was that of Anne Widdecombe, dressed ready to make her debut on the London stage, looking like a Drag Queen or perhaps a pantomime dame? I like this image because it looks so dramatic and the expression on Ms Widdecombe’s face – probably helped by the make up – reflects what I would image to be her true personality, the photographer has captured this feeling well. Although, I feel that the background could have been a little more out of focus, which in turn would have made her stand out just that little bit more in the frame.
Here I also found one of my top three images, taken of Sir Jimmy Saville not long before his death in 2011. Pushing the scandal surrounding this man to one side, the composition of his portrait is quiet striking, especially in monochrome. The tones of grey are well proportioned against the stark black of his clothing and the stark white of the highlights – quiet breath taking. When I first saw this image, I was a little taken aback, as I thought it wrong to include a photograph that would cause such controversy, but then, this is a Press Photographers event, so controversy and making people sit up and take notice is what this line of work is all about.
Another area I enjoyed looking at were those image of the royal family, although most were of the then newlyweds, but the photos of Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh were warming to see. In the photos presented, it shows the dedication of one woman, who has given her live to serve a country, under any circumstance. An image I found quirky here was that of the couple walking across the baron forecourt of Buckingham Palace, and although the queen is walking ahead of the Duke, their shadows are intertwined, representing their personal relationship and life together.
Aside from the general news photos on display, we finally came to the images from the Olympics in the summer of 2012 and sport in general, so many on show and so many great shots to choose from. Seeing all of these photos together made me realise how difficult capturing sporting moments must be, especially where a movement has been captured in time forever. Two images stood out the most in this section, the first of England cricketer Ravi Bopara, reaching for the stumps in an international game against India. It is one of those right-time-right-place images and the straightness of the stumps seem to highlight the contorted lines of his legs, flailing in the air and considering how quickly Bopara is moving, the action has been captured perfectly.
The second image in the sports section is of The Union Jack and Olympic flag taken through the heat haze of the Olympic flame. There were many images taken like this during the Olympics, and I like and crispness of the flame set against the blurred image of the flags, due to the heat created by the dozens of flames present in the caldron. A cleaver well thought out image, but one that was copied many times during the games, and one that will probably be copied time and again in games to come.
So, what did I gain from this exhibition? I do not think that I will run out to become a press photographer, there is a certain kind of dedication needed to take these kind of photos, and I am not sure this is going to be my niche, but it really made me think about composition and what makes for a good photo essay, something that will come in handy as I move on through my studies. Although most of the winning images, and in fact most of the images in general stood out within their category, this exhibition proved that it isn’t always the most fantastic shot that will receive accolade as some of the photos looked like family snapshots and out of place in and amongst their peers. This was a very specialised exhibition, although in hindsight all exhibitions are specialised, but it showed me that even though press photography is often associated with reporting disaster and devastation, there are other images that people want to see, which are poignant and have the ability to make you happy, sad and overcome with awe.
There were a few photographs that stood out to me, I have included these in the gallery below, and a couple of photographers I am interested in looking at in more detail namely Adrian Dennis, who one the overall competition, and is a sports photographer, picking up awards in numerous categories and Jack Hill, photographer for The Times and dedicated to recording conflict overseas. Two completely different photographers, both with an interesting voice and controversial view of the world.
This exhibition is one I would like to revisit on a yearly basis, it will be interesting to see how different the news is in a year from now and how it evolves in years to come.
Alden, J. (2012) Portraits – Ann Widdecombe [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Boyers, A. (2011) Sports Action – England’s Ravi Bopara [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Bunham, Matt. (2011) Royalty – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [accessed 3 September 2013].
Dennis, A. (2012) Photograph of the Year & First Prize [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Dennis, A. (2012) Sports Folio of the Year – Noemi Batki [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Dennis, A. (2012) Olympic Folio – Australia’s Jacqueline Freney [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Dennis, A. (2012) Olympic Folio – The Union Jack and the Olympic flag [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Hill, Jack. (2012) News Folio of the Year – A Stag [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Hulme, S. (2011) Portraits – Sir Jimmy Saville [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Levene, D. (2011) Features – Ba’araa [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Marcfogel. (n.d.) Nikon 18-200 VR II Lens Creep [Online Video]. Available at: <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUXg6eW8oqU> [Accessed 2 September 2013].
Mattsson, P. (2011) Photo Essay – Buildings in Tottenham High Road [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Stoddart, T. (2011) Photo Essay – Prime Minister David Cameron [online image]. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
Veysey, J. (2012) The Arts – Visitors walking in The Rain Room [online image. Available at: http://www.theppy.com/competition/results?year=2013 [Accessed 3 September 2013].
The Press Photographers Year, (2013) The Press Photographer’s Year 2013 [online]. The Press Photographers Year. Available from: http://www.theppy.com [Accessed 3 September 2013]
Hairy Goat, (2013) Hairy Goat [online]. Available at: <www.hairygoat.net> [Accessed on various dates].