Category Archives: Photo Talks

Photo competitions report from Miranda Gavin’s talk at Photofusion Brixton


David Titlow’s winning portrait, Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow, for the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014

Today’s post focuses on entering photography competitions and is a report by photography graduate Jess Morris from my recent talk, Discovering Your Competitive Side, which took place at Photofusion in Brixton.

In keeping with the theme of the talk, this post opens with David Titlow’s winning portrait (Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow) from the prestigious Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2014 which was announced last week. His portrait Konrad Lars Hastings Titlow was captured the morning after a large midsummer party in Rataryd, Sweden. It shows his baby son being introduced to a dog. He says: ‘Everyone was a bit hazy from the previous day′s excess – my girlfriend passed our son to the subdued revellers on the sofa – the composition and back light was so perfect that I had to capture the moment’.

This year the competition attracted over 4,000 submissions in the form of editorial, advertising and fine art prints; an exhibition of sixty shortlisted photographs including the four prize winners as well as the work of the winner of the John Kobal New Work Award, Hana Knizova (Portrait of Olivia Colman) can be seen until 22 February 2015.

David Titlow (b. 1963) is a London-based photographer working in fashion and advertising. He has exhibited widely and has been commissioned by numerous magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, Vice and Vanity Fair. Originally a musician from Halesworth in Suffolk, Titlow switched to photography in the early nineties and has since worked in the industry.

NPG x139974; Olivia Colman by Hana Knizova

Hana Knizova, Portrait of Olivia Colman. C-type colour print, 16 October 2014. 16 1/2 in. x 23 1/4 in. (418 mm x 592 mm) image size Commissioned, 2014

Miranda Gavin – Discovering your Competitive Side
Tuesday 16 September, Photofusion – Brixton

Jess Morris reports from the event and from her perspective as one of the audience.

As well as being a well-respected name in the photography world, Miranda Gavin, who is editor-at-large for Hotshoe, editor of Frame & Reference and The Roaming Eye, also has personal experience of being on the judging panel of photographic competitions.

This makes her an invaluable asset to the circle of freelance up-and-coming photographers trying their hand at entering the unknown, and often unfair, world of competitions. Brixton’s Photofusion invited her along to share her knowledge and advice with its members.

Miranda opened the talk with a quiz to spark audience participation, not to mention wake everyone up after a long day in the rat race. We split into small groups and chose one person to take note of our answers. Listed here are the questions she asked us, along with a selection of answers from around the room:

Why bother entering competitions?
E x p o s u r e
To raise your profile/Publicity/Elevation/cutting corners
Gives you a project/Target/Challenge/Makes you finish it
Contacts/Gain experience/Feedback
M o n e y £££££!

How do you find out about them?
Online/Mailing Lists/Repeat notifications from previous competitions
Word of mouth/Networking/University Alumni

Name the ones you have heard of/entered (in order of popularity):
Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize
British Journal of Photography photo prizes
Photofusion’s AMPS annual photo prize
Terry O’Neill Photographic prize
Prix Pictet
Portrait Salon
Nikon competitions
World Press Photo
Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Sony World Photography Award
Landscape Photographer of the Year
Association of Photographers prizes

As well as listing some of the reasons for entering photography competitions, Miranda also urged us to note down the negative aspects and the flaws. The general consensus was as follows:

Work goes into the ether – with no explanation of where it has gone or who has seen it.

Costs – some competitions are charging an extortionate rate per photo for entering without any guarantee of the photograph being returned or properly looked after.

Lack of feedback – If you don’t get through to the final rounds or win, you at least want feedback from the judging panel on whether they liked certain aspects of your work, or what you could have improved on. If no reasons are given the disappointment is far greater.

No communication after payment is taken – This truly leaves a bitter taste and gets you thinking that they were only after your money in the first place, plus WHERE does the money in entry fees go?

Lack of clarity in criteria – You can’t be judged harshly for not ticking invisible boxes! It is not always clear.

Unfair judging – Often the judges have no artistic background whatsoever and are merely there because of sponsoring or circumstance; for example, the Taylor Wessing prize includes a member on the judging panel from the law firm sponsoring the prize.

Celebrity/already established winners – Seeing the same names, or same circles of winners, is neither promising or inspiring for prospective entrants.

The second half of the talk focused on an interesting topic, that of crowd funding, a platform many photographers are now using to get their work out there, as well as to fund work. Crowdfunding is the funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people via the Internet. One woman in the audience made the point that she tried raising £2,000 through crowdfunding to make a video. However, she found it problematic because she ended up having to put her own money in to reach the full amount which was misleading and defeated the object entirely. Some platforms only give you the money if you reach your full target.

The same woman also noted a positive aspect that it’s not just about the money, it’s also about raising awareness and appreciation of work or projects with followers and contributors, of whom she had gained plenty. Miranda brought up an example of a project that was crowdfunded successfully and managed to raise awareness of autism and in turn allowed the photographer to self publish a book. There were certainly pros and cons involved in equal measures, however, generally the feeling was that crowdfunding was an alternative method to entering competitions in terms of offering elevation, money, experience and networking, however, it required a lot more effort and time to achieve it.

Crowdfunding requires full time dedication during the campaign period (often of 90 days). However, as Miranda pointed out, TIME is a huge factor. It may be a more tangible way of achieving a goal with a clear objective, but photographers have to commit to it. For those who cannot dedicate themselves and the necessary time to crowdfunding, competitions are still an option.

It was time for the audience to turn the questions on Miranda, eager to find out about her personal judging experience of being on a panel and what information she could divulge about the dialogue that goes on behind the scenes. Miranda said that when judging work herself she prefers it if the names of entrants are stripped off the work, as well as from CVs and personal statements. This is so that she cannot be influenced by someone’s history, education or presence in the art world already. Anonymity is crucial.

In terms of information, Miranda explained how she likes to read any statements or  descriptions after looking at the image, and to test herself on how well she can read its meaning without one, however, in some cases the statement may be vital and a necessary component of the work. In terms of writing statements to accompany entries, Miranda said that a concise statement, or around 200 words, is enough and to bear in mind the audience reading the statement, so nothing too theoretically heavy or filled with jargon. If a theory is being referred to, or a quote is used, she likes to see the photographer demonstrate how it relates to the work, otherwise it is decoration.

LESS IS MORE: This is crucial to remember when choosing your final selection. Only submit your best shots.

BELIEVE IN YOUR WORK: The work you submit should also be work that you feel strongly about, perhaps a recent body of work that you are still passionate about and connected to as this will come across to the judging panel.

FIT THE CRITERIA: Make sure your work meets the criteria.

CHECK TERMS & CONDITIONS: Read the small print and beware of rights grabs.

LABELLING IS VITAL: The order of your series is important and how it is viewed by judges.

VARIETY OF SCREENS: Check your images on a range of screens if you are sending in an online file, find a balance that will work on most screens.

RESEARCH competitions and previous finalists and winners to see a range of styles and formats that are being accepted. This is not to copy them but to merely get an idea of whether your work could stand alongside some of them.

Miranda also talked about the complications of submitting different mediums of work. Moving image artists need to be aware of lazy curation or lack of appropriate funds/space to show it. The whole piece can be mistranslated if it’s not shown appropriately and with the necessary settings. You have to be in control of how your work is shown otherwise it is almost pointless. How can you take control? The only way really is to always include guidelines on how you want it to be viewed and hope that they are suitably followed.

By the end of the talk and after giving a summary of the key areas covered, the audience seemed more enlightened on the subject and, possibly, more realistic about what they’re really getting when entering a photography competition. That’s not to say people were put off from doing so, but instead they were a little wiser about the process and better informed about the negative aspects. For the people who may enter their work after attending this talk, it’s fair to say that they would be doing so with somewhat of a better chance of succeeding than before, or at least better informed.

Photo Stroll – INSIDE OUT at Photofusion London with Anne Vinogradoff, Jocelyn Allen and Myka Baum & In Conversation: The Skin Within tomorrow

Tri-pod’s second exhibition Inside Out is on show until 29 August at Photofusion gallery in Brixton, London featuring the work of three emerging visual artists working with photography, film and object-based works: Anne Vinogradoff, Jocelyn Allen and Myka Baum.

The photos below are from the Launch Party on 8 August before we had to swap the work inside the gallery around. Why? Because there have been complaints about the nature of the work: “nudity” “not suitable for children” “funders” “born-again Christians” “someone walking in then straight out”. There is already a Warning Sign re; nudity (see photo below) but it appears that this is not sufficient for the parents of 7-11 year-old children who have been walking through the front gallery to do activities in the other spaces in the gallery, nor for those who are seeing nudity/women’s bodies and religion combined in large-scale works. I received a call from Photofusion director suggesting that Anne Vinogradoff’s work be moved to the back gallery space and Jocelyn Allen’s to the front gallery, which the artists have agreed to.

I have written to Photofusion to request information on exactly which works have been cause for complaint, who has complained, why, how many people have complained and how they made the complaints, plus I have asked Photofusion about its policy on showing such works. I need to let the gallery respond before I write a blog post in response, though I have speculated on what the possible problems could be and to what extend an artist can express themselves freely, that is without forms of censorship, especially if the work/space is funded/part-funded by the Arts Council or other bodies that have ideological beliefs that may be at odds with the works created. To be continued once I have some answers.

For now, do try and see the show and come along to The Skin Within: A Conversation with the artists tomorrow evening in the gallery and let us know what you think.

Inside the gallery, Vinogradoff (Women: A Curvy Journey) and Allen (Your Mind & Body Is All That You’ve Got) explore themes around women, self-image and identity. Together these bodies of work can also be seen as a dialogue between Vinogradoff and Allen, as well as between the artists and audience. Visitors to the gallery are invited to engage with some of the object-based works and become active participants in the show.

On the Photofusion Outside Gallery wall, Baum (Miss Havisham’s Larder) explores the minutiae of growth and decay inspired by the cycles of nature and transformation.

Gallery Event: The Skin Within: A Conversation with the artists
Tuesday 27 August, 19:00 | Free for Members (£3.50 Non-members)
Anne Vinogradoff, Jocelyn Allen and Myka Baum will be discussing their work in the exhibition and the benefits of supportive creative workshops such as Tri-pod, facilitated by Miranda Gavin and Wendy Pye.


For her new series, Myka Baum uses a variety of painstaking processes engaging both natural and mechanical reproduction to create abstract photographs of the process of decay of common foods such as bread and cheese.Time plays an integral role within the work and traces of a collision between calculation and chance are made visible. The macro images on show are also a manifestation of the various processes used by Baum and are inspired by and call into question the current status of nature to which urban civilization has become largely oblivious.


Anne Vinogradoff draws on work from six series created over the past two years. Vinogradoff offers both a personal, autobiographical perspective, as well as a global viewpoint, as she explores the trajectory of womankind throughout history. In creating these works, Vinogradoff asks the audience to consider ancient ideas and their relevance to contemporary society while seeking to challenge commonly-held dogmas relating to female identity. The result is a multilayered, interactive installation of analogue photography realised as 3-D objects.


Jocelyn Allen’s series of self portraits are the result of forty sittings that took place over the last six months of 2012. What started out as a few images, documenting Allen’s reaction to the changes within the skin of her body, evolved to become a highly personal journey of acceptance, self reflection and realisation. The self portraits reveal and chart moments of playfulness and self confidence alongside those of shyness and self doubt.

AnneVinogradoff6JocelynAllen5JocelynAllen3Jocelyn Allen2Jocelynallen6PhotofusionHotshoe

Tri-Pod is a creative initiative cofounded in 2010 by Miranda Gavin and Wendy Pye to support lens-based artists working on Projects in Process. Tri-Pod has developed a model for facilitated peer-to-peer group feedback that also encourages individual artists to develop and maintain networks of support facilitated by Tri-Pod.

As well as holding weekend workshops to help with the research and development of personal projects, Tri-Pod works in association with galleries to provide a space for workshop participants to exhibit their work and allow for feedback and engagement with wider audiences.

INSIDE OUT was initiated and devised by Tri-Pod to provide an opportunity for three visual artists, who have attended a Tri-Pod workshop in 2012-13, to develop a body of work for exhibition. The exhibitors were chosen from an open submission offered to all workshop participants; the two artists presenting work inside the gallery, Anne Vinogradoff and Jocelyn Allen, were also exploring similar themes around women, self-image and identity.

All the artists exhibiting are working on ongoing series that they have developed with the assistance of Tri-Pod and are showing bodies of work in various stages of development and experimentation. Anne Vinogradoff is showing prototypes, or ‘primitive forms’ of objects, in their early stages of development; Jocelyn Allen experiments with the effect of scale in relationship to individual photographs, while outside, Myka Baum exhibits images that are the result of numerous photographic and biological experiments. The individual artists have curated their own space allowing them to test new ideas in a supportive environment.

Tri-Pod’s first group exhibition Nine Point Perspective: Ways of Seeing was held at Hotshoe Gallery, London in August 2011, and featured the work of nine lens-based artists and photographers who had participated in Tri-Pod’s first ongoing research and development group. This was followed by a further group exhibition Is That It as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe 2012.

Miranda Gavin and Wendy Pye will be talking about Tri-Pod at an arts symposium Academic Dogma: Intuition vs. Education, organised by members of the London College of Communication MA Photography course. It will be held on a Tuesday in early to mid-October with the exact date to be confirmed. If you want to know more or you are interested in participating in one of Tri-Pod’s future workshops, please get in touch at

Photo Talk: Storm chasers Camille Seaman and Mike Olbinski catch supercells in motion

Camille Seaman chases storms, “big clouds and big ice”. Using both digital and film cameras in different formats, Seaman records astounding views of supercell thunderstorms and polar ice. Check out this TED mini talk (3m 27s) by the intrepid photographer.

Her work has been published in Newsweek, Outside, Zeit Wissen, Men’s Journal. Books include My China and Melting Away: Polar Images, which was published through Fastback Creative Books, a company that she co-founded. In 2008, she was honored with a one-person exhibition, The Last Iceberg, at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.

While for an animated version (1m 55s) of the build up of a supercell, you can watch the short video below: A Supercell Thunderstorm Over Texas. Video Credit & Copyright: Mike Olbinski; Music: Impact Lento (Kevin MacLeod, Incompetech)

Tomorrow, I’ll be posting Part 2 of LOOK/13 Liverpool Photo Festival Photo Stroll followed by my pick of the shows.

Photo Talk – Laura Noble on collecting photography, her private collection and the business of photography


Laura Noble in front of the cover of The Art of Collecting Photographs and a photo by Maeve Berry from her series Incandescence. © iPhone photos Miranda Gavin.

Last week, I caught up with collector, gallerist and writer Laura Noble at her talk for the monthly Photologyy  series on photography. The monthly talks are hosted by Hastings-based Alex Brattell and take place downstairs at the Bullet Coffee House. The following post is a collection of comments and insights from Laura. There is  a 15min audio podcast which I recorded after the talk where I get to probe a little deeper about her flying fascination.

Laura trained as a painter and decided, after completing her studies, that she needed “a library and a studio” and got a job in The Photographers’ Gallery bookshop. She wrote The Art of Collecting Photographs in 2006. Photography entered the art market in the 1970s and photographs gained value and status through creating exclusivity by restricting reproduction. With an endlessly-reproducible medium, such as photography, this is of paramount importance. “That’s the wonderful thing about photography, it’s not just a recording medium now, but an art form.”

“The bulk of my collection is things that fly” – a realisation that helped narrow down her field of collecting. She recalls how her collection of photographs started slowly and how she likes to buy living photographers’ work  – her first buy in 1991 was Hidden by John Kippen. Noble “didn’t spend masses of money to start with” and “rotates the photographs in her home as otherwise she “stops seeing them”. However, when people feature in her collection they “generally have their eyes closed”.

Her first digital work was of the undercarriage of a plane with the LA sky removed. These form part of a series of planes shot and manipulated post production, which “look like pinned butterfly specimens”.

Other works she owns include:

Forbidden Zone by Jonathan Olley, which she describes as “an incredible body of work shot” in the beech and pine forests of Verdun, where some of the First World War’s bitterest battles took place. “They still lose a man a month trying to clear the forest of ammunition and diffuse the bombs.” On his website, Olley writes: Recent estimates made by The French interior Ministry state at least 12 million unexploded shells lie undiscovered in the hills overlooking the City of Verdun.

One of Maeve Berry‘s crematorium photos from her series, Incandescence, which she exhibits on aluminium and Diasec so that the viewer sees themselves.

A photograph from Deborah Baker‘s, In Paradiso series, for which Baker uses digital post-production techniques, for example, montage and layering, using photographs she has taken in the woodland garden she has cultivated for eight years. “The prints are divine,” she adds.

One of Chris Steele Perkins’ photographs from his Japan series, Fuji; a Jeffrey H Short image; a print by Emily Allchurch, from her Tokyo series which pays homage to Utagawa Hiroshige’s, One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (1856-58); and a Mischa Haller print.

Photographers need to have a good working knowledge of the medium and to “know what’s out there” as it is “so easy to do work that has already been done”. Make work long term and keep doing it, she advises. Often it takes someone else to put forward a photographer’s work. “Take a look at your work in a mirror – painters do it all the time,” she adds when discussing composition.

Editioning is useful in photography: “It’s not worth breaking an edition, except if you’re William Eggleston,” she warns. Adding that “you are signing their own death warrant if you break an edition” and “if you want your work to fetch a decent price, you need to create editions”. As to the word giclee, she laughs. “I never use the word. Do you know what it means?” Someone in the audience shouts out “Spurt”.

Click on the play button to hear a 15m 50s long audio podcast with me in conversation with Laura Noble recorded after her talk. Laura talks about what her collection says about her and more…

WOMEN IN PHOTOGRAPHY: One Billion Rising short film and Miniclicks Photo Talks and Firecracker event 2 March

One Billion Rising events took place between 2-14 February globally this week. If you haven’t seen this short film, then I urge you to watch it as it raises awareness of forms of violence against women and urges us to Strike Dance and Rise.

*Trigger Warning* A film by @EveEnsler and Tony Stroebel.

To celebrate International Womens’ Day (8 March), I will be hosting and chairing an all-day Saturday session Women in Photography in Brighton on Saturday 2 March at The Green Door with Miniclicks Photo Talks and Firecracker.

“The day will kickoff at 11am with an introduction from our host for the day, deputy editor of Hotshoe magazine, Miranda Gavin. Following on from Miranda, founder of Firecracker, Fiona Rogers has curated a series of photographers her organisation has worked with in the last year.

“They include Firecracker 2012 grant winner Jo Metson Scott, Abbie Traylor Smith, Maria Gruzdeva, Agata Pietron and Chloe Dewe Matthews. All will present short talks on their work.”

JMS 37 JMS 33 JMS 29 JMS 21 JMS 09 jms 3

All photos above: © Jo Metson Scott

Saturday March 2nd
11am – 4pm
Free Entry

Green Door Store
Trafalgar Arches
Lower Goods Yard
Brighton Train Station