I am thrilled to announce that a portrait I made, as part of my year long documentary project about Port Sunlight, has been selected as one of the top 200 photos in the ‘Portrait of Britain’ competition. It will be included in the ‘Portrait of Britain’ book and there’s a chance it might be selected to be on digital displays around the country later in the year.
The photo is one of my favourites from the project that of Valerie knitting in her bedroom. She made knitwear for charities overseas. The Chinese artwork on her wall reminds her of her trips to China and the reproduction of the Pre-Raphaelites ‘Scapegoat’ painting is representative of her ability to take on the troubles of others. “Take me as I am or not at all”, she told me. I spent nearly 3 hours talking with Valerie. Amazing woman.
There were around 13,000 entries which makes it fairly unbelievable that mine was selected. I was really taken back when I saw the other people on the shortlist. Sarah M Lee, Simon Roberts, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Craig Easton, Harry Borden, Peter Zelewski, Abbie Trayler-Smith, Michelle Sank, Dan Wood, and so on. These guys have been huge inspirations to me over the years so to have my picture in the same book as them is surreal.
I have spent my entire career debating what kind of photographer I am. Portraiture or architecture? Architecture or portraiture? I have social anxiety issues so I sometimes retreat to architecture but then I meet people like Valerie or I photograph Pride and the energy and joy I get reminds me how much I love portraiture. So I see this as validation of my struggle. Also I was recently diagnosed with autism which explains my struggles with portraiture and means that to be here in this list is nothing short of shocking. People confuse and scare me but at the same time I enjoy portrait photography and feel that it is one of my strengths, so for whatever reason I’ve developed a way of working with my autism (that I didn’t realise I had – more to come on that) and well uh, life finds a way.
Thanks to Port Sunlight Village Trust for inviting me to work on this project and thanks to Valerie for allowing me into her home to photograph her.