Over the winter months I entered the prestigious photography competition The Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year 2017. Competitions are a test of your nerve. You spend ages choosing the images that you feel best fit the requirements of the competition, send them in & then wait to hear if you progress……
Over 8,400 images were entered from over 60 different countries & every image was subjected to preliminary judging. I was thrilled when I received the email from Pink Lady to tell me that 3 of my images had been shortlisted, the next stage of the competition.
All the shortlisted images are presented category by category to a panel of judges. The judging panel was made up from highly talented people at the top of their careers from both the food & photography world. Judges this year included industry experts such as David Loftus, Xanthe Clay & Jay Rayner amongst others.
This is where I imagined my journey in the competition may come to an end so no one was more surprised than me when I discovered that not one but two of my entrants were finalist images. I had one in the Food Sn-apping category & one in the Food in the Field category!
My entrant in the Food Sn-apping category was Barbequed Line-Caught Mackerel for Lunch! This was taken in Cornwall last year, Becky & I were spending our Summer holiday camping & bimbling around the countryside on our bikes. This image was taken in one our favourite villages, Portscatho at their annual fish festival. There was an array of stands on the small quay selling locally caught fish & crab. We had a lovely wander & then purchased lunch from the team at our favourite beach café The Hidden Hut. They were barbequing freshly caught mackerel & serving it with a delicious potato salad. Not only was the mackerel line-caught but done under sail, it was so fresh that we even saw the catch landed!
I have had a lifelong love of the British countryside & those who make it so great. This last year I started to photograph the vanguardians, those who are looking after their small corner of our planet. I have travelled around the countryside photographing small, artisan businesses from food producers & artists from craftsmen & women to farmers & gardeners. Taking beautiful shots that tell the story of our rich tapestry. One of the small corners I have really enjoyed going back to time & time again is Sandy Lane Farm. The farm is not far from home enabling me to get there early, the best time capture the fresh, morning light with the dew on the leaves. George, Cate & the team at Sandy Lane take such special care of their small corner of the planet & I feel my image ‘An Early Start in the Field’ really captures the hard work & dedication needed to run an organic farm.
All finalist images were printed & included in an exhibition at the prestigious Mall Galleries in London. It was with great excitement that Becky & I made our way up to London for the unveiling of the exhibition. It was a beautiful Summers evening as we waited on the Mall with the assembled crowd to make our way into the gallery.
It was such an honour to see my work in such a prestigious gallery alongside such talented photographers. The gallery was packed with 400 guests at a Champagne Taittinger reception many of whom had flown in from across the world for the occasion.
“The competition was fiercer than ever,” says Andy Macdonald, who heads up Pink Lady® in the UK, headline sponsor of the awards, “there were over 8400 images entered internationally and the standard was phenomenal. Mark’s shot ‘An Early Start in the Field’ stood out in category, however, for the way in which he made the simple subject matter both atmospheric and beautiful.”
It was a lovely evening compared by the chair of the judges, journalist & food critic, Jay Rayner. I am thrilled to say I received Highly Commended for both of my images, far beyond what I would’ve hoped for when I entered the competition back in the winter.
As a result of being amongst the finalists in the competition I was delighted to be asked to appear on BBC Radio Oxford yesterday to be interviewed by Tim Smith. Some of you may recognise his voice from Steve Wright in the afternoon on Radio 2. Radio is not my forte as I prefer to be behind the scenes but I think I managed to string a few words together! Click on this link to listen to the show. If you want to speed through to my interview I appear at about 2hrs, 16 mins.