Plymouth photography students chosen among Portrait of Britain winners

A student and graduate from the University of Plymouth are taking their places among 200 of the best portrait photographers in the country after being selected to feature in a prestigious exhibition and book.

Will Michell and Emma Booth were chosen from thousands of entries to the British Journal of Photography Portrait of Britain competition, which sets out to capture the many faces of modern Britain.

Their photos – which depict the strain of life during the COVID-19 pandemic – will be displayed nationwide on JCDecaux’s network of digital Out-of-Home screens during September, in railway stations, shopping malls, high streets and bus shelters. They will also be in the Portrait of Britain book, Vol. 3, published by Hoxton Mini Press and distributed worldwide.

Will, a third year student on the BA (Hons) Photography programme, submitted a portrait of his mum, Jane, sitting on a bed at her home in Truro, Cornwall. He says:

“Jane is my mother and a full-time matron. I took this portrait after a 12-hour shift. I think it embodies how a lot of nurses feel: exhausted yet having to maintain a strong image to reassure others."

The work was among 100 chosen by the British Photography Journal as a winner in the competition.

"Seeing my work among some of the most talented photographers in Britain, many of whom I take inspiration from, is surreal,"

Will added.

"My style of photography is environmental portraiture, influenced by a book entitled ‘Poetics of Space’. Reading this altered my perception of the physical and psychological connection to ‘home’. This new perspective led to a body of work in which I photographed subjects within their home environments. Knowing that my work has been well received is extremely motivating and I will continue to make work that I love."

'Jane' by Will Michell

Emma, who graduated from the BA (Hons) Photography degree this summer, was shortlisted for her self-portrait of her lying on a sofa in her home in Devon.

“This self-portrait is a personal reflection of being a young adult carer to both my father and sister,” 

she says. 

“I live in a household with three members classified as vulnerable due to COVID-19, resulting in a strict isolation period within the family home. It has been a time of closeness to those I care for, but also a time of psychological and physical distance to many others who I love.”

Emma, who has this year also been selected for the Association of Photographers Student Awards and the APHE/Photomeet Bursary Award, added:

“Being published in the book among so many artists that I follow and find inspiration from, including my mentor Robert Darch who has supported my work for several years now, is an opportunity I am very grateful for! The self-portrait selected is from a body of work exploring my experiences as a young adult carer, which reflects my practice of deeply emotive and reflective works with broader links to the human condition.”

Angus Fraser, Programme Lead for BA Photography, in the School of Art, Design and Architecture, paid tribute to their work, saying:

“Both are quite personal stories being told through the lens of their camera, and that is something we teach our students to do on the programme. It takes bravery – and confidence to do that, as it does to submit your work to national competitions. But it is also an important step in becoming a professional and aligns with the programme’s ethos to nurture and develop creative potential to establish industry-savvy photographers.”

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