16 June 2021

Meet the Six Contestants From ‘Great British Photography Challenge’

The photographers tell us about their unique approaches to their craft as well as their experience on the show.

Launching at the end of last month, Rankin revealed his latest venture: the Great British Photography Challenge. Taking place over the course of four weeks and airing via the BBC, the television series saw six talented amateur photographers – who all made it through a nationwide call-out – develop their practice with Rankin as their guide and mentor. Via this unique masterclass, they each had the chance to show that they have what it takes to stand out as a new name in British photography.

Across a month of assignments and feedback, they tackled 12 very different challenges that showcase and stretch their skill and creativity; from wildlife photography to lensing Glasgow band Walt Disco and snapping actress Anna Friel in a fashion editorial. The final episode has now aired and is available on catch-up via BBC i-player (we unpack the final verdict here).

In the meantime, get to know the show’s six contestants below: from their photography beginnings to their experience on the show.

Tyrone Williams

 

When and how did you first get interested in photography?

I first got involved in photography in my teens using disposable cameras to take photos of me and my cousins rollerblading.  From then I moved onto capturing moments in my life that were very close to me using the camera like a visual diary.  I then went on to using this approach to deconstruct my surroundings, trying to get a more surreal approach to our reality. 

 

How would you describe your photographic style?

It’s about exploring bold details about the overlooked. 

 

What was your experience like on the show?

It was such a fun learning experience meeting different passionate creative artists from different areas of photography. 

 

What was it like working with Rankin?

Rankin is such a great character. And over the course of the show he has really helped push me into understanding my own approach. I have a lot of respect for him. 

Chelsea Nawanga

 

Tell us about your beginningsin photography?

For my final year of college, we had to choose an assignment and project to do. I was like, “let me do photography.” Then I started researching fashion photographers and [rewatching] America’s Next Top Model. I was like, “Okay, now I know what I like: fashion photography.” Since then, I’ve been reading up on fashion magazines and researching photographers. One of my aspirations in life is to get a feature in Vogue. [Now] I’m looking more into young photographers, especially Black photographers, because I’ve noticed that there is a lack of diversity within photography, particularly for those from minority backgrounds.

 

How would you describe your photography style?

I’m a fashion portraiture photographer. I take portraits of people and the thing about me and my work is that I always want to tell a story within each photograph and have that human interaction

 

What has your experience been on the show?

Being on the show was fantastic. I got to work with five incredible artists who specialise in different areas of photography. I walked away with friends, not just people that I competed against. We all helped each other out and gave each other advice

 

What was it like working with Rankin?

It was weird, but weird in a good way. I studied Rankin when I was in college and then, three years later, getting to work with him – I was just shocked.

Ali Lewis

 

What was your journey into photography?

I started about four years ago. I turned 40 and kind of had a midlife crisis. I started walking, going into the forest and through the countryside, then tried clicking away on my phone to capture all these gorgeous things I could see. My husband bought me my first digital camera for Mother’s Day and that was it. Four years later, I’m still doing it as much as I can. I’m not particularly good with words but with photography, I felt like I could express how I felt about things.

 

Tell us about your experience on the show?

The whole experience was so amazing and so was meeting the other five people that I got to work with. I got to make these five wonderful friends.

 

What was it like working with Rankin?

It was incredible. I’ve got so much respect for what he does after having a go myself as well, to try and get that rapport with the person and bring their character out, as well as the lighting and that aspect to [portrait photography].

Walt Disco by Ali Lewis (C) Storyboard Studios

Paul Williams

 

How did you get into photography?

I got PTSD when I was a police officer and had a breakthrough when I realised that when I picked up a camera, my symptoms disappeared for the time when I was out with it. In around 2014 or 2015 I really started to look into photography as a way to manage my symptoms.

 

That’s so powerful. How would you describe your photography style and practice now?

Minimalist, I would say. I’m a wildlife photographer so the subject has to have priority over everything else and I try to reduce my background to just colours rather than shapes and textures. I also much prefer being in a really wild, cold place so I’ve [shot in] the Arctic, Alaska, northern Sweden and Norway. For me it’s all about the wildlife, about sitting there and being at one with everything around me. It’s not about taking the image itself, it’s just about being with [the moment] which I think is really important. Sometimes photographers can live our lives vicariously through that lens too often.

 

What was your experience on the show?

It was a real dichotomy for me because obviously I’ve got PTSD and I don’t do human beings all that well. [With the show] I was thrust into the middle of this crazy process, with a pandemic on top of it. There were many days when I went back to my room saying, “I don’t know if I can do it again the next day,” but, really, the whole thing was a very positive process me. We all became winners during the process of the show, through what we learned about our photography and about ourselves personally and getting the opportunity to work with some of the finest creatives in the land.

Jackson Moyles

 

How did you get into photography?

I’ve tried pretty much everything under the sun in the creative arts. I was pretty good at them but I never really excelled. As I was hunting for [a creative field] I thought, “I fancy buying a camera.” I just went for it and on my first shoot I fell in love with [photography] and it spiralled from there.

 

What was your experience on the show?

I went in with the mindset that I was just going to enjoy myself. I wanted to take something from the experience, pick Rankin’s brain and have a laugh. Overall, it was super positive.

 

What was it like working with Rankin?

I thought that I would have been difficult for Rankin to pick apart but I realised that he had me sussed out really quickly. He’s a harsh critic but he’s fair at the same time and I enjoyed that because you’re able to banter about with him and properly gain something from it, he really did care.

Georgie Peel

 

Tell us about your beginnings in photography?

I’ve been interested in photography since I was about 16. I have always worked creatively in all my past endeavours but it was really a few years ago that I was just compelled to start photographing the city. It started with museums, art galleries and stations. I wasn’t confident enough to photograph people. This came later on. It really felt like a release of sorts to just be out and in my own space. I’m always plugged into music and with a camera I truly feel like I’m in my own world. It’s very peaceful and magical really.

 

How would you describe your photography style?

I would really describe my work as street portraiture. When I shoot in London I always have a subject in my shots. I really try to capture a feeling or an emotion. In my head I use lyrics to imagine a story. I adore storytelling through lyrics and my lifelong ability to remember them enables me to create a story in my head which I hope to portray through an image.

 

What was your experience of being on the show?

I couldn’t have imagined how incredible being on the Great British Photography Challenge was. It really was an epic adventure. To have done it alongside my fellow photographers was truly wonderful. I learned so much from them we all grew hugely as a result of our time together. I think we would all agree that we came away from it more confident people and certainly better photographers. 

 

What was it like working with Rankin?

Working alongside Rankin was just a wonderful wonderful thing. I was and still am very honoured to have had his advice and feedback. Many of his words stick with me when I’m out shooting now. He has given me focus and an understanding of what it is that I want to say. I am so very grateful for that.

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