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Jon McGovern wins Young Landscape Photographer of the Year Award


The Take a view Landscape Photographer of the Year Award has quickly become one of Great Britain’s most prestigious annual photographic awards. The award is the brainchild of celebrated landscape photographer Charlie Waite, who hoped for a competition that would be “an on-going platform for capturing images that best symbolise our land and our times, and that will stand as a record of our country.” The main award (and £10,000 prize money) was awarded to Parisian born Emmanuel Coupe for capturing The Old Man Of Storr, Isle of Skye.

The competition, which is now in its third year, also runs an equally celebrated Young Landscape Photographer of the Year Award competition. This year’s prize was awarded to Jon McGovern for his vibrant image of Derby (see above). In the build up to the launch of the coffee table book LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR: COLLECTION 03, zap! bang! was very lucky to speak to Jon McGovern about his artistic inspirations.

!(feature_r)http://relayer.s3.amazonaws.com/articles/spreads/4c96498ac1531723a00000e9.jpg!On Flickr you have hundreds of images (e.g. Time For Tea — pictured right); how did you select just one to enter?
I entered the photos that I thought to be the most compositionally strong, and with the highest quality of light. I tried to think like a judge; think which ones I would have chosen, and why. It must have worked.

Why do you think your image stood out from the crowd?
I didn’t expect to win really — just to be on the shortlist was a great success. I suppose maybe because it is different. There are so many landscape photos out there that look almost identical. Very nice, but not original. OK, now I’m starting to sound like a sage of photography. I’ve still got a lot to learn too.

Of the other finalists, whose work do you rate the highest?

It is hard to say — there are so many awesome shots. Alex Nail’s highly commended photo of light streaming through the trees (Burrator Plantation in Summer — pictured left) is definitely one of my favourites.

When did you first get into photography?
I’d been taking snaps for years but only really got interested in it about two years ago, when my ICT teacher, Barry Thomas (now retired, so I can refer to him by his first name), encouraged us to take photos for our coursework. Since then I’ve read every scrap of information about photography I can, and tried to soak up as much as possible.

Who are your photographic idols?
I adore the portraiture of Dave Hill and Chris Clor, and Charlie Waite is one of my favourite landscape photographers. Also, Steve Coleman, who I discovered through Flickr, has an awe-inspiring portfolio. He deserves to be a household name.

Who would you personally compare your work to?
Hmm… nobody really. Lots of my work is inspired by many different photographers, but I couldn’t really compare it to one particular artist.

Having won a Landscape Photography Prize, will you now focus in on Landscape Photography or do you enjoy experimenting in other fields?
I’ll certainly carry on landscape photography, but will never (in the foreseeable future) stop trying my hand in other areas. My portraiture needs a lot of work, so I’ll be doing some of that soon. Landscapes are one of the most rewarding of genres in my opinion, though, especially if a lot of planning and effort has paid off in a great shot.

What advice would you give to someone hoping to get into photography?
Get on Google and search “Rule of Thirds”. That’ll get you past snapshots and into the realms of real photography. Also, don’t worry at first about getting the best camera gear on Amazon. Start small and when you feel you need to move up, it’ll come naturally.

How much planning goes into one of your images?
Depends. Sometimes I’ll plan a photo for days, and it will turn out a load of rubbish, and sometimes I’ll snatch a photo quite by chance and its compositionally perfect. It’s weird.

*Do you believe in image post production or is that art of photography in the initial image?*

Post production is what defines my style (see Welcome To My Nightmare — pictured right). People have to realise that it’s not cheating — even in the days of the darkroom photographers could edit their photos (although very slowly). Computers just make it easier. Having said that, it is important to get the image as best as it can be in-camera, because no amount of editing can fix a bad photo (usually).

What makes a good photo?
It’s hard to say, because so much of it is relative. It’s important to have good composition, great light, interesting use of colour… but a photo can have all of these and still be mediocre. Sometimes a shot works; sometimes it doesn’t.

Is photography your only artistic outlet?
Not really. I love writing as well: usually short stories because I can never finish a novel. My dream is to one day be a published author, with my photography as the cover art; that would be cool.

What do you feel defines ‘photographic art’ nowadays?
Photography-wise, I’ve noticed that a lot of photographers imitate the style of the superstar photographers. Although I’m guilty of this sometimes, I feel it’s important to develop your own style instead of feeding off the popularity of others.

Do you have one image, which you feel defines your work to date?
It would have to be my photo of the wheat field at dawn, now that it’s won me a grand, but I veer down so many different alleys with my work that it’s hard to find a single photo that defines my work.

How easy is it for people to access your work?
I like to make my photos fairly self-explanatory, if that’s what you mean. I get positive feedback from people all over the world, so I think that’s a good sign.

Now that the prize is yours, what can we expect next from Jon McGovern?
The first thing on my shopping list is a Sigma 10-20 (wide-angle lens) so I can really improve my landscape work. It’d be great to one day become as popular as some of the contemporary masters, like Charlie Waite or David Noton.

!(feature_l)http://relayer.s3.amazonaws.com/articles/spreads/4c96498ac1531723a00000ec.jpg!AA Publishing release LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR: COLLECTION 03 on October 31st priced £25.

Take a view Landscape Photographer of the Year 2009 Exhibition in association with Natural England & the English National Park Authorities runs from December 5th 2009 till 24th January 2010 at Lyttelton Foyer, National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX. Admission is free.

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