Blooming talent Chris Young, editor of the RHS’s The Garden magazine, moonlights as a judge for the RHS annual amateur photographic competition. With the winners of this year’s competition just announced, we catch up with Chris to see how it went INTERVIEW
Interview by Megan Croft
Why did the RHS set up a photo competition? For a membership organisation like us – we’ve got 420,000 members – it seemed logical to set up a competition that reflected our members’ passion and interest. It seemed a natural extension to really share that enjoyment with a photography competition. The more you garden, the more you see. If you are doing an hour of gardening a day or a whole day of it at the weekend, you start to notice things like the abstract nature of a leaf or the combination of two flowers or the way a goldfinch swoops down to try and get some seedlings. You get to see quite a lot. The garden is a busy place: the more you look at it, the more wildlife and colour, texture and shapes you see. With this year’s winners now announced, how do you think the competition went this year? It’s been a good year. This is the 18th year we’ve been running the photo competition and I’ve been involved with it for about seven years. Anyone can enter, and there are a lot of other photographic competitions, but its uniqueness is that it is really relating to people’s passions, which are photography and gardening. As editor of The Garden magazine, the monthly magazine that goes to all members of the RHS, obviously I get to see thousands of images a year and have quite a clear take on what makes a good photograph and what we’re trying to impart. As it’s the Royal Horticultural Society’s magazine, we’re giving good, inspiring advice to people and if a photograph is wrongly labelled, or it’s not very well composed, or it’s not well lit, or if the colour of the flower is wrong, then we’re not doing our job. We spend a huge amount of time on the magazine sorting out our reproduction, making sure the colours of the flowers are the correct saturation, the right hue and the correct tone. It’s really important we check the quality and integrity of a photograph and that’s what we do at the magazine day in and day out, so it feels quite a good fit for me to be one of the judges. What was it like judging alongside acclaimed garden photographers Andrew Lawson and Clive Nichols? It was great actually because I know them from my work on the magazine so we all know each other relatively well. I was able to have a really honest debate with both of them, but no matter who’s judging you’re always going to get an individual opinion from each person. As with all judging, How did you come to be involved with the judging of the competition?
ABOVE The winning image in the Wildlife category: Glimmer by Mateusz Piesiak.
sometimes there’s a clear winner and other times there’s a conversation and a bit of convincing and discussion; that to me is the real enjoyment. As the non-photographer, the person who’s consuming the photos in a professional way, you do get to see and discuss things that you might not have considered when judging with people like Clive and Andrew. Was there much debate this year? It was clear because we were all quite strict with the feeling that this is a garden and horticultural photographic competition and therefore we should be celebrating that in the winning image. We can all choose and select completely abstract images or things that are textured but that might not be true to the competition. The winning image is a late evening garden scene with a pond, some dogs drinking out of it and some mist: it’s just one of those moments where you have to be there. It’s complete serendipity that all of those things happened at
the same time, the dogs, the mist, the garden, the lighting, everything. It shows what goes on in a garden and the photograph is graphic with different shapes and textures within the whole composition. How do the entry numbers from this year compare? We’ve had 3,500-4,000 this year, some years we get more, some less. What’s interesting though is that it doesn’t really affect the quality of the images that we award. We could have 3,000 or 10,000 entries, but we always get to the best photos in the end. We get a huge range of entries from members and of course non-members and across a range of ages, demographics and nationalities. There are five categories that cover a range of genres and subjects, is that to broaden the competition’s appeal? It is, but it’s really also to reflect the diversity of the
If you are doing anhour of gardening a day or awhole day of it on a Sunday, you start to notice things
Photography News | Issue 15
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