Ray Spence FRPS has won the first international potato photography competition – the Potato Photographer of the Year - which is supported by The Royal Photographic Society.
The competition was inspired, in part, by the photo of a potato (Potato #345 (2010)), taken by acclaimed photographer Kevin Abosch that sold for $1million in 2016. Potato Photographer of the Year aimed to raise money for The Trussell Trust, a charity that supports a nationwide network of food banks, who have been more important than ever during the Covid-19 pandemic (when the competition took place). The Trust supports a nationwide network of food banks and provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK. Spence said: " I don't normally enter competitions but it was a way of supporting the charity."
People really warmed to the comforting theme of the competition with one of the judges, Martin Parr HonFRPS, commenting "How reassuring to see a helping of chips and mayonnaise" on William Richardson’s seventh place entry.
Competition organiser Benedict Brain said: “We didn’t quite raise the million bucks I had secretly hoped for but the few grand we did raise will go a long way to help provide much-needed food for the Trussell Trust. And there seems to be a healthy interest in running another competition next year.”
Spence is a highly valued, respected and popular member of the Royal Photographic Society. He has an RPS Fellowship (FRPS), was chair of the Distinctions Committee from 2018 to 2019, has been a chair of the Visual Art and Printing Panel and currently sits as a Panel Member for the Contemporary genre. Spence has also acted as a judge on behalf of the RPS in the Portfolio section of the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition and has previously been a member of our Exhibitions Committee.
End of Lockdown
“At last - a visit to the hairdressers at the end of COVID lockdown.”
“This picture manages to introduce a topical lockdown obsession to the brief of photographing a potato. It takes a great imagination to see a sprouting potato as a head covered with hair, and there is a lot of humor in the way the picture has been executed." Nigel Atherton
"This is delightful, imaginative, and a good laugh. And again, a bit bonkers. What we all need at this grim time. Love it!" Paul Hill
“Ray’s wonderful image is not only well executed and thought out but has a much-needed touch of humour”. Benedict Brain
Spence received over £1000 Prizes including a Fujifilm X-A7.
Second Place (above)
David 'Spud' White
"This looks like an alien lifeform, photographed on the surface on a barren planet by a NASA robot." Nigel Atherton
Third Place (above)
Tight Market Specifications'
"Potato agronomy is changing, raising the need for new solutions to old problems. In an environment where pests, weeds and diseases have no regard for the pressure to meet tight market specifications Bayer is committed to helping you produce quality crops that are also profitable to grow." - Bayer, 2019
In Peru, the birthplace of the potato, indigenous women sometimes use fine slices of potato peel as a facemask to soothe and soften the skin. I was meant to be working with an indigenous NGO in the Andes when Covid broke out so since I couldn’t try this in the Andes themselves, I decided to try this technique out at home and made a self-portrait documenting the process.
I was simultaneously reading about the history of agriculture and the development of large agribusiness, specifically about the corporation Bayer, now one of four major agrichemical business in the world, a company that owns 80% of all commercial seeds on the planet. The report that I was reading was released by the CIA in 2001 and discloses information about Bayer (then known as IG Farben) and their despicable involvement in Nazi Germany.
I rang up the Crop Science branch of Bayer that is based in the U.K. and was shocked to hear that the company still uses and promotes the use of glyphosate on British potatoes. Glyphosate, a chemical that the company Monsanto, which was bought up by Bayer in 2011), sold in their 'Round-Up' product, a product they, and now Bayer is being sued by consumers for giving the users of the product various cancers and autoimmune diseases.
I was fascinated by the obvious dichotomies and differences that there are when looking at the relationship that indigenous peoples have with their food and the relationship that western ‘developed’ countries and companies share with their food.
Indigenous peoples make up less than 5% of the planets human population, and yet they are protecting 80% of its diversity. And only 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions.
This image investigates the relationship between natural remedies /the close relationship some people have with their food and the big companies/corporations that take advantage of that natural knowledge to expand on market specifications.
"This image looks at the politics of the potato from two angles - its indigenous origins and the current domination of agriculture by a single company – and cleverly combines them is a thoughtfully conceived and well-executed composite image." Nigel Atherton
“A straight shot of a sweet potato.”
“I like the fact that this spud looks like a cross between a seal and a unicorn.” Martin Parr
Planting Jersey Royals
“Every winter the fields in Jersey are ploughed in preparation for the planting of the Island's main cash crop, Jersey Royals. As a Jerseyman I have been endeavouring to determine and photograph some of the things that we take for granted but are intrinsically and distinctly part of the fabric of Jersey life, cultural reference points that fellow Islanders would instantly recognise and instinctively understand. The planting of potatoes by migrant workers has been a feature of the farming community since the 19th century. Over the years some have stayed and many families include forebears who originally arrived as seasonal farm labourers”
"A very well arranged image showing potato pickers. Looks like back-breaking work." Martin Parr
“A portrait of individuals, together yet very much alone....and the unifying task of the mundane that is also beautiful....much like the character of the potato (mundane and glorious in its basic state and potential).
Together, alone, under a mundane task of peeling potatoes. During these past months of lockdown, the story of individuals; each from a different country, with their own interests and commentary...sharing space. In this depiction, they are united by the potato.”
"This carefully arranged tableau is a work that stayed most in my mind when I went back and forth through the excellent contributions to the competition. The photographer has creatively used what looks like available light in an empty kitchen, and the image also reflects effectively the claustrophobic side of the lockdown. It is engagingly surreal and a bit bonkers too." Paul Hill
Frites in Bruges
“Frites in Bruges with dollop of mayonnaise.”
"How reassuring to see a helping of chips and mayonnaise." Martin Parr
“Eating a 'potato face' - from inside of my mouth. 'Smileycam', 110 cartridge pinhole camera image taken from inside of my mouth. using two flashguns to illuminate subject and teeth (not in mouth).”
“The year; 2030. Climate change and a rise in food shortages have prompted the U.K. Government to encourage all citizens to start growing food within their back yards. Gripped by the mass hysteria, the protagonist, with a colander on her head to protect herself from her own erratic fears of 5G, tries to plant potatoes in her concrete-lined back yard. As one of the hardiest food crops, they may be her only chance of survival.”
"I like the humour in this image and have nothing but admiration for the effort the photographer went to in order to create it." Nigel Atherton
Apple of the Earth
“This photograph depicts an interpretation of Adam and Eve. Subsequent to COVID-19, humans have been denied many temptations such as contact and intimacy. However, it has also provided an opportunity for the world to ‘reset’ and renew. The potato is a staple food enjoyed around the world and therefore epitomises the fundamentals of life. Moreover, potato in French, ‘Pomme de Terre’, directly translates to ‘Apple of the Earth,’ highlighting the importance of the potato since it is likened to a fruit associated with re-birth. Therefore, my photograph is focused around the creation of Adam and Eve, who herald the start of a new world by holding a potato.”
To learn more about the competition visit: www.potatopoty.com
The copyright on all images belongs to the photographer.