Banner Image. Some of the 2016 winners, left to right: Mark Lynham, Iain Poole, Andrew Appleton, Helen Walker, Rob Hill, Gary Jones.

Reflections on the Guild Awards

What’s the worst thing that can happen to a bloke attending his first Guild of Photographers Awards Night? There I am back in 2012, the new boy on the small panel of judges, equipped with my camera to take pictures of the winners as they receive their awards which, in those days, didn’t take very long at all. Yes, I had remembered my camera! But I had forgotten my trousers. An easy mistake to make. All I could hope is that I would cut a dash in DJ and jeans but I can’t claim that my accidental fashion statement started a trend.

Anyway, my lack of trousers is not what this blog is all about. It’s just one of the memories which popped into my head as I began to reflect on the last six years of the annual awards. When I compare my first Guild dinner at The Upper House in Stoke-on-Trent with last weekend’s event at Crewe Hall, the growth of the society over the years is pretty obvious. During this time, membership has increased from 500 to over 3000; the panel has grown from 5 judges to 10 and the general standard of photography being submitted, I think most would agree, has risen. Competition is fierce.

With numbers and standards up, it’s hardly surprising that the awards ceremony takes a lot longer these days. I would guess the 2017 awards took four times longer than back in 2012, recognising the enormous talent within the membership. 2013 was the Guild’s first year in Crewe Hall, albeit in a smaller function room in the old building, than the one in which it has been held ever since. I remember this particular event because it was the first year that Mark Lynham attended. I knew that he was amongst the winners but that he was undecided about going. I had quite a job persuading him that he should be there - without giving the game away! That evening, he sat with a number of other award winners. I can’t remember exactly who got what, but Mark had quite a lot to carry at the end of the evening. This was to set a trend which has continued ever since.

2015 was memorable for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it was the first time that Photohubs was integrated into the awards weekend and I remember I ran a course on off-camera flash. Unfortunately, I had the tail end of man ‘flu but I just managed to deliver the training before my voice dwindled to a pathetic squeak. As you can imagine, I was not fascinating company at the dinner table with no voice but I just listened, smiled and nodded. After the meal, and to my utter surprise, I was presented with an award. I was touched to receive a standing ovation. “Speech!” the cry went up. Sadly, I couldn’t oblige.

Running to form, 2016 was another fantastic year for Mark Lynham who picked up the ‘Photographer of the Year’ award. That was the year that Rob Hill won ‘Overall Photographer of the Year’. It has been amazing to watch these two very talented guys on their photographic journey.

And so to 2017. Another fantastic year with 20 members of the Appleton Photo Training group picking up awards. Mark is at the top of the tree with ‘Photographer of the Year’ and ‘Overall Photographer of the Year’. He loves to learn and, for that reason, I’m sure he will continue to grow and develop as a photographer for the rest of his life.

So, there have been many changes in the Guild over the past six years but I couldn’t blog about the society without mentioning the constants. At it’s core, the values of a friendly and caring network were still very evident at the dinner last week. And members support each other all year round through the highs and through the lows which touch everyone’s lives at some time or another. Thanks here to Steve and Lesley Thirsk who have managed to grow the Guild in a way which fosters this sense of community.

So here’s to next year’s awards! Right now, I’m off to judge this month’s IOM.