It’s been a little while since Point 102 did a round-up of photography competitions so this week that’s what we’re doing! We bring you our five picks of a diverse range of opportunities open in April from the UK and around the world - from microscopic photography to travel to social change. Where possible we also always try to focus on the ones that are free to enter. 

Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016

Entrants can submit up to ten images for the annual Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition which closes fairly soon. With both adult and young person (15 years and under) categories, the prizes are quite generous with £10,000 (cash) for the overall Adult winner, £1500 for the Young category and quite meaty cash prizes for 2nd/3rd/Highly Commended in both. The prizes also include inclusion in the exhibition of the competition which is held at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and inclusion in the exhibition catalogue.

Deadline: Midday (BST). 14 April 2016


Photocrowd Wanderlust Amateur Photography Competition

Photography platform Photocrowd have a whole heap of challenges on their site where you can win anything from photography gear to holidays. Their Wanderlust prize which closes in a couple of weeks is quite a big one with the best travel-focussed image winning the photographer a scholarship on a Maui Photo Expedition. You will stay for five nights at the Four Seasons in Maui and get treated to tuition, excursions, camera equipment and there is also an exhibition held at the end of each expedition where participants can promote, and hopefully sell, some of their work. This all sounds pretty sweet. The way it works is you upload your image on Photocrowd and it gets judged by both the public and the judges who then make the final decision.

Deadline: 15 April 2016


Guardian Readers Travel Competition

This year The Guardian’s monthly Readers Travel Competition has no set themes and photographers are just encouraged to submit their best travel shots. As ever, this one is open to UK entrants only and you just submit via Guardian Witness during the month and the winner is normally announced on the first of the following month. This month’s prize is a self-drive holiday to Iceland, inclusion in the annual Guardian photography show at Guardian HQ and a professional print for you to hang on your own wall produced by us here at Point 101!

Deadline: 11pm. 25 April 2016


IREX 5th Annual Photo Contest 2016

This competition, which comes with a $1000 cash prize split between four winners, invites images from amateur and professional photographers whose work fits into one of the following four categories: Empowering Youth, Cultivating Leaders, Strengthening Institutions and Extending Access to Quality Education and Information. Quite specific and quite broad at the same time. You can submit up to five images. There will also be a People’s Choice Award voted for my the public on IREX’s Facebook page and there seems to be another $250 prize for that category.

Deadline: 23.59 (EDT). 25 April 2016


Nikon Small World Competition 2016

This competitions celebrates all things in the world of microphotography/microscopy. Last year’s winner, Ralph Claus Grimm (Australia) captured dandelion pollen stuck on to the eye of a honey bee and in 2014 Rogelio Moreno Gill chose to close-up on a rotifier - a type of microscopic wheel-animal that is found in water. Although the majority of past finalists do seem to have captured the natural environment, past winners and finalists have also focussed subjects such as the circuitry in DVD readers. The competition is open to international entrants (over the age of 18) and the prizes are money towards buying Nikon equipment. This may seem a little limiting but might be useful to kit out your office with a couple of things. Top prize is $3,000 going down to $100 if you are placed 11 – 20th.  Additionally the winning image are taken on an exhibition tour to various science centres and galleries across North America. There is also a video version of the prize which has been running since 2011 – more info on that can be found here.

Deadline: 30 April 201

AuthorSacha Waldron


John Akomfrah’s three-screen installation/exhibition Vertigo Sea, first shown at the 56th Venice Biennale, started its two year national tour of the UK recently at Arnolfini, Bristol. After Arnolfini it will travel to Turner Contemporary, Margate and The Whitworth, Manchester as part of an Arts Council Strategic Touring programme.

Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective. He knew he always wanted to make films, he said in his 2015 TateShot, but not, perhaps, be a filmmaker. And it makes sense keep these lines slightly blurred, meaning one can play with strategies of exhibition across both the gallery and the cinema. 

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Vertigo Sea, is an expansive and poetic meditation on man’s relationship with the sea. The dark history of transatlantic slavery, historical and modern–day migration and the cruelty of the whaling industry are all explored through deeply immersive sequences and landscapes with haunting narratives and rich soundscapes.

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

Akomfrah layers his work like a collage. Archival and news footage is married with film shot on the Isle of Skye, the Faroe Islands, the Northern regions of Norway and with BBC Bristol’s Natural History Unit (making Bristol a fitting debut for the work in the UK). The films also draw on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) and Heathcote Williams’ epic poem Whale Nation (1988). 

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

The pace of Vertigo Sea is meditative and hypnotic and appeals to what we know as some of the most iconic images of our lifetime - overloaded inflatables and boats, traumatised people arriving on Greek beaches. Yet the work also creates its own space in which so many world narratives, connected and fragmented, come together.

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

John Akomfrah, Vertigo Sea, 2015 © Smoking Dogs Films. Courtesy Lisson Gallery

I really recommend catching this exhibition as it travels around the UK although I suspect it will be a hard one to ignore. Akomfrah is really a bit of art royalty at the moment, his 2013 film about the cultural theorist Stuart Hall is still being talked about as one of the most influential art films/docs of recent times (You can watch it on the BFI Player here). Once Vertigo Sea has seen the Bristol and Margate exhibitions through it will probably start making the rounds in large scale institutional group exhibitions across Europe and America. But it's interesting to see the installation in different UK settings, walking out of Vertigo Sea straight onto the Bristol Quays, bleak grey Margate dreamscape or redundant industrial canals of Manchester will put a different slant on the work each time. 

Vertigo Sea runs at Arnolfini, Bristol, until Sunday 10 April 2016. 

AuthorSacha Waldron


The smell of Play-Doh is the smell of childhood. I loved sniffing it, matting it into the carpet and squelching the colours together to make puke-coloured monster figures with that stringy Mr. Potato Head hair (I’m sorry but I have to flag this up – a new Star Wars Mr. Potato Head is called Luke Frywalker. I mean ....just yes). I would still enjoy doing all these things if I didn’t have to pretend to be a grown-up and tap tap tap on the laptop all day to corroborate this misconception.

Artist Eleanor Macnair (@eleanormacnair) is far more structured in her use of Play-Doh. Her series of Giclée prints ‘Photographs rendered in Play-Doh’ capture well-known photographers work, such as from Nan Goldin, Martin Parr and Ansel Adams, in the colourful flour, salt and water mixture which was originally marketed as a wallpaper cleaner in the 1930s.

“Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh” says Macnair, “Started on a whim in August 2013 following a photo pub quiz run by artists in Brighton. One of the rounds was to make a reproduction of a famous photograph using Play-Doh. It is said that you only need one good idea in life. I didn’t have one, so, in the spirit of post-modern re-appropriation, I used theirs.”

Eleanor Macnair.  Original photograph:   Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J.,   1967 by Diane Arbus

Eleanor Macnair. Original photograph: Identical Twins, Roselle, N.J., 1967 by Diane Arbus

Macnair began to receive attention from the London press when she opened an exhibition of this work at Atlas Gallery in 2015 accompanied by a book. This exhibition has now toured to Germany where it is currently on show at Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs, Wiesbaden.

Today the range of products associated with Play-Doh (and the many copy-cat ‘Play-Doh’ products) is enormous. The old standard is still, of course, the single-coloured doh tubs but the focus of the product is now on themed project or playsets where you can create cupcake towers, style and beautify unicorn/pony-type creatures or build a Star Wars Millennium Falcon. Each kit comes with special tools to squeeze, mould, ‘bake’ or stamp out the Play-Doh.

Macnair, however, keeps things simple, “My tools are amateur. Play-Doh, a chopping board, a scalpel and an empty wine bottle as a rolling pin. The work is accessible, easy and inexpensive to make.” she says, “I have few rules for the project, the main ones being no pornography and no dead people - those subjects just don’t seem appropriate in Play-Doh. I also don’t like to render photographs that photographers have requested of their own work.”

Eleanor Macnair. Original photograph:  New Brighton from ‘The Last Resort’  by Martin Parr

Eleanor Macnair. Original photograph: New Brighton from ‘The Last Resort’ by Martin Parr

Although the images have a great attention to detail (loving the tiny yellow triangles of the ice-cream cones in Martin Parr’s New Brighton), the process of making the Play-Doh renderings is fairly quick. “Each photograph I remake takes a couple of hours. This time is spent looking at the image, studying its composition and lighting, and deciding which bits to highlight and which to leave out. It’s a chance to slow down, look and to really examine a picture. On the surface, photographs can condense complex ideas and present them in a straightforward visual language. I take this a step further and pare them down to almost nothing, just form and colour only.”

Eleanor Macnair. Original photograph:  Julia Jackson,  1867 by Julia Margaret Cameron

Eleanor Macnair. Original photograph: Julia Jackson, 1867 by Julia Margaret Cameron

Macnair favours rendering photographs that include people or face as the principle subject matter; Julia Margaret Cameron’s 1867 portrait of Julia Jackson, for example, or Walker Evan’s 1938 Subway Portrait. Sometimes, however, the prints that focus on a more landscape-driven or abstract subject matter are the more interesting. When the (necessarily) cartoon-like eyes, noses and mouths are taken out of the equation, a different atmosphere and result begins to emerge. One of the most successful images is the rendering of Ansel Adams Aspens, Northern New Mexico (1958). The white lines amongst the trees and white triangles of leaves capture Adam’s original flash-lit forest but the image also seems to suggest a scene from an animation set. The green triangles of the foliage flutters up from the forest floor like birds, the black of the forest interior, dead voidy black.

Eleanor Macnair. Original photograph:  Aspens, Northern New Mexico , 1958 by Ansel Adams

Eleanor Macnair. Original photograph: Aspens, Northern New Mexico, 1958 by Ansel Adams

Macnair’s physical Play-Doh rendering do not have a long shelf. “After I have finished a work I shoot it and immediately take it apart, returning the Play-Doh to respective colour pots to re-use.” She says, “The green dress in the Nan Goldin became the jumpsuit in the Alec Soth, the foliage in the Tom Hunter and the blanket in the Henri Cartier-Bresson. The works no longer exist, they become ephemeral, and I am usually the only one who has ever seen them in their three-dimensional state. I like the idea of a Chinese whisper through time - from the original subject of the photograph, the photographer’s print, a digital file on the internet, a Play-Doh model on my table, my digital file on the internet and now the works on a gallery wall. What is lost and what remains? I never said it was serious. They are what they are. Sometimes things are more special in life because they are fleeting and you know you don’t have them for long,” she explains. “It’s nice to do something in life that isn’t money driven, and ‘just because’ really. Also, I don’t know where I would put nearly 150 Play-Doh renderings in my small flat.”

Eleanor Macnair. Original Photograph:  A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) , 1993 by Jeff Wall

Eleanor Macnair. Original Photograph: A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai), 1993 by Jeff Wall

Macnair does not see herself as a photographer “I’m not a photographer myself. I’ve never studied art, and didn’t visit an art gallery until I was 21,” she says “What I know about photography and art is what I’ve picked up through osmosis along the way—looking, thinking and seeing—I like to think of it as the Good Will Hunting school of art education.” And why not? And who cares anyway… Of course this project is probably not going to show up in Obrist’s next Biennale but Macnair’s images are enjoyable and funny and good and good-bad all at the same time. I like to look at them. If we want to be wanky about it we can chuck in some references to the cultivation of children as consumer decision-makers in the Western toy industry; or issues around so called Outsider Art. Blah Blah. Let’s not. I hope Macnair soon finds her next ‘just because’.

'Photographs Rendered in Play-Doh' runs at Kleinschmidt Fine Photographs until 22 April. Macnair will also be showing at Kopeikin Gallery, Los Angeles from 18 March to 16 April.

An accompanying publication to the project, published by MacDonaldStrand, can be bought/found here.

You can see more images from Eleanor Macnair on Tumblr

AuthorSacha Waldron