A selection of photographs from the annual Photographer of the Year Award, now in its ninth year, is currently on display on the balcony at Waterloo Station where it will remain until February 2016. Welsh bridges, snow-covered highlands, forests, abandoned quarries to urban Brighton streetscapes – this year’s award again highlighted a breadth of talent from across the UK. The 2015 top prize of £10,000 went to Andy Farrer for a winter of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast at Bat’s Head while the Young Landscape Photographer of the Year award was won by Mairi Eyres for her photograph of a daisy reflected in a tiny water droplet.
The award is in association with VisitBritain and the ‘Countryside is GREAT’ campaign for the second year, this year they were also offering a special award for the best image from an overseas entrant. This went to Julian Elliott who lives near Tours, France, for his image of Pont Fawr & River Conwy, Llanrwst, North Wales. “Championing rural Britain is a focus for VisitBritain through our global Countryside is GREAT campaign” said Joss Croft, Marketing Director of VisitBritain when presenting the award to Elliot, “Julian’s stunning photo of the 17th century stone bridge at Llanwrst sums up perfectly how breath-taking landscapes can be used to inspire visitors to come and explore all our nations and regions.”
Of course this is one of the main background agendas of the award – to explore and highlight how images influence our travel behaviour. Why do we pick a holiday on the South Coast over Scotland or a mini-break in Liverpool over a Eurostar to Paris? Croft went on to say “We know that images are hugely motivating when it comes to influencing people’s travel decisions, particularly those that spark the imagination and promise a genuine experience, which is why they play an integral part in the tourism marketing that VisitBritain undertakes and why we’re very proud to be co-sponsoring these awards”
The “genuine experience” is highly romantised within the awards but it doesn’t really matter in the end. This is the Britain we want to imagine – wind-swept walks on misty cliffs, not Martin Parrian visions of pound shops, seagulls eating leftover chips or people being sick on the pavement after staggering out of a club. The award, in a way, highlights the subterfuge that occurs when we market ‘place’, the editing and smoke and mirrors of the advertising process. When viewing the images I was reminded of a news story I came across in 2009 about a Thai tourist brochure that had either purposefully or accidently used a photograph of a Hebridean beach on the Isle of Berneray to advertise their own Kai Bae beach. They were, in the end, selling ‘idyllic beach’ and perhaps it didn’t matter which side of the world that beach was actually from.
The award for the last six years has also been hosted by Network Rail and they also support the special award ‘Lines in the Landscape’ for the best image of Britain’s modern rail network. The award went to Robert France, for his view of a Freightliner coal train approaching the Ribblehead Viaduct in the Yorkshire Dales. Another award, the Adobe prize, was also awarded for the first time this year and went to Emmerdale actor Bill Ward (who plays James the farmer) for his abstract rainbow image of a waterfall at Kisdon Force in the Yorkshire Dales.
The Landscape Photographer of the Year Awards are held in association with VisitBritain and the Countryside is GREAT campaign. Winning entries will be displayed on the balcony of London Waterloo station until 7th February 2016 (Free). The Awards book, Landscape Photographer of the Year: Collection 9 (AA Publishing) is available now.