Photographers from Co. Tyrone and Derry snapped up top prizes this past weekend at one of the industry's biggest conventions, held by the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers in the Hilton Hotel in London.
Omagh plumber turned fine art photographer Tony Moore was named Advertising & Commercial Photographer of the Year while Audrey Kelly, based in Dungiven, triumphed in the Open Category as well as placing third in the Society's Photographer of the Year. Both travelled to London for the event where they received their awards.
Established in 1989, the SWPP are an international photography society with thousands of members that span the entire globe. The awards receive over 12,000 image entries from professionals around the world.
Speaking of what led him into his current career, Moore said: 'I worked in the plumbing industry for 30 years. I started photography partly out of curiosity of how a camera worked, but always liked art and drawing local street scenes and charcoal landscapes. When plumbing contracting and parenthood took over I never had time to develop my passion for art and photography until recent years. A few combining factors changed the course of my life and with the belief that life is indeed too short, I decided I wanted to make a living with fine art photography specialising in, amongst others; the sculpting with light technique for house portraits and the commercial/architectural industry.'
9th Avenue Pizzeria by Tony Moore
Kelly, meanwhile, has already spent a decade in the field, having graduated with a degree in Graphic Design from Ulster University Magee. 'I discovered my love for story telling through moving image but to progress into a career in that industry would be hard in Northern Ireland,' she said. 'Soon after, I picked up my first camera and with this new passion I drove my business forward.' Read more about her journey so far in last year's interview with Culture NI after the Society crowned her Digital Art Photographer of the Year.
'I am overwhelmed with pride after winning these two new awards,' she added. 'They will sit nicely with my previous award wins!'
Both are excited about what the future holds following their wins.
'A lot of hard work and many hours have paid off,' said Moore. 'My work has been recognised as being different and worthy to merit this prestigious award by my peers from one of the world's biggest photography societies.'
The recognition is similarly reassuring for Kelly, who admits: 'I like to know that I'm still current and the only way I know this is confirmed is through entering competitions. It drives me from one year to the next and I am always seeing an improvement in my work. It’s good to be kept on your toes.'
Her untitled winning snap forms part of a series called Mary, which explores a dark side of Ireland's past involving the fate of many illegitimate children born in the late 1800's. Visually the image contemplates the generations of family which would not have been had her great grandmother followed the same actions of others over a century ago.
Elsewhere photographers are encouraged to submit to this year's Belfast Photo Festival for the chance to exhibit alongside high profile names, win a cash prize of £1,000 and much more. The deadline for entries is March 6. Full details including submission guidelines can be found at www.belfastphotofestival.com.