JW: How did you first get into photography?
CC: As a child, I hated photography. My father collected cameras and always had one pointed at my siblings and me. However in my first summer holiday at university I got a working visa and travelled around the USA with a compact camera – an Olympus Trip. I found that I loved taking pictures and this fired my enthusiasm for photography.
When I returned to uni I ran the photographic society for the next two years. On graduation as a physiologist I promised myself that I’d do something with my photography within 10 years. 9 1/2 years later I made the decision over Christmas that I would leave my job on 30th June to become a photographer. When I returned to work on 6th January, my boss had taken an extra day’s holiday but the company MD called all the staff into a meeting to tell us that many of us were to be made redundant. I was asked to stay but persuaded the company to retain one of my colleagues and let me go instead. I got paid to leave on the day that I’d always planned to and the redundancy package paid for me to set up as a professional photographer.
JW: Why did you start the TPOTY prize?
CC: In 2002, on my way back from meetings in London where I’d been showing my photography to various picture editors I was mulling over the frustrations of being a photographer while listening to the radio, where presenter Simon Mayo was talking about travel photography. He said anyone could be a travel photographer! All you needed was a camera and a ticket to somewhere.
My response was “Right, I’ll show you!” and TPOTY was born. Having decided to create a showcase for great travel photography in a form of a competition which would generate an exhibition, I then set about defining travel photography itself. At that time picture editors largely classified travel photography as pictures of people on holiday or in holiday destinations. Of course it is much more than that and rather than being a genre in its own right, it’s a collection of genres which define the travel experience – people, cultures, landscape, wildlife, food, place, architecture (old and new). This may seem obvious now but back then, in a largely pre-internet world it wasn’t and I’d like to think that TPOTY has played some small part in changing perceptions.
It’s important to remember that back then there were very few photo competitions, let alone travel photography ones, and there were none open to everyone – young and old, amateur and professional.
The first award launched in February 2003 with prizes provided by Adobe, Fujifilm and Plastic Sandwich.
JW: What is it about travel photography that you find particularly interesting?
CC: Aside from combining my passions for travel and photography, it is the diversity of subject matter and styles which it encompasses. Travel photographers, good ones anyway, can work in any light – natural, artificial, lowlight or intense. That variety is both stimulating and challenging, and I find that exciting.
JW: What are the judges looking for this year?
CC: TPOTY has always had a diverse panel of judges from photographers to picture editors and travel editors, from stock photography experts to image manipulation specialists. This diversity negates bias and ensures lively debate amongst the judges. An important addition in the early years was a lay judge, someone who judges on feeling and chooses an image because it moves them without getting tangled up in the technical aspects of photography, someone who thinks like our exhibition audience.
This year the judging panel is our largest ever. This panel is highly visually literate, highly skilled and passionate about photography.
You still have the chance to win a holiday with the @TheYachtWeek and take three friends with you. To enter, post your best travel snap on Instagram, tagging #JWTravels and @JackWills. Click here to check out the entries so far.