The brightest and the best

From school fetes and children’s rugby matches to sectarian violence, it seems this year’s Regional Press Awards’ winning photographers have experienced all the unpredictability and quirks of local life that goes with a regional newspaper photographer’s patch.

The two news photographers used their cameras to tell stories about ordinary people or bring to life an everyday event.

Steve Cobb, from the West Sussex County Times captured an unusual and colourful picture of a boy holding a mask at a fairly typical summer holiday event, while Mal McCann of the Irish Times took a picture that gave humanity and frailness to a story of a violent attack.

Applicants in the sports category were told to “get under the skin” of sport and show the feelings and emotions of sportspeople at any level – and both Steve Riding of the Yorkshire Evening Post and South Yorkshire Newspapers’ Marie Caley both illustrated the grassroots of football and rugby league respectively.

The judges were very impressed with the work presented by the four, and applauded McCann’s portfolio for showing courage as well as photographic skill.

Included in the pictures he submitted was one of Michael Stone trying to burst into the meeting at Stormont between politicians as they negotiated to re-establish the authority of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

With Stone looking directly into the camera lens, the judges said the superb picture reflected the sheer nerve of the photographer.

Mal McCann Irish News Photographer of the year (daily/Sunday)

Photographer of the Year (daily/Sunday)

Credit: Mal McCann, Irish News

Mal McCann says of his picture, part of his award-winning portfolio: “It was in a Catholic area of Belfast on a Sunday evening. It was quiet but suddenly the place was attacked by about 30 armed, masked men. It was a small cul-de-sac so they came up to a number of the houses. That mother was in the house alone with a baby, only six days old.

“She was really afraid. They attacked houses, cars and anything in their way for about half an hour. I was there the day after and the picture just summed everything up. I was there for an hour.

“Neighbours were saying there was a new-born baby in this house – they had left the area but I got the picture when they came back to get some clothes. The mother was still really shaken.

Steve Cobb West Sussex County Times Photographer of the year (weekly)

Photographer of the Year (Weekly)

Credit: Steve Cobb, West Sussex County Times

“This picture was taken in Horsham during one of the school holidays at a local museum, which is only 200 yards from the West Sussex County Times office. They were holding one of those events to keep the kids amused.

“The children had some blank white face masks and they were being encouraged to decorate them in their own style.

“And this lad had made a real stand-out one: the colours were fantastic. He used his hands to marble the paints so they ran into each other – it was really good. I had done these standard shots of children painting masks at a table, but I wanted one of this lad holding his.

“When I suggested he hold it above his head like a trophy he was up for it, playing to the camera. The combination of his face and that mask against the light and sky, it all came together.

“It became quite striking and worked well on the page. With him against the sky, I was able to retain the detail.

“You need a nice, bright, colourful picture on a page, especially in a local paper. When a reader turns the page you want them to read it, and usually a good picture does the job.”

Steve Riding Yorkshire Evening Post Sports photographer of the year (daily)

Sports Photographer of the Year (Daily)

Credit: Steve Riding, Yorkshire Evening Post

“The picture above was of a match in the Leeds Sunday league. It was a weird morning because 10 minutes later it was sunny – and 10 minutes after there was a blizzard again.

“I do local football every weekend; I am a big champion of it and I was pleased that one of my local football pictures was in my winning portfolio.

“There are a lot of sports photographers who think it’s all about doing the top matches every week – this shows there’s pictures in everything.

“The headline they had in the paper was ‘For the love of the game’. There is so much cynicism these days about professional football; it’s so refreshing that these people turn out every week, they don’t get paid, they actually pay their £5 subs to play, and they turn out in snow and still love it.

“It doesn’t matter what level you play in, it’s the same enjoyment scoring and winning.

“I started playing Sunday league football when I was 15, and I’ve gone out every Sunday for 40 years. My wife just accepts that Sunday mornings are gone. I even postponed my son’s christening until after the football season had ended.”

Marie Caley South Yorkshire Newspapers Sports photographer of the year (weekly)

Sports Photographer of the Year (Weekly)

Credit: Marie Caley, South Yorkshire Newspapers

The picture was taken at a tag rugby competition between local schools in February.

The boy in the maroon shirt was from a school that had its own strip but the other one, in the Manchester United shirt, wasn’t.

“It took place at Toll Bar Rugby Club, which does a lot of tag rugby festivals to promote the sport and get kids fit.

We don’t tend to travel that far, the furthest we’d go is to Sheffield for Wednesday and United.

“Our main paper is the Doncaster Free Press but we have nine community newsletters so we do a lot of school pictures and local events for them.

“I enjoy doing sport, and if you’re enjoying what you are doing, it shows in your pictures. I really didn’t think I’d get a picture like that. With kids, it’s hard to do action pictures, they tend just to play, and the standard isn’t that good.

“The boy at the front was really quick.

I thought ‘I might get a good one if I follow this chap here’. Maybe his dad was into rugby, he was just a natural.”

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